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Clippers Hot Shooting Buries the Rockets

Photo by Paul!!! via Flickr
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Watching the Clippers run out to a 20-6 lead over the undefeated Houston Rockets, one question sprang to mind: How the hell did they lose to the Lakers in their season opener? The Clippers shot out of their minds to beat the Rocket 137-118 making that Lakers loss that much more of a head scratcher.

What's clear so far early this season is that effort is richly rewarded in the league. Look at how well Jordan Hill has played for the Lakers. Look at the Philadelphia 76ers and the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 3-1 record.

The Lakers outdid the Clippers in most facets of the game that night, and it showed in that final score of 116-103. The Clippers came back two days later, and with the Lakers banners covered they spanked the Golden State Warriors 126-115.

Against the Houston Rockets, another favorite to contend in the Western Conference, the Clippers stormed out to a 42-25 first quarter thanks to shooting a transcendent 70%. Chris Paul in the first 12 minutes already had nine assists, J.J. Redick had 15 points and Blake Griffin had 10.

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Although their shooting came back down to earth at 48% in the second quarter, the Clippers scored 78 points in the first half tying their Los Angeles record for most points scored in a half.

Two things gave the Clippers the win. The Rockets missed 14 free throws while the Clippers missed only four. And you can't completely blame Dwight Howard since he missed five. The Rockets couldn't drain their free throws when giving the opportunities.

Also the Clippers made eight more three-pointers than Houston did. That's 24 points right there. Each time Houston tried to make a run, there was Redick or Jared Dudley or Jamal Crawford or Byron Mullens or Darren Collison making a clutch three. Of course it helps that they set a franchise record with 38 three-pointers attempted.

The biggest fear for the Clippers after the half was seeing Houston shoot their way back into the game. Houston showed the ability to come back from a slow first half on the road on Saturday in Utah.

And it didn't help that coming into the game the Clippers were 30th in the league in points allowed. Giving up a season high 118 points probably didn't help their cause.

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The 137 points the Clippers scored made them look immortal, but as Memphis proved in the playoffs last year offense can be stopped. Threes don't always go in. Active feet and hands can cause deflections and make guys miss.

"We have to be a better defensive team than we are," head coach Doc Rivers admitted after the game.

The Clippers now go on a three-game road trip with a back-to-back in Orlando and Miami on Wednesday and Thursday ending with a rematch in Houston on Saturday.