With Kawhi Leonard, John Wall and Robert Covington all unavailable and the Los Angeles Clippers mired in an ugly four-game skid, Paul George needed to do something spectacular to save his team.
George came to the Clippers’ rescue with 35 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and six steals in a 95-93 home victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday, the first of consecutive games between the teams. The second is scheduled for Wednesday at Houston.
George delivered an assist, a 3-pointer and a difficult jumper over Rockets guard Eric Gordon all inside the final 1:17 to help erase a 93-88 deficit. Not only had the Clippers dropped four consecutive games, those losses came with an average margin of defeat of 15 points.
“I take full responsibility for us and our record right now,” George said. “Regardless of who is in the lineup, who’s not, I am more than capable of going out and performing and willing our team to wins. So I took a lot of on the chin for myself for the way we have been playing and for the start that we have had so far.”
George will need to keep shouldering the load. Leonard (knee) did not make the trip to Houston with the Clippers and Covington is in health and safety protocols. Wall (rest) should be available in the rematch with the Rockets, for whom he played 40 games before sitting out all of last season.
After surrendering an average of 119.3 points over the first three games of their road trip, the Rockets took solace in their improved defensive effort in the finale of the away stretch. While it came against a Clippers team missing several veterans and one that had been scuffling offensively, the Rockets welcomed any sign of development.
Even without Alperen Sengun in the latter stages of the game after he supplied 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists, the Rockets managed a competitive effort. Houston coach Stephen Silas subbed Kenyon Martin Jr. for Sengun with 87 seconds remaining and the Rockets leading by five in an attempt to shore up the pick-and-roll defense.
“Pretty good, the last little bit,” Silas said of the execution despite Houston blowing the late lead. “We still executed pretty well down the stretch of the game.”
The result, however, was the same as the Rockets completed the road trip without a victory.
Consistency continues to prove elusive for Houston, with second-year guard Jalen Green as one example. Green averaged 14 points on 25.7-percent shooting from the field and 22.6 percent from 3-point range on the trip. He averaged 24 points on 46.1 percent shooting (48.1 on 3-pointers) in the first four games of the season.
“This is a hard game,” Gordon said. “This is a job. What people have got to understand is that in this league when you have talent, I don’t care how young you are, talent always propels you.
“Being young can’t always be an excuse because there’re a lot of young teams in this league, a lot. We’ve got the talent, we’ve just got to put it together.”
The Clippers have won eight of the past nine meetings.
–Field Level Media