LOS ANGELES -- The Al Green music playing in the background of the Houston Rockets' locker room late Monday night set the perfect mood for how the team was feeling. Mellow. Sad. Maybe even hurt.
It’s just one game out of 82, but the Rockets' 140-132 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers stung a little bit more than the other 21 losses.
Irked is another word that could be used to describe how this loss felt.
“We are [upset],” said guard Marcus Thornton, who tied the game with a deadly 3-pointer with 7.4 seconds to play in regulation, which eventually sent the game to overtime. “This is one of the teams we’re going to see down the road. We had their number the last two or three games and we know we let this game slip away. Like I heard James [Harden] say, we learn from this type of loss and get better.”
It was one of those losses that wasted a monster night from Dwight Howard, who scored 36 points and tied a career-high with 26 rebounds.
Thornton was outstanding in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points, including his game-tying 3-pointer.
The Clippers led by as much as 16 in the third quarter and held a 94-80 advantage going into the fourth. In the last four minutes of the game, the Rockets outscored the Clippers 24-10, outrebounded their hosts 6-1 and made 9 of 11 shots.
Thornton’s 3-pointer secured the overtime, but he went cold in the extra session, allowing two shooters to put the game away for the Clips.
Thornton missed the first 3 of the overtime and Jamal Crawford hit a triple for a 125-122 lead. Ariza missed on a drive and Howard committed maybe the only mistake he made all night by not securing the ball on the ground. Chris Paul was credited with a steal, and a man who destroyed the Rockets all night ended the evening for everybody.
JJ Redick made a 3-pointer for a 128-122 lead, causing interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff to call a timeout with 3:40 remaining.
Adjectives don’t tell the story of how nasty Redick was on Monday night.
He scored a career-high 40 points and tied a franchise record with nine made 3-pointers. The Clippers set a franchise-record with 22 3-point field goals made.
“I do not know that it is the best I have felt shooting the ball,” Redick said. “I feel like I missed a couple midrange shots I would have normally made. It was one of those games where neither team could get a stop. There were several players that were a beneficiary of that, myself included.”
The Rockets seemed to have life after James Harden made a tough reverse layup to cut the deficit to four. Paul hit another 3, followed by Crawford’s step-back 19-footer to make the score 133-125.
“I don’t think our effort was there from the beginning of the game; that’s what allowed them to get out early and never look back,” Howard said. “We cut the lead, we tied the game up but we gave them too much confidence and we have to do a better job of coming out and destroying teams' confidence.”
The Rockets had beaten the Clippers twice this season and five times in a row dating to last year's Western Conference semifinal series. That streak, coupled with six wins in their past seven games overall, had the Rockets feeling confident. Yet the Clippers were hot themselves, winners of nine of 10.
But Redick just ripped the Rockets apart from the outside and Harden struggled for Houston, somehow scoring 20 points despite going 5-for-12 from the floor. Harden didn’t attempt a shot in the fourth-quarter comeback, a comeback that saw the Rockets score 42 points.
Houston had Howard and Thornton leading the way, which was enough to get them an extra five minutes.
“Both teams were pretty easy on one another defensively for most of the night to say the least,” Bickerstaff said. “But there was a timing point where they had a run where it got a little nasty, it got gritty, we got down, we defended, we got stops and they turned into buckets for us. Again I’m disappointed for the guys we couldn’t turn it into a W.”
Houston finds itself looking up at Memphis and Dallas, which are tied for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings, at the season's midpoint. Houston remains stagnant, and a loss by the Clippers doesn't keep its confidence growing.
“Just disappointed we lost,” Howard said. “I thought we played hard, we just didn’t get a good win. I didn’t even know points or stats I had. I wasn’t paying attention to anything. I just wanted to get out there and get a good win against a good team.”