(SportsNetwork.com) - Dwight Howard failed to tip bragging rights into his
favor against a former employer, but has a chance to even things Saturday
versus a Los Angeles Clippers squad that defeated the Houston Rockets less
than a week ago.
Howard and the Rockets dropped a tough 99-98 decision to the Los Angeles
Lakers, a team the All-Star center spent the 2012-13 season with before
joining Houston via free agency this past summer. Howard opted not to team up
with Kobe Bryant again and felt it was best to join forces with James Harden
and have most of the offense go through him.
Howard missed a bevy of free throws down the stretch in Thursday's loss,
including a 1-for-6 effort in the final three minutes, and was just 5-of-16
from the foul line. He ended with 15 points and 14 rebounds, and did not get
on Lakers guard Steve Blake in time for the game-winning 3-pointer.
"Guys just kind of messed up on the play," Howard said. "It happens, we just
have to come back next game and make sure we have a better start. We got back
into the game but we didn't finish them off. There are a lot of things we need
to work on."
Patrick Beverley's desperation 3-pointer from the right wing was off the mark
at the horn. Harden, who sank 14-of-16 free throws, pumped in 35 points,
grabbed nine rebounds and handed out five assists, while Chandler Parsons and
Jeremy Lin had 16 points apiece.
Harden didn't seem to have a problem knocking down free throws when the Lakers
sent him to the line and was asked about Howard's struggles from the stripe.
"He's working on his free throws. He has confidence to go up there and knock
them down," Harden said. "He's working on them every single day. We have
confidence that he will go up there and make them."
The Rockets have lost two of three games since a 3-0 start to the season and
will also host the Toronto Raptors on this three-game homestand.
Los Angeles is mired in a two-game slide after winning three in a row and
suffered a 102-97 setback at Miami on Thursday. Blake Griffin's 27 points and
14 rebounds weren't enough for the Clippers, who shot 49.3 percent from the
floor and received 11 points and 12 assists from Chris Paul.
J.J. Redick had 15 points and DeAndre Jordan chipped in 11 to go along with 14
rebounds. Jordan has 33 rebounds in his last two games. Jamal Crawford scored
14 points off the bench for Los Angeles, which lost the opener of a back-to-
back in Orlando on Wednesday.
"I thought in the first half that we dictated the pace. You can see that in
the third quarter, they slowed the game down but then we slowed the game down
with them," Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said.
The Clippers, whose 19 turnovers led to 24 Miami points, have allowed 100-plus
points five times in six games this season and are one of the worst in
opponents' scoring. Committing turnovers generally doesn't aid a defense.
"We threw bad passes. I just thought we lost the pace of the game," Rivers
stated. "I thought in the first half we dictated the pace the whole half. I
think everybody says you don't run against Miami. I think it's the exact
opposite. You do."
In injury news for the Clippers, veteran forward and defensive stalwart Matt
Barnes is questionable Saturday with a bruised right thigh.
The Clippers and Rockets are two of the highest-scoring teams in the NBA and
also two of the worst on defense. They just met on Monday in a 137-118 victory
by L.A. at Staples Center in Howard's return to Hollywood. Redick led seven
players in double figures with 26 points and Paul added 23 and 17 assists.
Harden and Howard combined for 28 points, as the Rockets lost for the seventh
time in nine tries in this series.
Los Angeles, though, has lost eight of 11 and 14 of the last 19 at Houston.
The Sports Network