In a breakthrough moment under the James Harden era, the Los Angeles Clippers have finally emerged victorious after a series of defeats. Following the blockbuster trade, the Clippers had experienced a string of six consecutive losses, but they managed to turn the tide in a thrilling matchup against the Houston Rockets on Friday. The game ended with Harden executing a breathtaking four-point play in the closing moments to secure a nail-biting win of 106-100 for the Clippers.
As tensions rose with the score tied at 100, the Clippers strategically turned to their star player, Kawhi Leonard, stationed on the wing for the crucial final possession. However, Leonard found himself tightly guarded by Jabari Smith, forcing him to pass the ball back to Harden. Demonstrating his vintage style of play, Harden rose to the challenge and showcased his prowess on the court. With an impressive 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc, he also contributed nine rebounds and seven assists. Harden's impact was evident as he finished the game with a team-high plus-21 in his 34 minutes. This marks the first time that Harden has recorded a positive point differential since joining the Clippers.
The Clippers' triumph was characterized by a balanced performance across the board. Alongside Harden's 24 points, Leonard contributed 26 points, while Paul George added 23. In a surprising move, Russell Westbrook made his first appearance off the bench for the Clippers and played a mere 17 minutes, scoring eight points on nine shots.
This victory is not only a significant milestone for the Clippers under the Harden era, but it also represents their first successful endeavor in an in-season tournament. The Clippers now stand at 1-2 in Group B of the Western Conference. Moreover, their overall season record improves to 4-7.
On the other side of the court, the Houston Rockets, who have been the surprise team of the year thus far, experienced a setback in their impressive campaign. With an overall record of 6-4, and a 1-1 result in the in-season tournament in the West's Group B, the Rockets now aim to regroup and retain their momentum.
The Clippers' victory against the Rockets not only brings a sense of relief after multiple losses but also signifies a turning point under the James Harden era. As they uphold their newfound momentum, it remains to be seen whether this triumph will serve as a catalyst for future success and propel the Clippers to greater heights in the NBA.