The banged-up Rockets are a team in trouble.
Trailing by as many as 21 points, the Rockets used a three-point barrage to come flying back and get within 2 points, but as has become the norm, they couldn't complete the comeback and fell to the Clippers 90-83 in the Staples Center.
After starting off the season 5-1, the Rockets, who have lost 6 of their last 8, have now slipped to .500 at 7-7.
To make matters even worse, Steve Francis (17 points, 6 assists, 6 boards), who was questionable to begin with for the game, drove and was fouled (no call) and his head landed flush in to Kevin Willis' knee. This was late in the third quarter. Stevie played briefly but came out a few minutes later and did not return to action from that point.
It wasn't the only horrendous call on the night. The officials simply swallowed their whistles on the offensive end for the Rockets late in the game.
Elton Brand led the Clippers with 21 points and 10 boards, and he just worked the Rockets inside, hitting 10-14 shots from the floor. Lamar "Just Tokin'" Odom came off the bench to score 16 points.
The Rockets never would have gotten back in to the game had it not been for their three-point shooting... they bombed away at a 9-for-22 clip. Glen Rice hit 3-6 from long range, tying his season high of 15 points. Still, despite the good effort, he committed a costly turnover late trying to drive on 2 defenders baseline and missed a key triple attempt that could have helped the Rockets get over the hump.
Cuttino Mobley, still hurting, missed his first 5 shots and struggled shooting the ball (4-12 from the field), finishing with 12 points. Walt Williams added 11 and Moochie Norris 10.
The Rockets first half was awful. Down 19-16, the Rockets went over 5 minutes without a field goal and the Clippers pounced, scoring 16 straight points to take a 35-16 edge early in the second quarter.
LA led 50-30 later in the quarter, but still, the Rockets trailed just 50-37 at half.
To start the third, the Clippers built their lead back up immediately. Olowokandi, Brand, McGinnis... LA led by as many as 20 once again.
That's when Glen Rice came alive. He hit a turnaround layin, followed that with a turnaround 12-footer. Then he hit a three. Then another. Rice scored 10 straight points and the Rockets extended their run to 14-0 to trim the Clipper lead to 5.
They seemed ready to overtake the Clippers.
Then they hit a lull and went ice cold. LA scored 8 straight and built their lead back up to as much as 15.
Still, when Moochie Norris hit a bomb as the third quarter expired, the Rockets trailed by just 9.
Moochie hit another three. When Walt nailed a bomb and Cuttino followed that with a 16-footer, the Clippers had to call timeout as the Rockets were within 2 points with over 5 minutes to go.
But they simply could not capitalize, despite several opportunities, down the stretch.