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After close win, Clippers stars impressed by improving Rockets

HOUSTON — Los Angeles Clippers forwards Kwahi Leonard and Paul George sat at their lockers inside the visiting locker room of Toyota Center, where they discussed some of the events that had just transpired in Wednesday’s 122-116 victory over the Rockets.

Leonard and George knew that coming into the game, they would have their hands full with a young, inspired team that also featured several strong veterans and a proven head coach in Ime Udoka.

“Very good and very confident,” Leonard told Rockets Wire when asked about Houston’s team. “Ime (Udoka) is putting them in the right position to succeed, and they are just getting better and better.”

Houston led by as many as 20 points in the first half before being outscored in the second half, 78-59. The veteran leadership of George, Leonard, and former Rockets star James Harden used their combined 47 years of NBA experience to wear down their youthful opponents, who are still learning to finish games. That was once Harden’s role before he left the team (through a forced trade) in January 2021.

“They are definitely headed in the right direction,” Harden said regarding the Rockets’ future. “They have a combination of young talent with some vet pieces that have some experience. They have been playing really well. The future is bright.”

That analysis by proven All-Star talents clearly suggests that Udoka has his team on the right track. Although they are 3-5 since the All-Star break, Houston has looked increasingly tough and competitive versus teams such as the Clippers, Phoenix Suns, and Oklahoma City Thunder, who are each likely to make the NBA’s 2023-24 playoffs.

Jalen Green had back-to-back games of 34 points in Phoenix, while teammate Alperen Sengun did his best work at home. On Tuesday, he posted a career-high 45 points and five steals in his matchup with prized rookie Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs. He followed that up with his second career triple-double of 23 points, 19 rebounds, and 14 assists the next night versus the Clippers.

“I have been the biggest supporter of Alperen (Sengun), so it doesn’t surprise me at all,” George told Rockets Wire when describing Sengun’s strong play. “His game… he is up there with the best of the centers in this league, and he is showing that, night in and night out.”

Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire