LOS ANGELES — DeAndre Jordan was all alone Monday night — at least in the sense that guarding Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard was going to be a one-man job.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers told Jordan that he would have to defend Howard on his own, without the help of a double-team, and Jordan accepted the challenge.
Howard was limited to fewer than 26 minutes because of foul trouble, but Jordan defended him well in the Clippers’ 137-118 victory at Staples Center, a prelude to their first trip outside of California.
“D.J.’s going to hold up against anybody, he really is,” Rivers said. “There’s going to be nights when guys play well against him, but on the average, D.J. is a great defender every night.
“We told him before the game, ‘You’re on an island,’ and I thought overall, even (backup Byron Mullens), they did a pretty good job of it.”
Howard came in averaging 15 points and 17 rebounds, but he finished with just 13 and 9 and seemed frustrated by an inability to avoid fouls and find a consistency on the offensive end.
Jordan had 11 points and 9 rebounds in 29½ minutes and is helping to stabilize a defense that isn’t quite where Rivers wants it. But giving Jordan the job of covering a player like Howard will eventually reap rewards later in the season.
“The more you can single cover, the better your defense becomes,” Rivers said. “It allows our guys to stay home, it takes away cutters…We’re playing well right now, but I’m telling you, we have a long way to go. We can be a lot better, on both ends, and a lot better on defense.
The Clippers play three road games in four nights this week, beginning with the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night and the defending NBA-champion Miami Heat on Thursday. They close out the trip Saturday against the Rockets.
“Hard trip,” Rivers said.
Why? “The teams we’re playing,” he said, laughing. “But that’s the way they’re all going to be, the way I look at it, and we just have to be ready.”
But with the momentum from a three-game winning streak and an up-tempo, high-energy offense that can easily rack up 100-point games, the Clippers are feeling good right now.
They also know that defense will play a role if they’re going to be successful in the long run.
“It’s our first huge road trip, and there’s definitely going to be some tests,” Jordan said. “These are all games that we can win, but we’ve got to come out and know that defense is going to be first. That’s what will win us those games.”