Austin Rivers leads Clippers in blowout against Rockets

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On May 2nd the L.A. Clippers won a very emotional seventh game in their first round series with the San Antonio Spurs. The energy and excitement carried them over to Houston where they met the Rockets, winning Game One by 16 points.

Staples Center5Houston had come out flat for that game and was flat for most game two. At one point the Clippers led the Rockets by 13 points in the third quarter of Game Two this past Wednesday. But then James Harden woke up and carried his team to a dramatic second half comeback to win. The Clippers got a little sloppy with their play and they missed a lot of shots.

Plus, Houston head coach Kevin McHale took a play from Greg Popovich’s playbook and started fouling DeAndre Jordan to break up the Clippers rhythm.

It was a tough loss for the Clippers, who were doing very well without their all-star point guard, Chris Paul in the game. He’s been injured with a sore hamstring since the series with the Spurs, so he has not suited up for the first two games of this second series. He was listed as day-to-day, but when he joined the team for pregame warm-ups it looked like he would play. Both Doc Rovers and Paul said he would get some minutes Friday night.

James Harden during pre-game warm ups.
James Harden during pre-game warm ups.

Many of the Clippers have stepped up their game with Paul out, especially Blake Griffin and Austin Rivers. What the team needs to do is avoid foul trouble, which was one of the big problems in Game Two. The Rockets went to the free throw line 64 times in Wednesday’s game.

As it turned out, it came down to the second half and one player: Austin Rivers. He led his team to a decisive, blowout win over the Houston Rockets.

The night started with the NBA playoff series sharing L.A. Live with a movie premiere, Pitch Perfect 2. It might have looked confusing as fans were coming into Staples, but once the ball went up for the start, there was no confusing the Clippers were in front of a home town crowd.

This was a night when just about every Clipper that stepped on the court put points on the board and contributed to the great defense that kept James Harden and Dwight Howard from being factors in the second half. In game Two Harden went to the free throw line 15 times and was perfect from the stripe. That was nearly half of his 32 points. In game three he only shot five free throws, making all of them. The Clippers outscored the Rockets in the second half of Wednesday’s game by 18 points.

Chris Paul sat out the first two games of this series so it was important to see L.A.’s top player on the court. But Paul didn’t need to play as much as he usually plays, just 23 minutes — thanks to his back up, the coach’s son, Austin Rivers.

He was the player of the night stepping up for the best game of his pro career. Rivers scoring 25 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. Most of those points coming in the last 18 minutes of the game.

Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick
Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick

J.J. Redick led all scoring with 31 points, Blake Griffin had 22 and Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford both had 12.

For the Houston Rockets, James Harden had 25 points and Dwight Howard had 14 rebounds and 14 points.

The final score was 124-99. Game four will be back here at Staples Center on Sunday; tip-off at 5:30 p.m. On Saturday it was announced Chris Paul would be starting Game Four. We don’t know how many minutes he will play, but the Clippers are obviously confident their back up point guard can hold his own for 20-plus minutes.

 (All photos by Claudia Gestro)