As the minutes counted until the start of Game Six, Clippers fans were hoping their team could close out this series at Staples Center. They had a chance to close out the series Tuesday Night, May 12, in Houston, but the Rockets, led by the ailing James Harden decided they were not out of the playoffs yet and had a comeback that left the Clippers in the dust.
Interesting note about this series: games three, four and five have had 20 or more point differences in the final scores. L.A. fans were hoping their Clippers could make it four in a row and make team history by closing this series and moving on to the Western Conference Finals.
Harden is recovering from the flu, but before the game the Rockets (and Harden) said he would play. Even suffering from the flu for Game Five, Harden finished with a triple double, scoring 26 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds. Playing like that in Game Six would make a win difficult at best for the Clippers.
Before the game, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said, “We’re going to have to win a game where they play great. That’s how your mindset has to be, going into the games.” Even if James Harden, Dwight Howard and the rest of the Rockets play a great game, the Clippers will have to be prepared to play that much better.
Shortly before the game it was just announced Chris Paul would not have his minutes restricted in the game, setting the stage for a big night from him.
The Clippers need to return to the form they had in games three and four, defensively and offensively. Because as every basketball fan will tell you: there’s nothing like winning the series at home.
But, no one saw this kind of game coming. The Houston Rockets had never won a closeout Game Six on the road before and no one expected it to happen Thursday night when they trailed the L.A. Clippers by 19 points in the third quarter. But miraculous comebacks are a part of sports everywhere.
The game started with Blake Griffin leading the Clippers to a 9-point lead. But the Rockets never let themselves get pushed out of the game. L.A. never led by more than nine in the first half and Houston cut the Clippers lead to just four.
The second quarter was much the same, with the Rockets briefly taking the lead. But the Clippers were able to get it back, behind the efforts of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
It was in the third quarter that L.A. took off, building up a 19-point lead, the scoring run capped off by a spectacular lay up by Griffin, with him doing a 360 degree turn in mid-air and shooting the ball over his head without looking at the basket. The Staples Center crowd was on its feet cheering as loud as a crowd has eve been for any playoff game.
From that moment on though the Rockets began to take back the game. From the time of Griffin’s spectacular layup to the end of the game Houston out scored the Clippers 49 to 18, but they did most of that without their best player on the floor.
James Harden sat out 11 minutes of the fourth quarter and it was the Rockets second team, with the four other starters who put the Clippers on their heels. L.A. could barely score a basket while the Rockets were scoring on nearly every drive.
In the final moments of the game Harden came back out and played about a minute before returning to the bench. The players that brought the game back to the Rockets in the final 15 minutes of the game were Dwight Howard, who finished the night with 21 rebounds and 20 points, Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer who had 10 rebounds and 19 points, and especially Josh Smith, who made so many plays in the fourth quarter he almost looked like a one-man team. He finished the night with 19 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal.
James Harden finished with 23 points and three assists. Houston didn’t need Harden to have as great a night as he is capable of having; the rest of the team stepped up and finished it out.
For the Clippers: Chris Paul led all scoring with 31 points. He also had 11 assists and seven rebounds. Blake Griffin finished with 28 points and J.J. Redick added 15. DeAndre Jordan was limited to nine rebounds and eight points. In fact, the Rockets out rebounded the Clippers 60-41.
After the game Josh Smith spoke about the second half comeback and said, “Guys were clicking on all cylinders offensively and defensively.”
When asked about the low scoring of the Clippers in the fourth quarter, Doc Rivers said, “We had 100 points with 8 minutes left, so our offense was pretty good tonight. We just gave up 119; I don’t know how we are talking about offense right now. To me, that’s where we lost the game. They scored 40 points in the fourth quarter, on things that shouldn’t happen. To me, that’s where we have to get better.”
The final score was 119-107, Houston Rockets. Game Seven will be in Houston on Sunday. Start time will be 12:30 pm. Pacific Time.
(All photos by Claudia Gestro)
Claudia is of Peruvian and Italian descent, having been born in a small town, in the North of Peru, South America. She was raised by her grandmother from an early age, living in poverty until Claudia’s mother brought her to America. She landed in Miami, FL and started her new life, playing high school basketball and eventually becoming a United States citizen. Claudia completed her education at Florida International University with a BA in Broadcast Journalism and became a model to supplement her income. Since graduating from FIU Claudia has worked with many of the Spanish Language broadcasting companies, including Telemundo, Univision and most recently Spanish Language channels on SiriusXM satellite radio and PasTV Deportes in Venezuela.She encourages you to follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Her content appears here under a shared content agreement with her Spanish television clients.