Three, which should have been a lucky number for the Los Angeles Clippers, but in the series against the Huston Rockets it wasn’t. The number 3 is Guard Chris Paul’s jersey number. The Clippers had a 3 game lead and had 3 chances to close out the conference semi-finals to advance to play the Golden State Warriors for the first time ever for many of the players and the franchise. This season the Clippers scored 108.4 points per game ranking 3rd in the league. Clippers lost 3 straight games, making the Rockets the ninth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to advance to the Western Conference finals.
Since Chris Paul joined the team in 2011, the Clippers never lost a game seven, making their record 3-0 until today. The Clippers knocked off the defending champs, the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of these playoffs in game seven. I thought beating the Spurs made them possibly the new kings in LA especially with the Lakers struggles in recent years.
The Clippers started off the series in Huston without Paul, beating the Rockets 117-101. Rockets responded and went to LA tied at 1-1. Coming back home in a game 5 down 3-1, Rockets played tough and smart. It was a blow out win for the Rockets. The game didn’t even come down to the wire. I expected that. I said the Clips are nervous, and the Rockets will definitely come out aggressive.
Game 6 was a different story. It should have never been a game seven, but the Clippers had an epic collapse, blowing a late 19-point lead. MVP-runner-up, James Harden didn’t even play in the fourth quarter; however, the Rockets outscored the Clippers 40-15, lead by Corey Brewer and Josh Smith combined for 29 points.
In game six, despite being down the Rockets never gave up and never stopped playing. The quality of the Clipper’s shots was the problem. The biggest turning point and the main reason why the Clippers lost this series was because of Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale. He changed his starting lineup in game five. He replaced Terrance Jones with Josh Smith that made Jones coming off the bench aggressive. Jones from game 5-7 off the bench shot 58% and as a starter in games1-4 he shot 36%. He wanted to prove he deserved to keep his starting role. Starting Josh Smith expanded the floor and he showed what another man’s trash is another man’s treasure (credit to J.R. Smith) leading the Rockets to a game six comeback victory. In Game six in the fourth quarter, in spite of being down, McHale didn’t play Harden, which was courageous.
The Clippers were trying to force the offense, taking way too many 3’s. I questioned half of the 3’s the Clippers jacked up. I continued to scream take it to the paint, take it to the paint; center De’Andre Jordan is right there to clean it up. The Rockets outplayed the Clippers in game seven because they didn’t come out aggressive and had 18 turnovers. Losing game six placed an unbearable pressure on the Clippers.
Chris Paul and Forward Blake Griffin showed up and played their hearts out; however, teams win championships and Rockets bench performed well.
What happened to the Clippers was, the Rockets’ bench out shined the other role players. Forward Matt Barnes struggled. He had 0 points in game seven, only having two field goal attempts and 34 total points for the entire series. The 3 ball wasn’t falling for Barnes in this series shooting 26%, despite being 36.2 percent this season, which is his second highest percentage of his career.
Congratulations to the Huston Rockets for earning their first conference appearance in 18 years. The Clippers 45th season ends not reaching the Conference finals being the longest drought in NBA history.