Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: The Rockets were playing with their backs up against the wall, and their best player spearheaded them to an offensive onslaught. James Harden needed garbage time to complete his triple-double, and he missed his first seven three-point tries. But Harden made 8-of-12 from the field inside the arc and 7-of-8 free throws to finish with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists – his first postseason triple-double.
That was … momentum-shifting: All the blowouts in this series, and very little of the defense. The Rockets made 54.1 percent of their field goals tonight, their highest mark in 92 games of the 2014-2015 season. DeAndre Jordan, Game 4’s beneficiary of excessive fouling, spent most of the first half in foul trouble. That allowed Dwight Howard to establish himself early with nine points and eight rebounds in the first quarter, and Harden had 17 of his 26 points in the first half. Once Houston took a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Rockets had this game in the bag. The Los Angeles interior defense was abominable Wednesday night, as they allowed an NBA postseason high 64 points in the paint in Game 5.
X factor: Rockets head coach Kevin McHale went with Josh Smith as the starting power forward in place of Terrence Jones. Smith hit some big shots to key an 11-3 4th quarter run, and he had four assists tonight; Jones has only three assists in this entire series. But Jones had 12 points off the bench, and despite Spencer Hawes scoring a postseason-high 11 points, Houston outscored Los Angeles 36-24 off the bench.
— Law Murray
Tweet(s) Of The Game
Our defense sucks tonight! What defense u say? Exactly
— Kimberly Jordan (@callmeMISSKIM) May 13, 2015
our defense was non existent tonight.
— Callie Rivers (@CallieRivers25) May 13, 2015
DJ fearing foul trouble staying down on those Howard post ups, its actually better D bc it allows him to actually get rebound as well.
— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) May 13, 2015
Add Barnes: 9/41 https://t.co/aFwZt75Wyv
— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) May 13, 2015
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) May 13, 2015
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Best of 7
Yes, a single game can mean a lot, especially in the playoffs. But in the NBA, postseason series are best of seven. I’ll say it again: Best. Of. Seven.
Now, the Rockets played some uninspiring basketball over the previous week. They looked nothing like a top-ten defense, allowing the Clippers to shoot nearly 39 percent from three through the first four games. Los Angeles won by 25 and 33 points in Games 3 and 4, respectively. Chris Paul didn’t need to exert himself after missing Games 1 and 2 with a left hamstring injury. Dwight Howard embarrassed himself. James Harden looked empty. Write the obituaries!
But they play the games for a reason.
The Clippers didn’t take care of business tonight, plain and simple. DeAndre Jordan, already established as a key to L.A.’s antidote to James Harden, failed to stay on the court, allowing Houston to stack up a lead they would not relinquish. Glen Davis wasn’t prepared to play tonight. Spencer Hawes got 20 minutes, which is when you realize that Houston took advantage of him by outrebounding the Clippers by 19 and destroying them inside.
The Clippers wings were mostly dreadful tonight as well. Besides the fact that Harden got his, Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer combined for 37 points tonight. Meanwhile, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers stayed firmly in the tank with a combined 27 points on 41 shots, a combined four rebounds, and a combined six assists. Jason Terry, all of 37 years old, had more assists (seven) by himself, and nary a turnover.
There’s a lot the Clippers need to recover from. They played comfortable tonight, or as if they read all the nice things people said about them this past week. They played as if the Rockets would just roll over again, like they did in the second halves at Staples Center. Houston made their own unseemly bed, and while they came out ready to compete at home, they’ll have to meet the clock Thursday night in Los Angeles.
Guess what? The Clippers have to make their appointment too. The previous blowouts at home against Houston don’t mean anything Thursday night. It’s a new game. The Rockets made some key adjustments and played like they cared tonight. If the Clippers don’t do that Thursday, then we’ll really need seven games to decide this series.
– Law Murray
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