Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: Folks may not appreciate James Harden’s offense. But Harden, the runner-up in the Most Valuable Player award voting, came through over the last 14:06 of the game. Harden closed the game by scoring 20 of his 32 points in that time span, and he made all 15 of his free throw attempts.
That was … foul: Free throws are good for you. Having at least one player who gets to the free throw line at least five times a game are essential to postseason offenses. The Rockets and the Clippers have multiple players who fit that bill, but Wednesday night was extreme. Blake Griffin was incredible in the first half, but his 26-point offense before halftime were unsustainable (though scintillating) for an entire game. The Rockets were down by 11 points when Harden picked up his fourth foul with 10:32 left in the third quarter, and the Rockets were down seven when Harden re-entered the game with 2:06 left in the third quarter. From that point on, the Rockets outscored the Clippers 37-24 the rest of the game, as Griffin struggled to get good looks and Houston marched to the free throw line. In the end, the Rockets attempted 64 free throws, the most in a playoff game by any team since 1993.
X factor: 40 personal fouls in a playoff game is ridiculous. The Rockets’ march to the stripe will need to be a primary adjustment for the Clippers. The last time a team had 40 fouls in a playoff game was in 2006, when the Clippers lost to the Nuggets . The Clippers starting backcourt of Austin Rivers and J.J. Redick combined for ten personal fouls – and zero rebounds.
— Law Murray
Tweet(s) Of The Game
YO, what MAKES THIS, is Harlan exclaiming, "HERE COMES AUSTIN RIVERS" with that THUNDER https://t.co/q5lnvx25Vn
— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) May 7, 2015
Damn get off my bro Austin Rivers,yall are Trippin.Half of u Tweeting about him are sitting at home playing 2K wishing u was in the NBA Smh
— AJ JR (@itsaveryjohnson) May 7, 2015
it took kevin mchale 84 minutes to figure out that blake griffin does not like double teams
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) May 7, 2015
Everyone shoot free throws! It’s the last year we can do this!
— The Dream Shake (@DreamShakeSBN) May 7, 2015
Check Your Messages
One game +/- is one of the last things that I look at after a game. Some games, I don’t even approach it. But tonight, you’ll see that the only starter with a positive +/- was DeAndre Jordan, who finished Wednesday night’s contest with 16 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots.
But Jordan only got 25 minutes in this game, the fewest he’s had in any game since the All-Star Break. Jordan’s sub-40 percent status as a free throw shooter may be spooking head coach Doc Rivers at the wrong time. It’s not like Rivers has enough rebounders or another trustworthy rim protector to roll out there. Spencer Hawes has been rendered useless for the postseason for a reason, so you won’t see a push from me to have him out there.
Jordan’s presence on the floor is a counter to Dwight Howard’s arsenal offensively, and it gives James Harden something to think about before he bursts toward the rim. On the other end, Jordan gives Blake Griffin a complementary interior presence, while he serves as a critical component to helping the Clippers maintain possessions as an offensive rebounder.
The Clippers did well to split this series, but they could have brought a 2-0 lead back to California. Chris Paul may return Friday night, but Rivers has to win with his best. Jordan has to be a core player in this series.
– Law Murray