Rockets 113, Clippers 100 (Rockets win series 4-3)
The Rockets became just the ninth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit on Sunday afternoon when they finished off the Clippers in style. Led by James Harden, Houston never really looked threatened and it was a little disappointing to see the Clippers go down without much of a fight. Harden, who was benched down the stretch in Game 6, bounced back nicely with 31 points, eight assists, seven boards, three steals and one block in the win. He is going to have his hands full in the next round with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson waiting for him, but Harden looks like he is up for the challenge.
Trevor Ariza was arguably the next best player on the court for Houston, as he played phenomenal defense on Chris Paul while still managing to contribute 22 points with seven boards, three assists, two steals and a whopping six 3-pointers. Dwight Howard also stepped up with 16 points, 15 boards, two assists and two steals, but as usual he struggled from the foul line by connecting on four of his eight attempts.
Jason Terry was quiet with four points on 1-of-6 shooting, but Pablo Prigioni came off the bench and gave Houston 20 solid minutes, scoring four points with four assists, three steals and a 3-pointer. Prigioni stole two inbound passes from Blake Griffin and even grabbed an offensive board with Griffin right beside him. As nice as this performance was, it’s definitely going to be interesting to see how Houston hides Terry and Prigioni on defense in the next round.
Josh Smith had just one rebound in the win, but he did manage to score 15 points with a couple of 3-pointers along with a massive block on Blake Griffin. Smith has his fair share of critics (myself included), but he has been outstanding this series. As much as I love Terrence Jones, I think Smith deserves to stay in the first unit next round. Jones scored eight points with three boards and a block on Sunday, but it’s no secret that he had a tough time matching up with Griffin when he was in the starting lineup.
Chris Paul led the way for the Clippers with 26 points, 10 assists, five boards, four steals and two 3-pointers, but other than Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, Paul’s teammates really let him down Sunday. Paul will hear plenty of noise from the media this summer for never making it to a Conference Final, but they will be quick to forget that he was hampered by a hamstring strain for most of the postseason. He will have plenty of motivation this summer to say the least.
Blake Griffin dropped 27 points with 11 boards, six assists and a block in 44 minutes, but he did have five costly turnovers and was pretty lazy on defense. However, he really upped his game in the playoffs this year, and he was able to put his passing skills on full display when he ran the offense while CP3 was on the shelf. His fantasy stock is on the rise leading into next season.
DeAndre Jordan had 16 points, 17 boards, four steals and three blocks in the loss, but he connected on just 2-of-7 free throws. Jordan will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he won’t have any problems generating a ton of interest on the open market. Head coach Doc Rivers said that the Clippers’ offseason priority is to re-sign Jordan, so it will be interesting to see how this story plays out this summer.
The rest of the Clippers were just horrible on Sunday, and it’s clear that they simply don’t have enough weapons to be a legit contender. Jamal Crawford scored 17 points, but he shot just 6-of-18 from the field and added just one assist, one steal and three treys. Crawford averaged just 10.3 points in his last three games, and it’s starting to look like Father Time is catching up to him. J.J. Redick scored 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go with six boards, three assists and a career-high four blocks, but he also turned the ball over six times in what was a sloppy performance. However, Matt Barnes was easily the most disappointing Clippers as he was held scoreless in 22 minutes of action. Barnes’ production in the playoffs has left a lot to be desired, so I bet the Clippers will take a hard look at their small forward position this summer.
Looking ahead, the Rockets were unable to beat the Warriors in four meetings during the regular season, but they have to be feeling pretty confident after what they did to the Clippers. It’s going to be an electrifying series, but I’m guessing the Warriors take it in six. Game 1 is set for Tuesday night at Golden State.