NBA News

Houston Rockets Second Half Surge Helps Even Series

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Top Performers:

Blake Griffin – 34 Pts, 15 Rebs, 4 Asts, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

James Harden – 32 Pts, 3 Rebs, 7 Asts, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

77. 115. 169. . 109

Blake Griffin could only shoulder the load for so long before James Harden erupted from his capsule. With Griffin exhausting his efforts as the point-forward and the Clippers still falling short, one must ask when will Chris Paul return? In a game like this one, they could have used him. Griffin finished with an impressive statline but his most similar statistical allies were DeAndre Jordan‘s double-double (who only played 25 minutes due to foul trouble and free throw inconsistencies) and Jamal Crawford (19 points on 6-22 FGs).

Harden finished the first half with 12 points (3-8 FGs, 1-6 3PT) and six turnovers. It seemed like the MVP-contender allowed bitterness to succumb his talents. Luckily for the Houston Rockets, that only lasted 24 minutes. Whatever wasn’t comprehended on the sideline in the first half was reiterated by coach McHale in the locker room to insert a sense of urgency . Dwight Howard led the pack with 16 points and 10 boards at the half and he would have a trio of Rockets’ follow his lead in the second half.  Harden, Terrence Jones and Trevor Ariza only combined for 18 first half points. In the latter half, they tallied 39 points between each other.

This was definitely a must-win for Houston. Arguably L.A’s best player hasn’t played in either game in the Toyota Center. We’re not sure how much longer he’ll be sidelined but we do know that after stealing Game 1, having Paul available for Game 2 was not a necessity. The Rockets were basically playing to prove that equation wrong.

 

FINAL: Rockets win Game 2, 115-109!Series is now tied 1-1! Howard and Harden combined for 56 points! pic.twitter.com/B6OkehSepW

— Rockets Nation (@Rockets__Nation) May 7, 2015

The Good:

  • Crisis averted. The Rockets were on the brink of an 0-2 deficit going back to Los Angeles for two more games. Beating the Clippers on the road is not an impossible feat. The Spurs did so twice in their first-round melee. As long as they’re focused and crisp with their intensity and execution, they’ll be able to put themselves in position to do the same.
  • The Rockets should have realized how much better they were when DeAndre Jordan was not on the floor. Most of the runs they made were while he was on the bench. Although Howard’s points come from lobs and open dunks mostly, he still averages 23 points in the series. If I’m McHale, I’m letting the over-aggressive Jordan test his luck with guarding Howard and getting into foul trouble. It’s a lot easier said than done (especially considering Howard isn’t a great post player) but it’s worth a try. Houston took a nine-point lead in the first quarter after Jordan was forced to the bench with two fouls.
  • Houston found a temporary kryptonite for Blake Griffin. They placed Trevor Ariza in his path to negate his ball-handling. The only advantage he had over Ariza was his strength which was easier to patrol while the remaining Clippers watched as fans did. I’m sure Doc will make adjustments to where the ball movement matches Game 1’s (31 assists in Game 1, 20 in Game 2) but at least it’ll force someone other than Blake to beat Houston.
  • 15 offensive rebounds (8 in the first quarter). Another testament to their first quarter lead AND to why Jordan should be attacked relentlessly. Doc refuses to let Spencer Hawes off the leash and continues to grant Glen “Big Baby” Davis front row seats to Howard slam dunks. Make him regret that decision.

The Bad

Blake Griffin drops 26 points in first half of Game 2. Clippers lead Rockets, 65-56. pic.twitter.com/ZFg3H9NmF4

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 7, 2015

  • As important as this game was for Harden, it was two-times bigger for Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni. If the Clippers could skate by the Rockets behind Austin Rivers‘ 17 points in Game 1, can you imagine what Chris Paul would do? In Game 2, they did not display an ideal offensive performance with their 15 combined points (21 in Game 1) and they also allowed Lester Hudson to make a run of his own in his limited minutes. I hope it’s not out of the question but I’d like to see Nick Johnson for 10 minutes or so. If Lester Hudson can see the floor, why can’t Johnson? He certainly adds a much needed improved defensive backcourt.
  • As Harden stated, Griffin is a good player but there is no way he should (or anyone for that matter) score 26 points in one half.
  • Houston shot 42 percent (19 percent from three) and 65% from the line but won the game. I guess that’s the good part. The absolutely horrid detail is that those numbers will not advance them to the next round.
  • Harden’s first 16 points were through three quarters. That’s a fusion of foul trouble and lack of attack. With their shortage of guards, Harden really needs to dominate the backcourt throughout the game.
  • Last but certainly not least, the Rockets need to get back to playing solid team defense. I’m not sure when they’ll (defense) be back in the office but I will gladly leave them a message by saying, “DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. YOU’LL BE WATCHING THE THIRD ROUND FROM YOUR LIVING ROOM IF YOU DON’T SHOW UP IMMEDIATELY.”

Game 3 and 4 will take place Friday and Sunday respectively in Los Angeles. Check back with us for ongoing news on the series, pregame analysis, player grades following the game and post game analysis the morning after.

Next: Dissecting the Dichotomy of MVP

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