Houston Rockets Fall to Clippers Behind Austin Rivers Big Night


May 8, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) plays for the ball against Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) during the first half in game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in three games the Houston Rockets got rocked by the Los Angeles Clippers. Time and again this season the Rockets have followed up a bad game by getting back on track which they did following their Game 1  loss.

Although the Rockets Game 2 victory wasn’t necessarily a commanding performance the fourth quarter outburst that led to the win seemed to indicate the squad had recovered from the rust of having five days off.

But Friday night the Rockets once again struggled offensively and James Harden seemed content to play the facilitator role again. Don’t be fooled by Harden’s numbers since much of his output came after the game was well out of hand.

169. 124. 77. . 99

For the first time Chris Paul suited up to play in the series after missing Games 1 and 2 due to his sore hamstring. Obviously his presence offered a boost to the Clippers, but his performance was merely okay as the signs of his injury showed on the court.

His speed and ability to cut were absent and his shot showed the signs of rust. What makes the Rockets loss so disappointing is none of the Clips Big 3 had overly productive games. Blake Griffin who has been arguably the top performer of the post season and has man handled the Rockets had a particularly off night if you can call 22 points and 14 rebounds mediocre.

In fact it was the Clippers fringe players who made the difference in the rout, specifically J.J. Redick and Austin Rivers worked as a tandem spearheading an 18-0 run to end the third quarter and put Los Angeles up by 23 points.

Top Performers:

Austin Rivers: 25 Points, 6 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Steal, 1 Block

James Harden – 25 Points, 3 Rebounds, 11 Assists, 1 Block

The Good:

  • The Rockets finally got the pace moving faster which is something they need to do consistently for 48 minutes
  • Holding Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to manageable production levels is a plus but they need to figure out how to stop the fringe players like Redick, Rivers and Barnes.
  • Dwight Howard has resembled the player who won multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards, but he hasn’t been able to dominate for a full 48 minutes. Could we see him finally showcase that effort in Sunday in Game 4?

The Bad:

  • The Clippers had their largest scoring output of the post season
  • The Rockets defense which had been so good through the regular season continues to sputter in the post season
  • Will the real James Harden please make an appearance in this series? Unless the regular season James Harden decides to show up we can pretty much just count down the final two games of the season for the Rockets.
  • When the Clippers shoot 50% or better from the field they are 23-2. Friday night the Rockets allowed L.A. to shoot 55.4% from the field and 44.8% from three.
  • With Trevor Ariza having to spend so much time guarding Griffin his offensive production has slipped, he needs to find a better balance.
  • While the Clippers bench has toiled in the bottom of the league they’ve out-performed the Rockets bench through the series. For Houston to even the series they’ll need Corey Brewer and Josh Smith to produce at a higher level than they have through the first 3 games.

Up next the Rockets will look to make adjustments heading into the Mother’s Day Game on the Staples Center court Sunday night at 8:30. A loss would give the Clippers a huge 3-1 series edge, so look for a much more aggressive Rockets squad.

Check back with us Sunday prior to tip-off for our pregame analysis and then following the game our player grades followed by our post game analysis Monday morning.

Next: Who is Most Improved?

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