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NBA Playoffs: Houston Rockets Force Game 7 With Stunning 19 Point Come Back

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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May 14, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) reacts with guard Corey Brewer (33) after he blocks a shot against Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) during the second half in game six of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Playoffs: Houston Rockets Force Game 7:

Facing elimination for the second consecutive game, their franchise star ailing with the flu and down 19 points with under 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter things looked bleak for Houston. But, that’s the story of the season for the Rockets who showed their mettle mounting a 40-15 fourth quarter run to win and force a game 7 back in Houston.

169. 107. 77. . 119

Based on how the Clippers played half way through the third quarter it was obvious they thought Houston was going to roll over and die. At this point they began to play like they were in an All-Star Game: Blake Griffin made an acrobatic 360 drive in the paint while Chris Paul added some show boat moves of his own.

I guess it was reasonable given they led by 19 and Harden hadn’t been able to rediscover his touch in the second half still suffering from the flu.

Doc Rivers must have felt like all that was left to do was put a fork in the Rockets as he instructed his squad to slow the pace, run them off the 3-point line and close things out.

Even owner Steve Ballmer got in on the early celebration as he was spotted by the camera’s turning his spoon,  punking James Harden‘s patented move.

As I highlighted in the pregame analysis the stars were expected to produce given the gravity of the game, but as predicted the team whose “others” performed better would be the x-factor, and on this night it was Houston who won that battle.

To that end, the Rockets took exception to being punked with the All-Star moves and decided to turn it up a notch. Specifically Houston “others” Josh Smith and Corey Brewer got rolling and the 5 players on the court started playing Rockets defense.  Smith scored 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and Brewer scored 15 of his 19 points in the final frame.

The Staples Center crowd once roaring in support of their Clippers who seemed poised to make their first trip ever to the Western Conference Finals sat in stunned silence inter mixed with occasional chants as they watched  their home team implode.

“There are wins and then there are wins that can define a team or a player or even a season.”-Smith

As much as the previous 2 home shellackings by L.A. were embarrassing for Houston this comeback was equally off putting for L.A. By starting their celebration early they took the Rockets for granted, something 56 other opponents in the regular season learned isn’t a wise idea.

Worse for the Clippers is they now have to return to the Toyota Center and try to win a game 7 in Clutch City with the pressure of remembering how they let Games 5 and 6 slip away, and that they’ve let the Rockets back in a series they led 3-1.

Perhaps most frightening for the Clippers is now James Harden will get two days to recover from his flu and without a typical  explosive game to this point in the series the setting is ideal for him to do it in Game 7 in Clutch City.

Clippers shot 18.2% in the 4th quarter, which is their lowest shooting quarter in the playoffs over last 20 years. pic.twitter.com/gqUZGv20mg

— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 15, 2015

Top Performers:

Dwight Howard: 20 Points, 21 Rebounds (7 Offensive Rebs), 1 Assist, 2 Blocks, 1 Steal

Chris Paul: 31 Points,  11 Assists, 7 Rebounds

The X-Factors:

Josh Smith has progressively improved through the series. Game 5 his insertion into the starting line-up seemed to spark the rediscovery of the Rockets offense. Thursday, playing beside his AAU teammate Howard, it was Smith who scored 8 consecutive points including two 3-point shots to draw the Rockets within 3 points. For his part Corey Brewer was the other offensive catalyst on the floor who showcased why his addition to the team has been so vital to the Rockets success this season.

Although Smith and Brewer were the offensive tandem, the 5 players on the court deserve kudo’s for how they maintained their focus to overtake the Clippers in one of the biggest wins in franchise history. Trevor Ariza continues to be brilliant defensively and Dwight Howard and Jason Terry rounded out the group who deserve full credit for the win.

The Bad:

  • The Rockets have made a bad habit of losing one quarter in all but Game 5 of the series by double digits:
    • Game 1: 3rd Quarter 37-27 & 4th Quarter 34-24
    • Game 2: 2nd Quarter 41-21
    • Game 3: 3rd Quarter 35-19
    • Game 4: 3rd Quarter 43-25
    • Game 6: 3rd Quarter 28-17
  • Apparently there is no answer for Blake Griffin but Trevor Ariza did seem to find an answer for him late in Game 6 as he was unable to score on his final 5 shots from the field.
  • After playing every other day since April 22nd, the Clippers will finally get 2 days rest to recover prior to Game 7 on Sunday at the Toyota Center. This will help several of the Clippers who are suffering from ailments such as Chris Paul, Austin Rivers and Matt Barnes who was ineffective in Game 6.

The Good:

  • After playing the first 4 games of the series looking like a team who had lost their identity the Rockets appear to have found it. Finally in the past 2 games we’ve witnessed the scrappy, fight to the last second team we’ve grown accustomed to.
  • With 2 days rest, James Harden should be feeling much better, so as I tweeted out during the game I wonder if Doc Rivers is having nightmares over the fact Harden has yet to have an explosive game in the series. If you recall during the season the Sunday games in which the Rockets played on national T.V. Harden had some of his best performances: the infamous game versus LeBron James, Washington, his battle with Westbrook and Griffin’s first game back with the Clippers. Of note: the Rockets won every one of those Sunday matches and Harden figured prominently.
  • In the past 2 games the Rockets have rediscovered both their offense and their defense. I think what happened is the Mavericks played a very different style and because of injury they couldn’t play at their typical intensity. Then Houston had 5 full days rest which can play havoc with your timing and the Clippers were already functioning at the top of their performance level.
  • The Rockets appear to have rediscovered their three point mastery on both ends of the court. Through the first 3 games of the series the Rockets fluctuated between terrible 3-point shooting and average:
    • Game 1: 33.3% (allowed LAC to shoot 41.9%)
    • Game 2: 19.2% (allowed LAC to shoot 24%)
    • Game 3: 33.3 (allowed LAC to shoot 44.8%)
  • In the the past 3 games they’ve found their range from behind the arc, but more importantly in the last two games they’ve showcased their league best perimeter defense:
    • Game 4: 42.9% (allowed LAC to shoot 41.9%)
    • Game 5: 31.0% (allowed LAC to shoot 25.7%)
    • Game 6: 40.6% (allowed LAC to shoot 23.3%)

Houston will likely take today off to rest prior to getting ready for what is sure to be one of the biggest games in Rockets history.  Stay connected with Space City Scoop for all the Playoff news and be sure to catch our pregame analysis Sunday, followed by post game player grades.

Let’s go Rockets!

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