The Houston Rockets were pushed into defensive mode last night, having to win the game against the Los Angeles Clippers, or be eliminated from the playoffs. The Clippers, who have made short work of the Rockets lately, faced a Rockets team that responded well to retaliation.
The Rockets, backed by their star player James Harden, scored 26 points and added 11 rebounds and 10 assists to get his first triple double of the playoffs. The other star of the team, Dwight Howard, put up 20 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. It is no question that Harden and Howard may be one of the best duos left in the playoffs, as fans found out last night.
The Rockets’ tenaciousness was too much for the Clippers big men last night; putting up 36 points in the paint during the first half, right after only scoring only 36 in the game just 2 days ago. Houston ended up with 64 points in the paint, which happened to match their season high. Most of the other scoring came from Trevor Ariza, who had 22 points for the night. He also added in 8 boards.
The Clippers could not keep up with the Rockets offense; allowing the Rockets to score 123 points. Despite the effort from Blake Griffin, who scored 30 points and had 16 rebounds, the other Clippers players didn’t seem to have the same effort as they did in the previous games.
Injuries also played a part in the game for Los Angeles; Matt Barnes, one of the Clippers best defensive players, left the game in pain and only played 23 minutes. Austin Rivers, who struggled the entire game, left with a hip injury at the end of the third quarter. The Clippers best point guard, Chris Paul, seemed to starting feeling the injury he picked up in the Spurs series as he was limping and grimacing for the last few minutes of the game. Barnes, Rivers, and the knockdown shooter Jamal Crawford, ended the game only shooting 3-22 from the field.
The two teams will play game 6 at the Staples Center on Thursday. It will interesting to see how the Clippers respond to the loss, and how many players are still feeling the affects of the hard, physical play of Houston. The game will determine if the Clippers will move on, or if the Rockets stay alive and can fight for a spot in the Western Conference Finals at home on Sunday, May 17.