Los Angeles Clippers 109, Houston Rockets 115: Lob Cities

Cheames Hurdemph wordmpt.

(Extracts foot, clears throat)

Unique, New York.  Unique, New York.  The Human Torch was denied a bank loan.

The arsonist has oddly shaped feet.

That’s better.  Now, if you’ll allow me a moment:  

Felker: Rockets in 6. I don’t believe a word saying that Paul will miss even one second with his injury. That noise about him never making it out of the second round is getting louder and he hears it. And I wonder how injured he actually is. Paul embellishes on a Paul Pierce-ian level, and Doc Rivers is full of it. They’re just giving themselves a scapegoat for when they go belly up again.

Having said that, maaaybe he is a little hobbled. Either way, I’ll take a rested team over a shaky seven-man rotation coming off one of the most grueling first rounds ever any day of the week. Doc Rivers will keep playing his guys 40+ minutes a game, because his only other option is Big Baby and Austin Rivers. Check Please.

Well, someone was feeling their favorite team’s first playoff series win in years, weren’t they?

Except for the part about the big minutes, that was just a bunch of wrong, topped with inaccurate and a side of misguided. Oh, and a heaping helping of presumptuous for dessert.

Mere crow is but too fine a dish for that breed of prognostication.

It’s quite safe to say that the Clippers are more complete as a team and better coached than I presumed. Or maybe it’s just Blake Giffin.  Either way, what the hell?

The Rockets evened things up last night in Houston, sending the series to L.A. tied at one apiece.  But how is this team not leading 2-0?  Perhaps it shouldn’t be so difficult to comprehend, seeing as the Rockets only hosted games one and two because they are the two-seed; a result they achieved despite the fact that they played most of the season without one of their two best players.  Chris Paul is in fact injured, rather seriously it seems, and yet the Rockets are still the ones chasing the game.

I thought removing the head was supposed to kill the snake, but instead of edging the Clippers into chaos, Paul’s absence has instead given Blake Griffin room to shine.  Griffin came out scorching and had 26 points by halftime.  He finished with only 34, but shot 56.5% from the field and added 15 rebounds and 4 assists.  He was so thoroughly in control of the first half that when Reggie Miller commented that Griffin looked more like LeBron than LeBron in Game 1 (and to that point in Game 2), everyone watching in my living room could only nod their heads and shrug.

Griffin cooled off in the second half, but the only reason the Rockets were even still in the game at that point was because the Clippers could not keep Dwight Howard away from the rim.  All night long Dwight slammed home lob after lob, and kept DeAndre Jordan stuck to the bench with foul trouble.  Jordan played only 25 minutes (his lowest so far in the playoffs) after picking up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter.  He had been averaging 25.6 mpg.

Dwight finished with 24 points on 8-11 shooting, 16 boards (4 offensive), 3 assists and 4 blocks.  But once again proving that no one is perfect, Howard missed his free throws at an alarming rate, clanging 13 of his 21 attempts. Jordan did give Howard problems at times, but for the most part Dwight could be found patrolling the paint, crushing everything he got his hands on.  For someone who was told repeatedly to stay on the floor, Howard spent an awful lot of time hovering somewhere just short of the stratosphere.

And as good as Griffin was in the first half, James Harden was in the fourth quarter.  He scored 16 of his 32 points in the final frame, after sitting for half of the third quarter with foul trouble.  Before his fourth quarter clinic, Harden wasn’t overly effective.  He only made 3-10 from deep, but hit two big ones in the fourth as Houston was pulling away.  He was still being too careless with the ball at times (7 turnovers), but he also made several excellent skip passes to open shooters on the backside and had one particularly sublime full-court outlet to a streaking Corey Brewer.

As for the Clippers, after halftime stole Griffin’s mojo and Jordan had to back off due to fouls, L.A. had no one to turn to. Without Griffin’s playmaking, Matt Barnes’ open looks got a little tighter and Austin Rivers tried to do a little too much.  JJ Redick had his second straight subpar game, and is only shooting 39.1% from the field for the series.  Jamal Crawford made a few tough shots to keep the Clippers around but was inefficient overall.  Someone named Lester Hudson, who is apparently kind of a big deal in China, provided a Patrick Beverley-ish spark off the bench for the Clips, but was gassed after only 11 minutes of action.

Besides Harden and Howard, the rest of the Rockets were scrappy if not efficient.  No one shot particularly well, but Trevor Ariza finished with a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds.  Meanwhile, Terrence Jones and Josh Smith only shot 7-21 from the field as a pair, but still managed to fill the stat sheet (18 pts, 14 reb & 5 blk combined).  Corey Brewer played with his hair on fire.  He attacked Griffin from all angles as part of the double-team, and even beat him to a jump ball after tying him up in the post.

Now the series shifts to L.A.  There’s still no way to know if and/or when CP3 will be back, but the crowd at the Staples Center will be a welcome sight to the Clippers regardless.  All those thunderous dunks Blake Griffin has been hammering down will feel a lot different in front of his home crowd.  And let’s not forget that James Harden is an L.A. guy himself.  Who knows what kind of emotion that will add to his game.

The realistic goal is surely just to split Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles, but the Rockets shouldn’t lose another game that Chris Paul misses or comes back ordinary.

But what do I know?  I’m still chewing crow.

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Los Angeles Clippers 117, Houston Rockets 101: You actually have to try