The Houston Rockets were on the verge of making a swift second round exit courtesy of the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. This article is going to have a lot of words that start with the letter R. The first word we have to look at is red as in . . .
Houston dispatched the Dallas Mavericks in five games in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. This allowed them to advance to the second round rested and ready. Being the second seed this meant that they would once again have home court advantage against either the Clippers or the San Antonio Spurs.
After an epic seven game battle the Clippers emerged victorious, tired and banged up. Chris Paul closed out the Spurs with an injured hamstring which caused him to miss the first two games of the series against the Rockets. Things were setting up perfectly for Houston to come out and pounce on the Clippers while they were trying to catch their breath. Game one at home with Chris Paul in street clothes.
The Clippers had other plans and they came in and took the fight to Houston to the tune of 117-101.
Poof. So much for home court advantage.
It was a really bad, head scratching loss.
Houston was able to bounce back in game two with a 115-109 win, a game they pretty much had to have before the series shifted to L.A. However confidence was still in short supply. Game two had still been a struggle, more of a struggle than you might expect after game one loss.
Games three and four were disasters and that’s putting it nicely. L.A. won both games by a combined 58 points. Chris Paul was back for game three but Austin Rivers’ 25 points in 23 minutes stole the show.
Yep, it was so bad that CP3 and Doc were chatting on the sideline dad to dad.
There was no place like home for game five and Houston staved off elimination 124-103. That said, the two embarrassing losses in L.A. were still fresh on everyone’s minds and getting a win there was not gong to be easy. Similar feelings prevailed once again and confidence still wan’t running high even though they found a way to win. A 19 point deficit in the third quarter of game six confirmed all of Red Nation’s worst fears.
Then the fourth quarter happened.
After coughing up the big lead in game six it was full on Bill Buckner effect for the Clippers. There was just no way that they were going to recover and be ready to win a series deciding game on the road after their meltdown at home. A few Rockets fans and even media members were concerned that the extra day off in between games might help them bounce back and take game seven.
Houston put everyone’s concerns to rest right off of the bat.
Bottom line, Houston played the last game of this series the way they should have played the first game of this series. They pounced on L.A. with Paul the way they should have punched them in the mouth without him. Positive and negative history repeated itself in this series too. Houston became the ninth team to overcome a 3-1 series and joined the 1995 Rockets on that list while Chris Paul once again found himself watching another trip to the conference finals elude his grasp.
Now it’s on to Oakland for the Rockets to face the top seeded Golden State Warriors in an all chalk Western Conference Finals. Golden State swept the season series 4-0 but the two teams haven’t faced each other in four months and as Craig Ackerman, the voice of the Rockets, points out Terrence Jones missed all four game due to injury. So both teams are different and things could go differently in the playoffs.
As these Rockets have shown us all, anything can happen.