clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Clippers-Rockets Game 5: Can the Clippers move to the Conference Finals?

After a couple shocking blowout losses, the Houston Rockets are on the ropes. However, the Clippers will have to close things out in Houston against a struggling team which has yet to play good basketball in this series. The momentum will be going the Clippers' way, but the Rockets will be desperate.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2015 NBA Playoffs
Second Round


Series Schedule, Clippers lead 3-1
Game 1 - Mon May 4, 6:30 p.m. in Houston, Clippers 117 Rockets 101
Game 2 - Wed May 6, 6:30 p.m. in Houston, Rockets 115 Clippers 109.
Game 3 - Fri May 8, 7:30 Los Angeles, Clippers 124 Rockets 99.
Game 4- Sun May 8, 5:30 p.m. in Los Angeles, Clippers 128 Rockets 95
Game 5- Tonight, Tue May 12, 6:30 p.m. on TNT, at Toyota Center, Houston
Game 6*  Thu May 14, Time TBD, TNT, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 7* Sat May 16, Time TBD, TNT, Houston, TOYOTA Center
* if necessary
Win-Loss Breakdown
19-11 East 23-7
37-15 West 33-19
30-11 Home 30-11
26-15 Road 26-15
19-22 .500+ 21-21
37-4 .500- 35-5
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Jason Terry
J.J. Redick SG James Harden
Matt Barnes SF Trevor Ariza
Blake Griffin PF Terrence Jones
DeAndre Jordan C Dwight Howard
Key Reserves
Austin Rivers PG Pablo Prigioni
Jamal Crawford SG Nick Johnson
Hedo Turkoglu SF Corey Brewer
Glen Davis PF Josh Smith
Spencer Hawes C Clint Capela
Advanced Stats 2014-2015 Regular Season
96.96 (11th of 30) Pace 99.25 (2nd of 30)
109.8 (1st of 30) ORtg 104.2 (12th of 30)
103.0 (15th of 30) DRtg 100.5 (6th of 30)
Chris Paul (hamstring) probable
Patrick Beverley (wrist surgery) out

Donatas Motiejunas (back) out

K.J. McDaniels (wrist) out

The Back Story (The teams split the regular season series 2-2):

Date Venue Final

Clippers 102, Rockets 85
Box Score
Los Angeles
Clippers 110, Rockets 95
Box Score
Rockets 110, Clippers 105
Box Score
Los Angeles
Rockets 100, Clippers 98
Box Score

The Big Picture: The Rockets are down 3-1, and even though they are playing at home in Game 5, their chances for victory look slim after two shellackings in Staples Center. The Clippers, on the other hand, look like a highly powered machine, like the best team in the playoffs, and show no signs of letting up. Chris Paul looks solid, Blake Griffin is playing incredibly, and all the role players have stepped up at various points, including the much maligned Austin Rivers and Spencer Hawes. The Clippers have all the momentum, and outside of a couple quarters here and there they just look like a far better team than the Rockets. While the Rockets should come out with fire, this being an elimination game for them, they have shown none so far in this series, and at some point you have to wonder if they have given up on the season. The Clippers need to just keep executing on both ends of the floor as they have done so far, and their superior talent will win out.

The Antagonist: The Rockets were not just blown out twice in Los Angeles, but also visibly gave up with a lot of time remaining in both games. They have been completely unable to stop the Clippers on the defensive end, so Coach Kevin McHale resorted to using Hack-a-DJ just four minutes into Game 4. It was an "I have absolutely no ideas so lets just make the game ugly" tactic that did not really work, and as soon as the Rockets went away from it the Clippers blew them out of the water in the 3rd quarter. The Rockets looked completely overwhelmed midway through that period, and gave up not much later. The only two Rockets who have shown any sort of ability to hurt the Clippers are Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard, but Howard is limited by his mediocre post game and free throw shooting, and Ariza by his lack of a handle. James Harden, the runner up for MVP, has been unable to get anything going, and he seems to have no idea how to attack the Clippers' defense. The Rockets need him to step up big to win Game 5, because a cursory look at their roster reveals their lack of offensive weapons.

The Subplots:

  • Frustrated Rockets. .In game 3, Jason Terry had a nice shot on Blake Griffin, leading to his ejection. In game 4, Dwight Howard, who was ineffective the whole evening, gave two hard fouls on Blake, leading to an ejection (he got two techs but would have fouled out anyway). The Rockets have been getting increasingly chippy as their series hopes have dwindled, and some more hard fouls and tension should be expected in game 5.
  • Hack a DJ reaches new heights- The Rockets started their intentional fouling of DeAndre Jordan just four minutes into the game, and he took an incredible 34 free throws on the evening, making 14. While this tactic did somewhat slow down the Clippers' offense, it also led to the Rockets being unable to get any rhythm as well, and the first half was suitably ugly as a result. The Rockets gave it up in the 2nd half, and the Clippers proceeded to annihilate them. To me, the intentional fouling on this scale is, in the words of Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles, "The Last Act of a Desperate Man", and it doesn't bode well for McHale's knowledge of any solution to the Clippers' offense.
  • Rockets Defense- Speaking of, the Rockets' defense has been atrocious, giving up 120+ points in consecutive games. Even though the Clippers have a high powered and efficient offense, the Rockets just do not seem to have a clue to how to stop them, and the Clippers are getting whatever looks they want. Even though Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard are top level defenders, and guys like Corey Brewer and Josh Smith are solid on that end, the Terry-Harden backcourt just looks too poor on that end for anything to really change. Pat Beverly may have made a difference, but while he is an improvement on Terry, especially on defense, he is a below average starting point guard himself.
  • Spencer Hawes. After being dumped on throughout an awful regular season, Hawes has stepped up when it matters most, contributing nine solid minutes in Game 4 (including in the first quarter!) after an equally competent 11 minutes on Friday. He probably won't be needed to finish off the Rockets, but having him as an option against the Warriors or Grizzlies (if the Clippers advance) would be great.
  • Possible Rockets Adjustments- If I were Kevin McHale, I would stop the hack-a-DJ nonsense, especially since it seems to be hurting the Rockets offense just as much as the Clippers. For another thing, I would gamble on some of the younger players on the bench such as Nick Johnson or Kostas Popanikolau. For one thing, there is nothing to lose by trying something new at this point, and for another, younger and more athletic guys might have a better chance of keeping up with the Clippers and playing with more fire. Honestly, however, the thing that the Rockets really need is an MVP type game from Harden, and it remains to be seen whether he can muster one up against the Clippers' defense, who have befuddled him all year.
  • What a 4-1 win would mean- Not only do the Clippers look like the best overall team in the NBA right now (though the remaining playoff teams are obviously no pushovers), but a quick 4-1 series would mean extra rest for the next series.The Warriors just beat the Grizzlies in Memphis tonight, tying the series at 2-2. The Clippers, if they win, will cross their fingers and hope for an exhausting 7 game series. This would give Chris Paul in particular some much needed rest to get up to 100% for the Conference Finals. On the other hand, the Rockets had the rest advantage going into this series and look at what happened.
  • Connections. As previously noted, there are no Rocket-Clipper player crossovers in this series, but a handful of hometown guys on opposite teams. DeAndre Jordan is a Houston native, drawing many of his family and friends to games in Texas. Trevor Ariza and James Harden are both from the LA area--Ariza attended Westchester HS and Harden went to Artesia. Former Clipper point guard and current assistant Sam Cassell was drafted by the Rockets and won two championships with them in 1994 and 1995. The Rockets and the Clippers both once called San Diego home, the Rockets from 1967-1971 and the Clippers from 1978-1984.