clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Clippers-Rockets Game 6 Preview: Home Cooking

After a disappointing showing in Game 5, the Clippers come home to take a second try at finishing off the Rockets.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

2015 NBA Playoffs
Second Round


Series Schedule, Clippers lead 3-2
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 p.m. in Los Angeles, Clippers 124-Rockets 99
Game 4 - Sun May 8, 5:30 p.m. in Los Angeles, Clippers 128-Rockets 95
Game 5 - Tue May 12, 6:30 p.m. in Houston, Rockets 124-Clippers 103
Game 6 - Tonight, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 7* Sun May 17, Time TBD, 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)
Matt Barnes (ankle) probable
Patrick Beverley (wrist surgery) out
Austin Rivers (hip) probable
Donatas Motiejunas (back) out
Glen Davis (foot) probable
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 loss stings (as Austin Rivers can literally attest) and the Clippers' legs may suffer for the extra two days of rest they lost along with the game, but they still sit snugly in the catbird seat, with two chances remaining to oust the Houston Rockets and advance to their first Western Conference Final. The bright side of the big picture is simple: Game 5 was Houston's best performance of the series and LA's worst. Neither team is likely to resume that level of play. The Clippers are still the better team. More shots will fall tonight. Blake Griffin will finish with more than two assists. The defensive focus should improve in front of a STAPLES Center crowd at Ballmer-ian lather. And don't forget how the refs have been calling these games. A little home cooking never hurts.

The Antagonist:

For the Rockets, Game 5 should eventually be revealed as too little too late. It's nice that they finally discovered their A-game, showing impressive energy on defense and heightened awareness and unselfishness on offense, but they find themselves only part of the way up this mountain they've built for themselves. For most of this series, they've looked outclassed. Dwight Howard has largely been outplayed by his Clipper opposite, and James Harden has had casual fans wondering what all the MVP buzz was about. Both excelled on Tuesday night, along with key hired-gun role players Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry, but to earn a home trip for a Sunday winner-take-all Game 7, all four will have to match or even exceed that level of play. Unless they count on the Clippers missing 75% of their three-pointers again.

The Subplots:

  • Thing #1 That Probably Won't Happen Again. According to's SportVU data for Game 5, the Clippers made just 18 of 53 field goals (33.9%) categorized as either "open" (nearest defender 4-6 feet away) or "wide open" (nearest defender more than 6 feet away). They converted only 3 of 19 (15.7%) "open" three-pointers.
  • Thing #2 That Probably Won't Happen Again. The Rockets made 11 of 17 field goals (64.7%) categorized as "very tight" (nearest defender less than 2 feet away). No other team this week broke 50% on such shots.
  • Thing #3 That Probably Won't Happen Again. The Rockets rebounded 36.6% of their own misses. In Games 1-4, the Rockets rebounded 24.4% of their own misses.
  • Thing #4 That Probably Won't Happen Again. The Rockets scored 64 points in the paint. In Games 1-4, the Rockets averaged 45 points in the paint.
  • Passing Out of Traps - Rockets Edition. Under Doc Rivers' tutelage, the Clippers' big men have consistently played opposing pick and rolls aggressively, venturing to and beyond the three-point arc to set hard hedges and traps. The upside of this play is forcing the ballhandler into a turnover. The downside, if the ballhandler can find an outlet posthaste, is allowing your opponent to get behind you to play 4-on-3. In Game 5, Houston improved its play against the Clipper traps, moving the ball quickly and decisively and finding themselves with open lanes to the basket. The Rocket big men, especially forwards Josh Smith and Terrence Jones, are able passers from the high post. With the defense scrambling around them, they picked out open cutters and shooters to consistently gash the Clippers for long, uninterrupted offensive runs.
  • Passing Out of Traps - Clippers Edition. The Rockets played Blake Griffin aggressively in the fourth quarter, doubling him when he got the ball. Unlike the Rockets, Blake failed to make quick passes. Rather, he tried to dribble his way out of trouble, and in so doing, frequently found his way into the court's corner, boxing himself in between two defenders and two sidelines. Blake's play during this postseason has been nearly beyond reproach. These plays didn't mean much late in Game 5 when the Rockets' lead was near 20 points. These types of plays will mean a lot if they happen late in Game 5 and the game is closer.
  • Bench Matters. In Games 1-4, the Clipper bench's net rating (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) was an astounding +12.2. The Rocket bench's net rating was a miserly -13.6. In Game 5, Rocket reserves hammered their LA counterparts, and the Clipper bench finished with a net rating south of -40, despite Spencer Hawes distinct and sudden lack of suckiness. The Clippers' big three has been consistently excellent for several weeks. To win tonight, they'll need their backups to find some consistency as well.
  • Free Throws For Everyone. This series is a living argument for prohibiting Hack-A-Dwight-DeAndre-Shaq. Alas, with that rule unlikely to be ratified in the next 20 hours, these teams will spend too much of tonight at the charity stripe. In this round, the Clippers and Rockets have averaged .423 and .445 free throw rates, respectively. No other second-round teams are above .290. The home teams have had the free throw frequency advantage, but you know that, because you've watched an NBA game before. Officials have awarded the home team 55 more free throws this series (a total stretched by ridiculous Game 2 and Game 4 discrepancies). A few home calls could be more than enough to push this game beyond Houston's reach.
  • 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.