It looked like the Clippers were on their way to another blowout win after a great third quarter, leading 89-70 with less than 15 minutes standing between them and their first-ever Conference Finals Appearance. It seemed like Games 3 and 4 all over again; instead, we sunk to a new depth of despair.
From that point, Houston mounted a 49-18 run, winning the final frame 40-15 — with James Harden on the bench for almost all of it. The Clippers had only scored 12 points in the fourth quarter until a meaningless three rolled in at the buzzer, the sort of shot that wasn't falling all night. We thought we wouldn't get a repeat of Game 5 from the role players, but once again their shot-making ability was a no-show: 14-46 from the field, an abysmal spanking.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were once again excellent, but Blake played extremely poorly in the final quarter, and he'll be the first to tell you that. Unfortunately, despite this loss they still played over 40 minutes apiece, not a good look going into Game 7.
Meanwhile, the Rockets looked like the wheels were rolling off — several technicals, a flagrant frustration foul on Dwight Howard, a nineteen point deficit late in the third after trailing by two at halftime... but Josh Smith and Corey Brewer were there, making ridiculous shots and generally doing things, as Houston mounted an impressive comeback — and a shocking collapse for a Clippers team we imagined had exorcised their playoff demons in Round 1.
Here's the good news: the current incarnation of this franchise has never won a series in less than seven games, and it's never lost a Game 7 either. They've won on the road before too, that 2012 win in Memphis. It's not easy, but perhaps now that the Clippers are being castigated and written off once again, they can muster the energy (and shotmaking) to triumph.
Heads high, Clipper Nation. The night is always darkest before dawn.