Well, that sucked. Despite multiple runs, especially in the third quarter, the Los Angeles Clippers fell to the Houston Rockets on Sunday afternoon and have been officially eliminated from the playoffs. After being up 3-1 in the series, and up by 19 late in the third quarter of Game 6, the Clippers are no longer playing for anything because, well, they’re not playing anymore. It sucks, it hurts, and it’s terrible. But the beat marches on and you have to deal with whatever adversity confronts you. The Clippers never led in Game 7 and were beaten to the punch repeatedly by a more energetic, more focused Houston Rockets squad. The Rockets won the series and the Clippers did a lot wrong to help them.
|Los Angeles Clippers
After falling behind by as much as 15 points in the first half, the Clippers did their best to battle back despite a barrage of turnovers resulting in points for Houston. Roughly four minutes into the second half, Los Angeles had cut the Houston lead all the way down to three points and it looked like a run for the lead was about to take place. Except it didn’t happen. It just never happened. What did happen, though, was Josh Smith and Pablo Prigioni of all people flipping the script in this game and giving the Rockets enough juice to push the Rockets lead all the way up to a staggering 17 points after an 11-4 run in the final two minutes of the third quarter. The game never got closer than 8 points after that and the fourth quarter was a mere formality as the Clippers had nothing left to offer despite their best efforts as the game inched towards the final buzzer.
The team tried their best. Especially early in the second half and in the fourth quarter. Their best just wasn’t good enough and the Houston Rockets played a far better game and got massive contributions from their roleplayers. I wrote it in the Film Room for Game 5, the Film Room for Game 6, and the preview for Game 7; roleplayers win Game 7’s. It happened today. Josh Smith had 15 points and nailed two threes to help the Rockets sustain energy when they needed it. Their biggest contribution, though, might have come from Pablo Prigioni as he had 4 points but also 3 steals and 4 assists. He repeatedly stole inbounds passes, clogged passing lanes, and did the little things to help the Rockets. And, of course, there was Trevor Ariza who dropped in 22 points and hit six threes. The Houston roleplayers showed up. The Los Angeles roleplayers did not.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin played well offensively as they combined for 53 points, 16 rebounds, and 16 assists on 22-for-43 shooting. Paul had 26 points while Griffin had 27. The issue for the duo is that they didn’t get any help all game long. The Clippers roleplayers once again went cold from three, especially J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. As a whole, the Clippers were 7-for-28 from three while the Rockets went 12-for-30. There was also the issue of the Clippers missing 20 shots inside the paint and giving up 10 more points off of turnovers. They were beaten to the punch on nearly every possession and looked out of sorts even from the outset.
DeAndre Jordan finished with 16 points, 17 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 blocks in what could be his final game as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. Matt Barnes played 22 minutes, didn’t score, but led the team in plus-minus with a mark of +9. Redick, as mentioned, had another tough game and went 4-for-12 overall and 2-for-9 from three. He also had a playoff career-high six turnovers. Crawford was 6-for-18 overall and 3-for-9 from three. He often took poor shots and two of his three made threes were utterly atrocious shots that somehow still went in. He was a team worst -22 in plus-minus, which was evidenced by his defense mostly.
On top of the Houston roleplayers playing well, Houston got 16 points and 15 rebounds from Dwight Howard and a game-high 31 points from James Harden. The runner-up in the MVP voting also finished with 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals but did have a game-high 7 turnovers to go along with it. The Rockets attempted 41 free throws in this game and ended the series the way they have in all their other wins in these seven games; attempting at least 38 free throws. Congratulations to Houston and good luck in the next round yet you can’t help but feel that Golden State is going to recreate what they did to the Rockets in the regular season.
For the Clippers, disappointment comes to mind and the high percentage shots that the Clippers had hit all season just didn’t happen in the final three games. Counting just shots in the paint and three-point attempts, Los Angeles was 31-for-72 (43.1 percent) while Houston went 30-for-64 (46.9 percent). Add in the 18 turnovers, 27 points off those turnovers, the +20 in made free throws, and you can see how Houston won this game. But the Clippers never gave up, even when they went down as much as 20 points in the fourth quarter. They still fought until the end and we couldn’t be prouder.
No one knows what’s going to happen in the offseason. We can all speculate and stuff like that but that does us no good at this juncture in time. No use wondering if anyone gets traded or if DeAndre Jordan is re-signed to a max contract. There will be plenty of discussion in the future weeks. For now, just know that the Los Angeles Clippers had a great season that ended in the most Clippers way possible. We don’t deserve nice things. At least not this year. But we’ll take a little sabbatical and come back and do it all over again next year because we are Clippers fans and that’s what we do. We love the team, the players, and everything else that goes into the organization. This isn’t the end of the road. This is just a speed bump.
This year, the Clippers won 56 games, dispatched the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round that ended in a thrilling Game 7, and then were on the brink of their first Western Conference Finals berth in franchise history. There will be brighter days, especially with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin still leading the team and Doc Rivers at the helm. If you want to cry, go ahead and cry. That’s your right. And no one would blame you for that. For now, the Clippers have to regroup, pull themselves off the ground, and get ready for next season after a dismal end to their playoff run. So close, yet so far. We’ll get ‘em next year, guys.