Tip of the cap to the Houston Rockets for rising from the dead in the nick of time for this series.
This game was always going to be about weathering the storm. The game started predictably in favor of the Rockets. After the meltdown in LA, the Rockets had the momentum and were energized in their play. For the first half, the Clippers simply couldn’t push past the barrier of a “close game”. But the 3rd quarter finally provided the break; some solid defense and good offensive possessions cut the lead to 57-60.
Unfortunately the Rockets responded and with 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter the lead was back to 11. The Clippers’ flaw was being unable to secure rebounds while playing effective defense. By the end of the quarter the meltdown had started. Turnovers, fouls, and lack of effective defense all played their role. The Clippers did narrow the lead down at the end, but it was for naught.
As a fan of statistics/numbers, this series did shed a light and reminder on the intangibles of momentum and confidence. They are fickle and real. The Rockets didn’t have a shred of either heading into Game 5. Yet in a 7 game-series, things can switch quickly (and especially when the 2 teams frankly are both very talented). Just as the Rockets weren’t as bad as they seemed in Games 1-4, the Clippers weren’t as horrible as they seemed in games 5-7. It is simply a shame that it turned out the way it did.
So what now? The Clippers will have a bit of soul-searching to do after today. They were on the cusp of franchise and personal history (as many hadn’t made it to the Conference Finals before. Alas, they will have to wait a bit longer. Until then, the Clippers as a whole will learn. They overcame one mountain (the San Antonio Spurs) and now find a new one in its place: closing out a series when all eyes expect you to win. As anyone will tell you, the hardest game in a series is the close out game. I don’t think even Rockets fans would disagree (even in light of their team’s improved play later in this series) that the Clippers being up 3-1 and losing a series like this is more of an indictment of the Clippers’ “choking” for a lack of a better term, than the Rockets suddenly becoming giant slayers.
It’s worth noting that the Clippers still did alright. This season cannot be marked as a “disappointment” (as much as the end of this series truly is); the Clippers were close to the Conference Finals in a Conference that essentially will determine the NBA champion. To say that the Clippers are still a top 5 NBA team is not a stretch. Unfortunately, being a top 5 NBA team does not guarantee much in the Western Conference.
So feel free to let your initial emotions and thoughts out in this thread, but I’d like it if y’all kept it civil/reasonable. The Clippers team and fans have come a long way over the last 5 years. Of everything that has been endured, I frankly admit this isn’t as torturous dealing with a racist owner or incompetent coach. The future remains bright. It’s just up to GM Doc Rivers to construct a more reliable bench and supporting cast.