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Clippers 117, Rockets 101: Goonies Never Say Die!

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Without Chris Paul, the Clippers were sloppy in the first half on the road against the Houston Rockets. Then the second half happened and the Clippers proceeded to win a game they had no business winning.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Ewing Theory. We've all heard the phrase get thrown around by people. It was a term coined by Bill Simmons to use when a team plays great for a brief stretch of games without a star player. Tonight, the Los Angeles Clippers were without All-Star point god Chris Paul. They were listless and sloppy in the first half. They looked like they were paddling nowhere fast without their oar to steer them. Then the second half happened. With great performances by a wide assortment of players, the Clippers stole Game 1 from right under the noses of the Houston Rockets while a stunned crowd watched.

1 2 3 4 Total
Los Angeles Clippers 19 27 37 34 117
Houston Rockets 25 25 27 24 101
Monday May 4, 2015 – Toyota Center – Houston, Texas

Despite a woeful and pitiful first half, the Clippers did not give up. They were down by just four points going into halftime despite 13 turnovers and their two best guards – Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick – shooting 5-for-15. Austin Rivers was playing horribly up until that point, as well, shooting just 1-for-5. Nothing was going right for the Clippers. That all changed in the second half when Redick nailed on multiple shots for 12 points in the third quarter alone and Rivers poured in 7 points himself that frame. In the second half alone, those three guards combined for 41 points on 13-for-23 shooting. They also had just 4 combined turnovers after having 9 in the first half.

If the Clippers guards showed up while Chris Paul watched from the bench in a dapper suit, then Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes were absolutely sensational by comparison. Griffin went for a game-high 26 points, game-high 14 rebounds, and game-high 13 assists to lead the Clippers to this victory. He went 9-for-19 from the field and 8-for-10 from the line. Barnes poured in 20 points to go with 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. He was 8-for-11 from the field and 3-for-6 from three.

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The last guy to be mentioned is DeAndre Jordan but this is saving perhaps the best for last. Yes, Dwight Howard had a Rockets-high 22 points and 10 rebounds, as well as 5 blocks. But Jordan matched him jump for jump and effort play for effort play. Jordan finished with 10 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks. Most surprising, though, was him going 6-for-11 from the line while Howard went 4-for-9. Howard might have had more points but Jordan was arguably a bigger factor during this game and that bodes well for the Clippers going forward in this series.

There were some interesting spots in this game. Late in the fourth quarter, the Clippers let the Rockets snip five points off of their lead in about 45 seconds before quelling that with a free throw parade by both teams and coming out ahead of that battle. There will be a few interesting takeaways from this game. First off, the Rockets got nothing out of Trevor Ariza after the first quarter. He had 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting that quarter but finished with just 6 points on 2-for-9 shooting the rest of the way. The Clippers dared him to beat them. He didn’t.

Among other players the Clippers dared, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer reverted back to the norm for this game after having out-of-body experiences against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. They combined to go 1-for-10 from three and showed why they are two of the five worst three-point shooters of all-time (min. 1000 attempts). James Harden didn’t get going until later on and that’s been a thing for him against the Clippers minus that final regular season game against them. He struggles against them. A lot. You can thank Doc Rivers’ scheme a lot for that and also Redick’s defense.

This was an emotional win. It’s hard not to read too much into one win, especially when the Clippers were without Chris Paul and playing on the road just 48 hours after a thrilling Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs. This team came out sloppy but that could be attributed to them adjusting without Paul. They put up 71 points in the second half and outscored the Rockets by 20 in the final 24 minutes. It was a Clippers clinic down the stretch. There’s no telling how the rest of this series will go but, for now, enjoy the fact that Austin Rivers has helped the Clippers win TWO playoff games ON THE ROAD so far. I guess that trade paid off so far.

WILL PAUL BE BACK?

There’s no word yet. We’ll just have to wait and see what Doc Rivers decides to do. On one side, you want to say that it’d be better off giving him extra rest now since the team already stole one game in Houston and have homecourt firmly on their side already. It’d let Paul get ready for Game 3 on Friday and help him recuperate. On the flip side, having Paul back would start to tip the scale even further in the Clippers favor. If he’s ready to go on Wednesday then he should play. That’s the way this writer is choosing to look at it.

All in all, the Clippers accomplished something big tonight. They went into Houston and stole a game they had no business stealing. They went in search of One-Eyed Willie’s treasure and came up with a massive fortune during this game. The treasure chest resides on their side of the table tonight. It’s up to the team to keep it in their possession as this series wears on. Having Chris Paul back will help. But as Blake Griffin has said time and time again, this is just one game. It doesn’t count for anything more than one tally in the win column. There’s three more to go. Enjoy this one, though. They earned it. And you deserve it. Because Goonies never say die!

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