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Clippers-Rockets Game 3 Preview: CP(Game)3?

With the series all tied at one win apiece, the Los Angeles Clippers look to hopefully welcome back their leader, Chris Paul, on Friday night. Will he play? Or will the Houston Rockets get another break by avoiding him again?

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

May 8, 2015, 7:30 PM
STAPLES Center (Los Angeles, California)
Series Schedule
Tied at 1-1
Game 1 - Clippers 117, Rockets 101
Game 2 - Rockets 115, Clippers 109
Game 3 - Fri May 8, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 4 - Sun May 10, 5:30 p.m., TNT, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 5 – Tue May 12, 6:30 p.m., TNT, Houston, Toyota Center
Game 6* - Thu May 14, Time TBD, ESPN, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 7* - Sun May 17, Time TBD, TBD, Houston, Toyota Center
* if necessary
Win-Loss Breakdown (2014-2015)
19-11 East 23-7
37-15 West 33-19
12-4 Division 8-8
30-11 Home 30-11
26-15 Road 26-15
19-22 .500 + 21-21
37-4 - .500 35-5
1-1 OT 5-0
9-1 L10 7-3
Probable Starters
Austin Rivers PG Jason Terry
J.J. Redick SG James Harden
Matt Barnes SF Trevor Ariza
Blake Griffin PF Terrence Jones
DeAndre Jordan C Dwight Howard
Advanced Stats
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)
Chris Paul (Questionable) Hamstring
Patrick Beverley (Out for Season) Wrist

Donatas Motiejunas (Out for Season) Back

K.J. McDaniels (Out) Wrist
Clippers and Rockets tied in season series; 2-2
Clips Nation Recap
ESPN Box Score
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 Fighter Jet
After pulling off a stunning Game 1 win to open this series, the Los Angeles Clippers managed to blow a 13-point lead in the third quarter of Game 2 to allow their opponent to even it all up. Yes, they were without Chris Paul in each of the first two games but they had a chance to step on the throat of their opponent yet ultimately fell short of that goal and now find themselves heading back home with a chance to defend their homecourt in front of what should be a raucous STAPLES Center in Game 3.

The Homing Missile
It’s never fun to give a desperate team new life but the Houston Rockets surely must feel like they fought off the wolves at the gate after coming back to win Game 2. Going into an 0-2 hole after dropping the initial two games at home would have been the kiss of death. Especially since their opponent was missing (arguably) their best player. The Rockets can snatch homecourt right back with just one win in Los Angeles. It will be a big challenge but one they seem like they’ll mentally be prepared for.

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Comparison of Key Metrics
In just the playoffs, the Clippers and Rockets are pretty much evenly matched as far as their Net Rating goes. The Clippers are -0.3 thanks to an Offensive Rating of 104.3 and Defensive Rating of 104.7. The Rocket are +0.1 due to an Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating of 105.5 each. The +0.1 comes because of decimal points in one of the stats that ranks slightly higher. The Rockets are playing at the fastest pace in the playoffs while the Clippers are at the third fastest. The Clippers possesses the third best Effective Field Goal Percentage in the playoffs – at 51.3 percent – while the Rockets come in just behind them in fourth at 51.1 percent.

X-Factor (Rockets): Corey Brewer
Corey Brewer flops. A lot. He’s probably one of the biggest proponents of flopping in the entire league yet gets overlooked. He just got fined $5000 for his egregious flop in Game 2. In fact, it’s so easy to predict that Brewer is going to flop that even a caveman can do it. That doesn’t diminish his talent on the court, though. Brewer thrives in chaos. He likes to get steals or runouts and get easy dunks in the open court. It’s pretty much what he’s good at. He creates chaos and then lives off of it. It’s his lifeblood. If the Clippers can stop Brewer from making a difference in the open court and anywhere else, they can control how well Houston transitions from defense to offense.

X-Factor (Clippers): Jamal Crawford
He might be averaging 20 points per game in this series but Jamal Crawford has not played all that well. He went 6-for-22 in Game 2 and that included a 1-for-8 performance from three. So far in the playoffs, he’s shooting just 37.3 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from three. It’s worse if you take out his first game of the playoffs. So much so that it drops his numbers to 34.5 percent and 16.7 percent, respectively. The issue for the Clippers is that they need him to perform at an adequate level, especially with Chris Paul out. Crawford’s been able to get to the rim but has looked overmatched on the perimeter against Houston’s lengthy defenders. If Crawford can get going, the Clippers can have a good chance at winning; with or without Paul.

Will Chris Paul Play?
This is the million ton elephant in the room. No one knows. The word is that Chris Paul is still a game-time decision for Game 3 and that’s how we, the fanbase, has to look at it. It’s so Clippers that they win the biggest playoff series in franchise history only to lose their most important player to a hamstring injury in the only season he’s played in every regular season game. It just figures, right? Either way, the Clippers are hoping that he plays and the team will need him. The hamstring will not get any better most likely and it will hamper him going forward. Hopefully, for his sake and the sake of the team, that means at least until June.

Mirror Images Do Battle
DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard are probably twin brothers that got born two-and-a-half-years apart. Perhaps DeAndre just didn’t want to be born for a little while and felt like hanging out in a womb a little longer than normal. Both have been excellent in this series in their own right. Howard has been awesome offensively and defensively this series while Jordan has been great defensively and on the glass. They’re both making a major, major impact for their respective teams and it’s been a downright treat to watch unfold. We’re going to get at least three more games of these two behemoths locking horns. Enjoy it. This matchup is worth the price of admission alone.

Griffindor’s Postseason
So, this Blake Griffin guy is pretty solid at basketball activities. His performance in Game 2 made him the first player during this postseason to go for at least 30 points and 15 rebounds. His current postseason averages of 25.4 points, 13.4 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks aren’t too shabby, either. He and Oscar Robertson are the only two players to average 25-13-7 during the playoffs and last I checked, The Big O was a pretty solid little player during his day. He did struggle in the latter stages of Game 2 but he’s in the midst of a five game stretch that is seeing him average damn near 28-14-8 which is ungodly this day in age. Griffin is the biggest mismatch in this series and has to continue to deliver every night for the Clippers. Especially if Paul is out.

Harden(ed) and Emboldened
James Harden goes to the free throw line a ton. We all know this and he earns a lot of them on legitimate calls. Some don’t come on legitimate calls, though, and those are the ones that infuriate everyone. Harden got rewarded with 15 free throw attempts in Game 2 and the free throws helped get him going after a poor start to the game. In the 10 games he’s played against the Clippers over the last two seasons, the Rockets are 3-1 when Harden shoots at least 10 free throws and 0-6 when he doesn’t. In these playoffs, they’re 3-0 when he does and 2-2 when he doesn’t. Harden’s a truly great player and the Rockets are a great team, but 64 free throws is insane and it will be interesting to see how this series is called in Los Angeles.

Thank You, Austin Rivers
No matter what happens the rest of this series and postseason, Clippers fans should thank Austin Rivers for all that he’s done for them during the playoffs. Without him, it’s not entirely certain that the Clippers are even here right now. When the team needed a huge Game 4 win on the road in San Antonio, Austin Rivers stepped up with an out-of-body experience and delivered with 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting. In Game 1 of this series, when the team needed him to step up, while Chris Paul sat out, he did. He finished with 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting and 4-for-6 from three. Rivers has had his ups-and-downs but the kid always tries. You have to respect that. It’s safe to say that the trade paid off and Rivers has more than earned his spot next year if the team decides to extend him an offer.

Second Round Balance
While the first round – sans the Clippers-Spurs series – was largely a disappointment, the second round at least seems like it will be more competitive. All four second round series are currently deadlocked at 1-1 going into Game 3 and that’s exactly what the NBA should have been hoping for. The best team in the regular season is being pushed by the most physical remaining team, the King is being challenged once again by pesky Chicago, the upstart Hawks are being frustrated by the oddly good Wizards, and then you have this series. No matter what happens the rest of this round, the NBA should at least be happy that a champion will be crowned who hasn’t been crowned in (roughly) the last 20 years. It’s fresh blood. The best kind of blood.