The Houston Rockets avoided elimination on Wednesday by beating the Los Angeles Clippers 124-103 in game 5 of the Western Conference semi-finals. The Rockets haven’t lost three games in a row all season and they were obligated to keep that record alive after losing two straight in Los Angeles, trailing in the series 3-1. Back in Houston for game 5 and driven by their home crowd, the Rockets took a commanding lead in the second quarter and controlled the rest of game, keeping the double-digit lead throughout the entire second half.
Coach McHale shuffled with his starting line-up, bringing in Josh Smith, with Jones coming off the bench. From the start, Houston was the more desperate team and they looked to attack the basket on every possession. They scored 64 points in the paint, almost 20 points more than their season average, and added 17 fast break points. They got back on defense as well, limiting the Clippers to a mere 3 points off the break.
Even though he started the game slightly ill, James Harden had a great game, posting a triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. For the first time in this series, Dwight Howard was able to dominate the paint, scoring 20 points along with his 15 rebounds. DeAndre Jordan got into foul trouble early, which made way for Howard to have his way down low, as Davis and Hawes were not able to stop the Rockets’ big man.
For the Clippers, Griffin continued to display his fine form with 30 points and 16 rebounds, seeming unstoppable at times. Perhaps the only real bright light in their loss was the health of Chris Paul. The Clippers’ star point guard didn’t seem to be bothered anymore by his hamstring injury as he recorded 22 points and 10 assists in almost 35 minutes. The Clippers’ bench will have to play better in game 6 if they want to close out the series on their home floor on Friday (12:30 PM AEST).