Only two days after their draining series against the San Antonio Spurs, the LA Clippers faced the Houston Rockets in the opening game of the playoffs’ second round. Without their floor general Chris Paul, who was unavailable due to a hamstring injury, the Clippers executed down the stretch and stunned the Rockets to win game 1 on the road 117-101 and steal home-court advantage.
Blake Griffin had another incredible game, posting his second straight triple-double in the post-season, finishing with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. With Paul on the bench, Griffin took the team on his back, punishing the Rockets down low, knocking down jumpers and distributing the ball for wide-open threes, resulting in 13 makes from behind the arc. James Harden scored 20 points and had 12 assists, but wasn’t able to dominate at all, turning the ball over 9 times. Turnovers were key in this game: the Rockets turned the ball over 24 times, resulting in a staggering 34 points for the Clippers.
Game 2 will be played on Thursday (11:30 AM AEST), and with the looming return of Paul, who will probably be able to play in game 3, the Rockets cannot afford to lose another game at home. Harden will have to step up in a big way if he wants to lead his team to the conference finals, because the Clippers seemed to have found their groove. In Griffin, they have the best player in this year’s playoffs so far.