The first two games of the Rockets – Clippers series should have been relatively straight forward for the home team. In other words, the Rockets should have eased their way past the CP3-less Clippers and travel to Los Angeles with a 2-0 lead. Instead, they started the series with no energy whatsoever, lost Game 1 and were very close to losing Game 2 also. Only a magnificent performance by the floor leader James Harden changed the outcome and evened the series.
Now Houston are heading to the City of Angels where they will most probably face the full wrath of the Clippers with Chris Paul in the line-up. Paul didn’t play the first two games because of a hamstring injury. He might have been able to play Game 2 but coach Doc Rivers made the right decision and prolonged the point guard’s recovery with a couple more days. Since the NBA Playoffs are all about small edges, Rivers won’t have the luxury of leaving Paul on the bench once more so get ready to see him on the floor. And when both Blake Griffin and CP3 are firing on all cylinders, watch out Houston!
Griffin has been a beast so far in the semi-finals, averaging almost a triple-double – 30 points, 14.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists, per game. With him as leader, the Clippers scored 113 points per game against the Rockets. Now imagine what L.A. can do with Paul back at the point guard position. In the first round, against the 2014 champs San Antonio Spurs, the 6’0’’ guard averaged 22.7 points, 4.6 boards, 7.9 assists and 2 steals per game. Clear enough?
Houston must do a much better job if they want to stay in the game and have a shot at winning at least one game on the road. Everyone has to deliver including role players Josh Smith and Corey Brewer who have been subpar in this series so far, shooting around 30% from the field. Without their deep bench, the Rockets don’t stand a chance against the Clippers.
With Paul back, expect a game dominated by the Clippers. L.A. will want to capitalize on their home court advantage and if Houston don’t match their opponents’ intensity, then the game will quickly become a one-sided affair. The Rockets had their fair share of problems without CP3; with the floor general on the floor, things can only get worse.
Clippers to win by a margin of at least 5 points.