This was definitely NOT in the script. It wasn’t supposed to happen…not after what we saw in the first four games of the series.
The initial script was quite specific in telling basketball fans that the Los Angeles Clippers would qualify for the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. The Clippers had all the momentum in the world with back-to-back routs by an average margin of 29 points and a commanding 3-1 lead. But somehow, they let the lead slip away and now they are even-steven at 3-3and in danger of hitting the hard cold ground of the playoffs.
Welcome to the NBA…where anything can andwill happen.
Game 6 followed that initial script until the fourth quarter when two unsung heroes decided to spoil the party in L.A. The home team had a 19-point lead late in the third and was already dreaming of the Conference Finals. Everything was going their way and Dwight Howard was having a tough time on the floor. But he did not quit and nor did the Rockets role players. They rallied furiously in the fourth clipping L.A. 40-15 without superstar James Harden. Instead, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer carried the team on their back scoring a combined 29 points (9-13 FG) in the last 12 minutes.
How did they manage to erase a 19-point deficit and finish the game with a double-digit lead? “Resilience,” Smith answered plainly in a post-game interview. They didn’t quit and believed they had it in them to force Game 7. The Clippers panicked and just like that the momentum shifted in favor of the Rockets. But is it enough?
“Momentum is a relative thing,” Houston coach Kevin McHaleexplained at the press conference. “The team that plays the best, the cleanest, that rebounds the best and defends is going to win.”
If that team is Houston, then the franchise will become just the second team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 playoff deficit twice. The Rockets managed to do that in 1995 and ended up with a championship in the end. If L.A. plays the hardest, then they will finally reach the Conference Finals. Either way, one team will make history.
Game 7 will be played in Texas on Sunday and after two impressive wins, Houston is the team to beat. James Harden is well-rested – he played only 30 minutes on Thursday – and might have the necessary time to heal from a nagging flu. But do not count out the Clippers. They will come to Houston locked in and ready to repeat their Game 7 performance from Round 1. They now know how to close out games and series so get ready to witness some impressive basketball from their part.
Clippers with the edge.
BY: FLORIAN GHEORGHE