Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers (-4.5, 217 o/u)
Despite leading at halftime 65-56, the Los Angeles Clippers (61-30, 32-13 home) lost 115-109 to the Houston Rockets (61-28, 26-16 away) in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, evening the series at one game apiece. Tonight, the series shifts to California for Game 3 as both teams look to take the early edge (7:30 PM Eastern at the STAPLES Center).
Leading the comeback for the Rockets in Game 2 was none other than James Harden, who scored 16 of his 32 points in the second half.
“I knew my team was battling extremely hard and basically it was up to me to go out there and push us forward,” Harden said. “We let Game 1 slip away and we didn’t want that feeling for Game 2. It’s going to be a tough two games in a row [in L.A.], but we’ve got our mojo now.”
That mojo included Dwight Howard scoring 24 points (with 16 boards) while Trevor Ariza added 15 points (and 13 rebounds). The real key for the Rockets, though, was getting to the foul line. The team shot a record 64 free-throws on the night.
Without the injured Chris Paul for the second straight game, the Los Angeles Clippers we led by Blake Griffin’s 34 points. However, the All-Star only scored eight points in the second half as the Rockets tightened their defense.
“We got out of the rhythm offensively, and that’s where the game changed for us,” Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers said. “We got stuck trying to go to Blake too much, and we forgot about the guys on the other side of the floor. That hurt us.”
Added Griffin, “It definitely feels like we let one get away. We came here to win two. But we’ve got to protect home court now. We can’t hang our heads. You’re not going to win many games when the other team shoots 64 free throws and makes more  than we even attempted .”
Perhaps the foul disparity could be a message from the referees to Rivers, who criticized the refs in the Clippers-Spurs series.
Whatever the case, don’t expect the refs to call such a tight – or one-sided game – tonight. Add in the fact that Paul remains questionable – and won’t be 100-percent even if he does play – and the under (217) looks like the best value.
(Photo credit: Jose Garcia (Flickr: Dwight Howard And Chandler Parsons) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)