Clippers Rockets Game 7 Preview
FROM THE BRINK OF ELIMINATION (1% WIN CHANCE!), THE ROCKETS NOW HOST GAME SEVEN VS. THE CLIPPERS
It was one of the most amazing scenes in the history of sports. The Houston Rockets were all but dead and buried late in the third quarter Thursday Night in Game Six of their Western Conference playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Computers had it better than 99% that the Clips would win and advance to the Western Finals.
A few players on the Houston Rockets had another thought in mind!
With James Harden sitting on the bench amidst a 5 of 20 shooting night (a man they team had been touting as league MVP all season), Josh Smith, Corey Brewer, and Dwight Howard led a historic comeback. Houston outscored Los Angeles 49-18 to end the game...on the ROAD...with their BACKS TO THE WALL...against a lineup mostly consisting of Clippers STARTERS to extend the series to a decisive Game Seven Sunday.
No dumb, low percentage passes (only 9 turnovers for a series low)
Just a fanatic group of players (and, to his credit...a head coach in Kevin McHale) who refused to give up. Maybe Harden was ready for a vacation. His teammates wanted to keep going! Particularly Dwight Howard who's probably sick and tired of hearing that he disappears when it matters. Howard was a defensive force down the stretch as fading LAC kept challenging him inside and losing.
Let's look at the final numbers. Many of you probably went to bed and missed the comeback!
GAME SIX STATS
Houston 119, LA Clippers 107
Shooting Pct: Houston 43%, LA Clippers 42%
Three-Pointers: Houston 13/32, LA Clippers 7/30
Free Throws: Houston 32/47, LA Clippers 24/32
Rebounds: Houston 60, LA Clippers 41
Turnovers: Houston 9, LA Clippers 8
At first glance, it looks like three-pointers were the deciding factor. Houston was +18 points from behind the arc in a game they only won by 12. But, it's worth noting that "defense and rebounding" loomed very large based on shooting percentages and that huge +19 rebound differential. That shows you the impact Howard was having inside. And, Houston's overall shooting percentage was dragged down by Harden's 5 of 20 performance. Very solid stuff from the all-but-dead dog. Three pointers helped them rally from the hole Harden had been digging.
So...now...what happens Sunday?
Sunday's Vegas Line: LA Clippers by 2, total of 220.5
The Clippers are still seen as the much better team by the markets. Remember...that game's in HOUSTON! Given the spread differentials at each site, the market is saying the Clippers would be -5 on a neutral court. Does that jibe with your perceptions of these teams the last few games?
HOUSTON has no shot if they're slacking on defense and sloppily throwing the ball around on offense. They have no shot if they're disrupting their own rhythm with that futile hack-a-DeAndre strategy. But, if they're playing NORMAL team basketball...they surely have a chance to win and advance to the Western Finals.
LAC is prone to fatigue because of their lousy bench. It's a godsend for them that Game Seven isn't until Sunday. That gives all the guys who fell apart down the stretch Thursday time to rest, recuperate, and think about what happened. But, they are now facing a team that BELIEVES in front of a home crowd that's going to be absolutely rabid out of the gate. Amazing that a team which was 99% to get through is now staring at a possible elimination.
Oh...we can't leave out the total. This series is 6-0 to the Over because oddsmakers and sharps aren't adjusting to a pace that launches scoring sums into the 220's! Do things finally slow down here? Does the three-point shooting finally cool off?
JIM HURLEY will be working very closely with all the elements of NETWORK'S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach to find the right way to play this game whether it's the side or the total. History is very important to honor in Game Seven's (generally favoring the host). But, we have a unique situation here because the ROAD team is the favorite. That hasn't happened in a Game Seven in 25 years. What's it all mean?!
Don't make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!
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