Published May 03, 2016
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Los Angeles Clippers will try to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history Tuesday night when they face the Houston Rockets in Game 5 at the Toyota Center.
The Clippers own a 3-1 lead in this Western Conference semifinal matchup thanks to a pair of decisive victories at the Staples Center. They travel back to Houston where the Clips gained a split of the first two games.
"We've got to go there, be hungry," said Chris Paul. "In this situation, you can't give teams confidence, you can't give them life. We know they're going to come out ready in Game 5. We've got to stay the hungrier team."
Sunday's Game 4, a 128-95 drubbing by the Clippers, will live in infamy.
With Dwight Howard picking up two quick fouls and a technical, Rockets coach Kevin McHale began intentionally fouling Clippers center DeAndre Jordan 3:40 into the game.
Jordan attempted an astonishing 28 free throws in the first half, connecting on only 10 of them.
"Just trying the muck up the game a little bit," McHale said of the fouling. "We had to get small and thought we could get them out of their rhythm."
The strategy didn't take the Clippers out of their rhythm much. They led 60-54 at halftime and pulled away using a 21-4 run to begin the third quarter.
Austin Rivers carried the Clippers during a third-quarter surge in Friday's Game 3 win. LA outscored Houston by 18 points in the third quarter on Sunday.
Doc Rivers discussed how the game plan worked in his team's favor from a defensive perspective.
"I love our defense when it's set and every time we go to the free-throw line, we can set our defense," he said.
Another bonus for the Clippers was that the insane number of trips to the foul line slowed the game down completely and allowed Paul, who missed the first two games of the series with a strained hamstring and was on a minutes restriction in Game 4, extra time on the court.
"He's just walking down the floor every time," Doc Rivers said.
Jordan finished with 26 points and 17 rebounds.
"I was just trying to make as many as I could for our team and on the other end just try to get us as many stops as I could in a row." Jordan, whose 28 attempts set an NBA record for a first half, said.
Paul posted 15 points and 12 assists in the win. Blake Griffin supplied 21 points and eight rebounds and J.J. Redick added 18 points for LA, which led by as many as 37.
"I love where we're at, but the series isn't over," said Doc Rivers. "We've got to keep playing. We've got to finish. They're not going to just get out of our way, so we have to keep playing. We have to keep trusting."
James Harden tallied 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Houston. Count him among the many who didn't care for the strategy employed by his head coach.
"Personally, I don't like it," Harden said.
Sunday was a tough night for Howard. He recorded seven points and six rebounds before fouling out, then getting ejected. Then, on Monday, Howard was fined $15,000 for making contact above the shoulders of Matt Barnes in Game 4.
Game 6, if necessary, would be Thursday night in Los Angeles.