Clippers still can’t make history, fall to Rockets in Game 7

first_imgHOUSTON >> Another heartbreaking end to a promising season.The Clippers were so close. Excruciatingly close. They led the Houston Rockets 3-1 in the Western Conference semifinals.On Sunday, they lost their third consecutive game, and they’re done.Led by 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds from James Harden and 22 points from Trevor Ariza — some of them absolute killers — the Rockets defeated the Clippers 113-100 in Game 7 at Toyota Center to win the series 4-3 and advance to the conference finals against Golden State. Doc Rivers was matter of fact.“They outplayed us,” he said. “We got destroyed (in the) 50-50 game, the turnovers to start the game, and the one thing I thought coming into this game … was not getting behind too quickly. In a seventh game, you feel pressure, right?“And the one thing you don’t want to do is let the home team get a lead. If its two or three, that’s one thing. Once you get that double-digit lead and you’re at home, you feel comfortable.”The Clippers trailed by 15 points in the second quarter, but were within 10 (56-46) at halftime. They were within three at 60-57 with 8:32 to play in the third, but the Rockets built their lead to 17 (85-68) by quarter’s end.The Clippers trailed by as many as 20 at the outset of the fourth quarter and by 18 (103-85) with 4:20 to play.But before the Rockets knew it, the Clippers were within eight points (102-94) on a dunk by Griffin with 2:07 to go, plenty of time.“They cut the lead down and I was, ‘Please, don’t pull an us on us,’ ” Houston center Dwight Howard said, in reference to his team’s spectacular Game 6 comeback. Howard had 16 points and 15 rebounds, Josh Smith contributed 15 and Corey Brewer had 11.The Clippers still trailed by just eight (104-96) after a dunk by DeAndre Jordan (16 points, 17 rebounds) with 1:26 left. After Howard missed two free throws, J.J. Redick missed a 26-foot 3-point attempt. And then Ariza was left wide open for a corner 3-pointer for a 107-96 lead, all but nailing the coffin shut with 55.8 seconds remaining.“I was open, so I’ve got to knock it down,” said Ariza, who had eight of his points in the fourth period. “Winning was the only thing on my mind. I knew the game was not over and we had to continue to play.”Rivers called timeout and was obviously upset that Ariza was left unattended.“Yes, we had a lot of missed assignments, we really did,” Rivers said.Chris Paul had 26 points and 10 assists. Being that his team led the series 3-1, he said he could not have envisioned the season ending this way.“You wouldn’t want to imagine that, but it sucks it did,” he said.Paul seemed as broken up as anyone. He’s in his 10th season — fourth with the Clippers — and still hasn’t been to the conference finals.“You know, it’s a long summer,” he said. “It’s getting old, too, to tell you the truth.”The Clippers once again got very little in the way of solid production from the trio of Redick, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes. Coming in, they had combined to shoot just 18 of 68 (26.4 percent) the previous two games.Barnes missed both of his shot attempts Sunday and did not score, Redick shot 4 of 12 — including 2 of 9 from 3-point range— and had 10 points. Crawford scored 17 points but made just 6 of 18 shots overall, including 3 of 9 from beyond the arc.The Clippers shot 44.6 percent overall, but just 25 percent (7 of 28) from 3-point range. The Rockets shot 44.9 percent, 40 percent (12 of 30) from long-distance.The Clippers had 18 turnovers, Houston 17.Harden, who shot just 7 of 20 from the floor but made 15 of 18 from the free-throw line, said it all for the Rockets. And, in a way, for the Clippers.“We were locked in since being down 3-1,” Harden said.The Clippers, apparently, were not. The Clippers have never been to the conference finals in franchise history, which dates back to the 1970-71 season when they were the Buffalo Braves.Houston was just the ninth team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit.Once the Clippers blew Game 6 at Staples Center on Thursday, it was going to be difficult to win Game 7 on the road in front of what turned out to be a sellout crowd of 18,464 frenzied Rockets fans.Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 27 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. He didn’t know if his team was still hung over from that Game 6 loss, in which the Clippers led by 19 points late in the third quarter before falling apart.“Yeah, I’m not sure,” he said. “We just didn’t bring it. It’s hard to say. I hope that it wasn’t (the case). But at the end of the day, it’s coming down to coming out and playing one basketball game, and we didn’t play well enough.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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