Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers (-7.5, 217.5 o/u)
When the Los Angeles Clippers found themselves down 3-2 to the Spurs in round one, a lot of criticism was directed at the L.A. bench, which was being thoroughly outplayed by San Antonio’s reserves. On Friday, one member of the Clippers’ back-ups – coach’s son Austin Rivers – did his best to quell anymore such criticism.
Rivers dropped 25 points off the bench in Game 3 against the Houston Rockets, helping the Clippers earn a 124-99 win and take a 2-1 series lead in their Western Conference semifinal. Before the game, all the media attention was focused on the return of point guard Chris Paul. After the game, Rivers’ big night was the main topic. Rivers will look to improve the reputation of the L.A. bench even further tonight when the Clippers host the Rockets at STAPLES Center in Game 4 (8:30 PM Eastern).
While Paul was able to suit up on Friday, he wasn’t his usual, dynamic self, scoring just 12 points in 23 minutes of action. Fortunately for the injured point guard, J.J. Redick stepped up, scoring 31 points on 11/14 shooting, and Blake Griffin continued to be dominant, with 22 points and 14 rebounds. As a team, L.A. shot a phenomenal 55.4-percent from the floor.
For the Rockets, Game 3 could not have been more different. The team shot a paltry 39.8-percent from the field and got very little production from its reserves. James Harden (25 points – on 50-percent shooting – and 11 assists) and Dwight Howard (14 points and 14 rebounds) did their best to keep Houston in the game, but they couldn’t find a way to shutdown the L.A. shooters.
Despite the lopsided nature of the loss, the Rockets aren’t panicking, recognizing that it’s just one game, no matter the score. “It was a blowout, but it’s still one game,” Harden told NBA.com.
With a win tonight, the Rockets would even up the series and re-take home-court advantage. However, Houston has showed no signs of being able to slow the Clippers’ offense. As Paul gets a bit healthier and the likes of Rivers and Redick gain confidence, that trend doesn’t look poised to turn around. The Clippers minus the points (7.5) looks like the play.
(Photo credit: 2O (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)