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L.A. Clippers Blow 19-Point Lead And Lose To The Rockets 119-107

Chris Paul could’ve used Cliff Paul to assist him and his inept baller bros last night…

Via Yahoo!

With three minutes remaining in the third quarter of Thursday night’s Western Conference Semifinals Game 6 at Staples Center, the Houston Rockets looked about an hour away from packing up their lockers for the offseason. The Clippers had just opened up an 89-70 lead to take control of the game and appeared to be in absolute control over a Rockets squad that had scored all of six points in the second half to that point. Viewers in more eastern timezones could have been forgiven for going to bed, assured that the result was in hand.

What occurred next will be remembered as one of the most surprising and shocking comebacks in NBA history. The Rockets went on an 11-5 run to end the period to cut the lead back down to a manageable 13 points, but the real craziness occurred in the fourth quarter. Faced with the end of a broadly successful season, Houston out-scored Los Angeles 40-15 in the final period and took the lead with an overwhelming 22-2 run over all but the final seconds of regulation. The eventual 119-107 victory was even more insane due to the fact that MVP runner-up sat on the bench for all but the final minute, when the Rockets were already up nine points. Against the odds, Houston has new life and an opportunity to advance to the conference finals in Sunday’s Game 7 at the Toyota Center.

This result was not predictable in any reasonable sense of the word. The Rockets franchise had lost all 49 previous playoff games in which they trailed by 10 or more entering the fourth quarter, and the team had not had a bigger postseason comeback since the 1995 NBA Finals vs. the Orlando Magic, when they won a game in which they had trailed by 20.

So, how did Houston do it? With a lot of effort, talent, and luck. The Rockets have been criticized throughout this series for playing without a sense of urgency, but the comeback featured a collective defensive effort and several cases in which they simply beat the Clippers down the floor. It started with interior defenders Josh Smith and especially Dwight Howard, who defended the rim with one of his finest sustained periods of excellence since his best days in Orlando. His presence kept Blake Griffin from dominating inside as he had earlier, and the Clippers were unable to knock down reasonably open spot-up jumpers to make the Rockets pay. In part, that’s because wing defenders Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza did a quality job of challenging shots, even if they were occasionally late.

The Rockets’ offensive output was more surprising, because it came without Harden, a player whose MVP case depended on the idea that his team would have had massive trouble scoring without him. These events certainly don’t nullify that argument, but it does provide context of how weird this was. Houston rolled out an attack of Jason Terry, Brewer, Ariza, Smith, and Howard — a pretty standard lineup for them in that it featured four players capable of shooting three-pointers (if not always well) and Howard. It worked better than anyone could have imagined, with the 37-year-old Terry looking like his much younger self, Ariza knocking down a few open shots, and Brewer (15) and Smith (14, all in the final seven minutes) momentarily turning into superstars with a combined 29 points in the quarter. Brewer hit several long-range shots and slashed to the rim with abandon, while Smith silenced his (almost always correct) doubters by nailing a trio of three-pointers during the Rockets’ biggest run.

Flip the page to read the hilarious plight of one particularly frustrated and incredulous Clippers fan…

Images via AP

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