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Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers Game 4 Preview: Is This It?

What Rockets team will we Sunday night?

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Doesn't it seem like we were here in the same position last year?  Sure the Houston Rockets have made it to the second round this year, but we've seen at least three games this postseason where they have seemed completely disinterested in the game.  We've also seen twice in the series if the Los Angeles Clippers go on a run or play just a bit more physical than the Rockets the Rockets are more than willing to roll over and quit.  In Game One we thought it was bad that they quit with just over two minutes left in the game, but to completely roll over and die with eight minutes left in the third quarter?

Only eight teams have ever come back from being down 3-1 in an NBA playoff series.   That is exactly what the Rockets are looking at if they lose again today.

What are some of the big issues that have jumped out during this series that have hopefully been magically fixed in the last 48 hours?

1. Heart

In the 25 plus years of watching basketball I can't recall a team that has just rolled over and died like this on numerous in the same post season.  This comes down to the leadership of the team and not necessarily Kevin McHale.  We don't get to see what happens in the locker room, nor do we get to hear what is said, but on the court I don't see enough emotion from James Harden.  There have been moments when Dwight Howard has tried to pick up his guys, but they just don't seem interested in what he's saying.  The man carried a team to the Finals.  McHale has won championships.

I'm not asking Harden to be Kobe Bryant, it's not his nature, but something other than blankly staring on the bench during timeouts isn't going to cut it anymore.

2. Defense

The Clippers are shooting just shy of 50% for the series. Out of the 11 guys who have played more than 10 minutes this series, seven of them are shooting above 50%. Of those seven, three of them are shooting above 55%.  DeAndre Jordan is shooting 71.4%, but he shoots anything from beyond four feet.

That number could be much higher if the Clippers ran Chris Paul and Blake Griffin pick-and-rolls every trip down.  The only time the Rockets stopped that play in Game Three is when Griffin didn't catch the ball cleanly and turned it over.

3. Three-point Shooting

Outside of James Harden there isn't another Rocket who is shooting with any sort of consistency from three.  The Rockets as a team are shooting just 29%. Trevor Ariza is 4-17, Jason Terry 5-14, Corey Brewer 1-10, Pablo Prigioni 6-16 and Josh Smith 1-9.

4. The Bench

The Rockets have a much deeper bench and yet the Clippers bench is crushing the Rockets bench.  The Clippers are averaging 47.7 bench points this series and the Rockets have only managed 25.3 points.

Yes, this is because Patrick Beverley is missing and Jason Terry is starting, but still Terry's 11 points a game are not going to bridge that gap. The Rockets bench is shooting 30.5%.  Brewer and Smith are a combined 21-63 or 33.3%.

5. Not Enough Dwight Howard

Both teams want to get out and run, score a lot of points and ask questions later.  When the Rockets were making their come back in Game Three they passed into Howard in the post, swung it around and Jason Terry knocked down threes.

Another benefit of this could be getting more fouls on DeAndre Jordan.  Jordan currently has a killer 93 defensive rating.  Having him play less minutes would be beneficial to everyone on the Rockets. Especially James Harden.

Harden has barely gotten to the line outside the free throw extravaganza that was Game Two.  Getting Jordan into foul trouble equates to no shot blocking presence for the Clippers, which should equate to more James Harden being James Harden and hell of a lot more rebounds and points for Howard on top of it.

Can the Rockets win Game 4?  Sure.  If this ends up being another blowout where the team quits... Then just scrap game five and start looking forward to the draft and free agency.

Matchup Preview  |  May 10, 2015
Staples Center
Los Angeles, CA
Houston Rockets
7:30 PM
Los Angeles Clippers
Stats Comparison
105.0 Points Per Game 116.7
42.5 Field Goal % 49.8
62.2 Free Throw % 77.6
29.3 3-Point % 37.6
44.0 Rebounds 44.0
7.7 Blocks 5.3
9.3 Steals 11.7
17.3 Turnovers 16.7
21.7 PPG Allowed 25.7
Projected Starters
Jason Terry Point Guard Chris Paul
James Harden Shooting Guard J.J. Redick
Trevor Ariza Small Forward Matt Barnes
Terrence Jones Power Forward Blake Griffin
Dwight Howard Center DeAndre Jordan