Later today, the Rockets and Clippers will square off in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. Tensions will be running wild, tempers will almost definitely flare, and the winner may be the team who simply shoots a better free throw percentage.
The point differential in this series staggeringly favors the Clippers, which means that when Los Angeles wins, they win big. They have outscored the Rockets by a total of 35 points in the series, but they are miraculously knotted up at 3 games apiece.
However, the Rockets have all the momentum (if you believe in it) going into Game 7. They blew out L.A. in Game 5 and won Game 6 in incredible fashion with a comeback led by Josh Smith and Corey Brewer. And now, they get to play in the Toyota Center, where 18,000 people (plus the Red Rowdies) will be screaming their heads off.
At home during the regular season, the Rockets limited opponents to 98 points per game. The Clippers, on the other hand, had no problem scoring on the road, notching over 107 points per game.
This series (one way or the other) hasn't been particularly close. The only game decided by single digits was Game 2 when Houston won by 6.
This series is all over the place. It's as an erratic and random series as I can remember, with minimal patterns developing. There have been blowouts for each side, injuries, ejections, and "Hack-A's." So how can I predict what will happen this afternoon? I guess I'll just have to try.
Game Leading Scorer
In Game 7 of the Spurs vs Clippers Round 1 series, Chris Paul came up huge. He led his team in scoring and provided the game-winning, one-legged runner off the glass over Tim Duncan. But Chris Paul has hobbled his way through the second round and while he has been productive, he has been suppressed when McHale wants to shut him down by putting Trevor Ariza on him.
Blake Griffin has been tremendous this series for the Clips, averaging nearly 27 points and 13 rebounds. He is the most likely candidate for leading scorer in this game, but James Harden has something to say about that.
Although Harden hasn't exploded yet scoring-wise, he is still putting up Beard-like numbers and is always a threat to order up a "40 burger." It could take hime 20 shots and 15 free throws, but I feel confident that Harden will put up big numbers in the rubber match.
Harden hasn't done much in the playoffs this year to fend off the haters saying he shrinks under the bright lights, but Game 7 is his time to change that.
Prediction: James Harden
Total Fouls Committed
Officials for Rockets-Clippers Game 7: Ken Mauer, Tony Brothers and Mike Callahan. Alternate: John Goble.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) May 17, 2015
In the beginning of the series, the Rockets tried to slow down the game by intentionally fouling DeAndre Jordan. As the series has progressed, Houston has shied away from that strategy and elected to play a more free-flowing, quick-paced game to match the Clippers.
In Game 4, there were 62 total fouls committed including 40 from Houston. In Game 6, there were 53 total fouls.
I'm setting the over/under at 50. Both these coaches have publicly stated they'd like to see the intentional foul rule changed.
Prediction: Under 50 total fouls
- James Harden will outscore the Clippers' bench
- Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will combine for a Triple Double (Points/Rebounds/Assists)
- JJ Redick will make more threes than the Rockets' bench
- Dwight Howard will score the first points of the game
Nearly all of the games have been high scoring, but 220 points? Really, Vegas? That's a whole lot of scoring. Both these teams can obviously knock down shots, but defense is key in game like this. Both teams will be scrapping for points and it will be hard on scorers like Griffin and Harden to get easy looks.
Prediction: Under 219.5
The Clippers are currently favored by 2.5 points in Vegas but it will probably move closer to a pick 'em by game time. The statistics generally are in the Clippers' favor, but the Rockets have the momentum and home-court advantage.
In every single game this series, the team who wins the rebounding battle has won the game. Although the Clippers have recorded a better offensive rating, a lower turnover percentage, and a higher effective field goal percentage in this series, the Rockets' offensive rebounding percentage is off the charts, mostly due to Howard being a beast again.
Houston is killing the Clippers on the offensive glass and if they can crash the boards today, their winning probability greatly increases. Dwight Howard vs. Deandre Jordan is the matchup to watch in this one. If either gets in foul trouble, it will be a huge problem for their team. The way he's playing, Howard should get the better of Jordan unless something wonky happens again like in Game 4.
I'm not just doing this because this is a Rockets fan site. I'm not doing this because if I don't, the commenters will rip me to pieces like a pack of rabid hyenas. I'm doing this because I believe it.