After a disheartening Game 1 loss, the first half of Game 2 wasn't exactly what the Rockets were looking for. Especially not the second quarter. The Clippers scorched the Rockets for 41 points on only 25 possessions in the second quarter. Blake Griffin led the charge as he continued to look like one of, if not the best player in the playoffs. He did whatever he wanted and poured in 26 points in the half.
The only time the Rockets looked like they stood a chance was when DeAndre Jordan went to the bench and that was only because he picked up two fouls. With Glen Davis trying to defend Dwight Howard, the Rockets went to the 4/5 pick and roll and looked like they would be able to take control of Game 2. But alas, Doc Rivers put Jordan back in and the Clippers took a nine-point lead into the half.
4/5 Pick & Roll
As we saw in the Rockets first round series vs the Dallas Mavericks, (and I discussed here and here) the big to big passing was an area where the Rockets were able to exploit a mismatch.
With Jordan in foul trouble, there was nothing Glen Davis could to to stop the lob to Howard and it resulted in 16 points for Howard in the first half. But with Jordan in the game, his length and athleticism allowed him to do things like this to the Rockets 4/5 pick and roll.
With Jordan and Griffin able to contain what was the Rockets go to play from Round 1, it was time they looked elsewhere for offense. Like maybe James Harden (more on him later).
Defense to the Rescue
In the same way Griffin torched the Rockets in the first half, he struggled in the second half. The Rockets decided to double Griffin in the second half and it forced Griffin into some bad shots and forced him to give up the ball.
You can see the Rockets guards doubling off Matt Barnes and whoever the Clippers point guard might be, and traveling quite a distance to do so. In the last play of the clip, Corey Brewer completely abandons his man on a cut to double Griffin and forces the jump ball.
The Rockets also shaded an extra defender towards Griffin before he ever received an entry pass. Take a look at the pictures and check out how Griffin is already facing a double team before receiving a pass.
The Rockets were determined to keep Griffin in check after his monstrous first half and it worked, he shot just 2-9 in the second half. It will be interesting to see what the Rockets do if a healthy Chris Paul shows up for this series. Paul can't be left open so it would seem that Matt Barnes' defender would be the only option for a Griffin double team if needed. With proper player placement and spacing on the floor, this could cause problems for the Rockets.
One thing the Rockets haven't done in the first two games is show any semblance of a zone. It might not derail a rolling Clippers offense with Griffin and a healthy Paul, but it could be effective for a few possessions here and there to throw a different look at L.A.
James Harden being James Harden
While James Harden hasn't exactly been bad in the playoffs, he surely hasn't been the player that landed him second on the MVP ballot. With the Rockets facing near death, Harden came alive. He commandeered the Rockets offense in the fourth quarter, putting up 16 points and getting to the line six times. I don't need to show you the video, we all saw his heroics.
It felt like Harden was just floating through the first seven quarters of this series. Luckily his eighth quarter was enough for the Rockets to salvage a split at home to the Chris Paul-less Clippers. If the Rockets are going to win this series, 4th quarter Harden needs to show up every quarter.