Tue | Oct 17, 2017

Rockets complete epic comeback to make NBA finals

Published:Tuesday | May 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Houston Rockets guard Pablo Prigioni (left) steals the ball from Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (centre) during the second half in Game Seven of the NBA basketball Western Conference semi-finals on Sunday in Houston. Forward Trevor Ariza (1) is at right.

HOUSTON (AP):

James Harden scored 31 points, and Dwight Howard had 16 points and 15 rebounds as the Houston Rockets never trailed in a 113-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, sending them to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1997.

It's the ninth time in NBA history that a team has overcome a 3-1 series deficit to win a play-off series.

The Rockets needed an epic comeback to overcome a 19-point third-quarter deficit and force Game Seven. No such heroics were needed Sunday when they were up by 17 after three, and Howard opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play to push it to 88-68.

Blake Griffin scored five points in a 9-0 run to cut the lead to eight points with less than 21/2 minutes remaining. Harden made a pair of free throws after that, but a dunk by DeAndre Jordan got the Clippers within eight again. This time, Trevor Ariza hit a three from the corner to secure the victory.

Griffin had 27 points, and Chris Paul had 26 points and 10 assists.

The Western Conference finals begin tonight at Golden State.

'Clutch City' is back

Ariza finished with 22 points and made six three-pointers.

Every fan in the arena was given a red shirt emblazoned with the words 'Clutch City' in yellow letters, bringing back the moniker of the 1994 and '95 teams that won back-to-back titles. These Rockets lived up to the nickname, winning their third straight game to become the first team to win a playoff series after trailing 3-1 since the Phoenix Suns did it in 2006 against the Lakers.

After taking a two-game lead after four games, the Clippers looked destined to be heading to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. But they failed in all three chances to put Houston away, and are now left to ponder their collapse as they head home early yet again.

Los Angeles never led, but tied it twice in the first four minutes. The Clippers insisted Saturday that they had gotten over Thursday's loss, but looked listless early in this one as Houston built the lead.

Little went right for the Clippers for most of the game, and when a dunk by Jordan early in the fourth quarter simply bounced out of the rim, the big man could only look at the basket in disgust. The frustration was evident with Paul, too, as he angrily threw the ball after picking up an offensive foul later in the fourth.