The Los Angeles Clippers pulled off an exciting win in an epic Game 7 as point guard Chris Paul made the game-winning shot with only one second remaining.
The Clippers eliminated the San Antonio Spurs from the playoffs with this win to knock off the defending champions, who were favored by many to repeat.
However, Paul may not be able to play in Game 1 due to a hamstring injury that he suffered and played through in Game 7. He is currently a game-time decision.
He may decide to tough it out after sitting one game though since he was able to do so in Game 7 and score 27 points.
The Clippers will have another tough test ahead of them though as they face the Houston Rockets, who also have a solid bench.
Rockets shooting guard James Harden finished second in the MVP voting, and he had his best playoff performance of his career in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks with 28.4 points and 7.8 assists per game.
Center Dwight Howard also stepped up big in the Rockets’ first-round series as he averaged 13.8 rebounds.
The Rockets will need strong performances from forwards Trevor Ariza and Terrence Jones as well.
Their bench will also need to turn in strong performances, particularly small forward Josh Smith, who averaged 17.4 points per game while making 51.5 percent of his shots.
He also shined at the three-point line as he made 39.1 percent of his shots.
Despite the Rockets’ high-powered offense, their defense is a concern, especially against the Clippers, who have more firepower than the Mavericks with power forward Blake Griffin and other players.
The Rockets allowed over 120 points in both of their road games against the Mavericks, but they were able to win one of them with a score of 130-128.
The Clippers offense may be less of a challenge for the Rockets, depending on whether Paul can heal quickly and pose a threat on the court.
He is a proven leader for the Clippers, as he rallied the troops in Game 7 and has been a primary reason for the Clippers’ recent success after years of being a perpetual losing team.
The Clippers have plenty of other pieces though, such as Griffin, who posted a triple-double with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
However, he will need to cut down on turnovers as he committed at least four in three of the games in the Spurs series. He averaged 24.1 points and 13.1 rebounds in the first round against a vaunted Spurs defense.
The Clippers also have other offensive weapons such as shooting guards J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford, who is easily their most reliable bench player.
Their defense is headed by center DeAndre Jordan, who is a rebounding and blocking machine and can score in moderation.
His free-throw shooting may continue to be a liability if Rockets head coach Kevin McHale has the guts to execute “Hack-a-Jordan” as Gregg Popovich did.
The Clippers were able to overcome this against the Spurs, and they should be able to against the Rockets as well if they can exploit their weaknesses on defense.
The Rockets are likely to win Game 1 though since Paul is not likely to suit up for the Clippers.
Prediction: Rockets 104, Clippers 96