The Los Angeles Clippers were unable to eliminate the Houston Rockets from the playoffs in their first opportunity, as the Rockets kept their season alive with a 124-103 home victory.
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NBA Playoffs 2015: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets Game 5 preview and prediction
The Rockets will have to face the Clippers in Los Angeles for Game 6 though, and this may very well spell doom as they have not achieved a road win in this series.
The Clippers beat the Rockets on the road in Game 1 without point guard Chris Paul, who is now healthy and back to his old self on the court.
The Rockets put on an offensive clinic as three of their players scored at least 20 points, and shooting guard James Harden notched his first playoff triple-double by scoring 26 points with 11 rebounds and 10 assists while playing with the flu.
Small forward Trevor Ariza added 22 points with eight rebounds, marking his best game of this series. Center Dwight Howard added 20 points and 15 rebounds.
For the Clippers, power forward Blake Griffin scored 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting while grabbing 16 boards.
Paul added 22 points with 10 assists while shooting 4-for-9 from the three-point line.
However, they were forced to carry almost the entire load as other Clippers players had poor shooting performances.
Shooting guard J.J. Redick was held to nine points on 3-of-12 shooting. Jamal Crawford only scored five points on 2-of-10 shooting, and Austin Rivers shot 3-for-11 while being held to eight points.
Small forward Matt Barnes also struggled greatly as he scored five points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Meanwhile, the Rockets sunk 54.1 percent of their shots. It will be nearly impossible for them to repeat this type of performance in Los Angeles.
Paul will also be determined to put on another triumphant series-closing performance after his heroic game-winning shot in Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs.
He suffered a hamstring injury during that game but has returned to health since, but the Clippers are now having to keep an eye on other injuries.
Barnes is going through shoulder and ankle ailments while Rivers is nursing a hip injury after falling hard on it during Game 5.
The Clippers will still be extremely difficult to beat though, as Harden has averaged 18.2 points in the Rockets’ losses, and two of them have been on the road.
Howard has also been less threatening on the road, as seen by his 14.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game that the Rockets have lost.
Ironically, Griffin’s stats are better in losses than they have been in the Clippers’ wins as he has averaged 32.0 points and 15.5 rebounds during those games.
However, his Game 2 scoring numbers may be slightly inflated as Paul did not return until Game 3.
The Clippers have proven to have a more reliable all-around team in this series though, despite the Rockets seeming to have a better bench on paper.
Players such as Rivers have stepped up their play while Paul and Griffin have maintained their status as elite players.
Expect the Clippers to close the series out at home and advance to their Western Conference Finals in team history.
Prediction: Clippers 115, Rockets 100