This is probably why the Rockets brought Josh Smith to Houston.
Down by as much as 19 points late in the third quarter, the Houston Rockers went from crashing out of the postseason to forcing a game seven on their homecourt, as they defeated the LA Clippers 119-107.
Entering this game, the Rockets were 0-49 when trailing by at least 10 points when entering the fourth period in a postseason game. Make that 1-49 now.
A reverse layup by Chris Paul made it 89-70 in favor of the Clippers with 2:35 left in the third, but two made charities by Dwight Howard kicked off an unlikely comeback for Houston.
Houston found itself within 10 thanks to a triple by Terrence Jones, at the tail-end of the third, but Jamal Crawford got it back to keep the difference at 13, 92-79, one period left.
A Trevor Ariza trey made it a single-digit lead, 94-85, less than three minutes into the final quarter, but JJ Redick got it back with his three-pointer. Corey Brewer counted with his three-pointer, but Austin Rivers scored three-points the old-fashioned way, via an and-one layup.
Not to be denied, Brewer also had a hoop and the harm. Then off a steal, Josh Smith canned two triples, sandwiching a Paul bucket, 102-97. Still not finished, Smith added a layup, forging a one-possession game, still 5:24 to spare.
A split at the line by Howard, and then a five-point cluster bomb by Brewer gave the Rockets their first lead of the game since the first half, 105-102. Later on, Smith canned yet another triple, and then split his foul shots for a 112-102 advantage, 1:16 remaining. The Clippers finally ended their bleeding with Paul charities, but despite a 4-of-8 clip at the stripe by Houston, LA was still missing field goals. A Jason Terry triple with 11 seconds on the clock was the final insult, though Paul hit one to end the game on a slightly better note.
All-in-all, the Rockets used a 49-18 run to win this one, going 25-5 in the last 6:47 of the game. They went 40-15 in the fourth period with James Harden on the bench the entire time, and with Dwight Howard scoring just one point, as he went 1-of-6 from the stripe in that quarter. Instead, Corey Brewer equaled the Clippers’ production in the fourth all by himself, while Josh Smith was just a point shy of that 15-point marker.
After a phenomenal first three quarters, Blake Griffin went 0-of-5 with three fouls. Chris Paul scored nine, while JJ Redick and Austin Rivers managed three points each.
When the dust settled, Harden led the Rockets with 23 points, including a perfect 11-of-11 clip from the foul line. Credit must be given though to the fact that he didn’t insist on ruining the chemistry of the five Rockets on the floor by wanting to come back in during the final period. Dwight Howard logged 20 points and 21 rebounds, while Brewer and Smith each tallied 19 markers.
Chris Paul had 31 points and 11 assists in the loss, while Blake Griffin managed 28 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block before coming up blank in the final quarter.
Houston went 12-of-19 in the fourth period, 7-of-11 from downtown. In contrast, LA was 4-of-22, 2-of-9 on triples. The Rockets also played better team ball, out-assisting the Clips 6-1.
Game seven is set for Sunday (PHL time) in Houston.
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images