The Houston Rockets beat the Los Angeles Clippers 113-100 in Game 7 Sunday to complete one of the most improbable playoff comebacks in recent memory. Only nine teams in NBA history have recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series, and it hasn’t happened since 2006, when the Phoenix Suns defied the odds to beat the Los Angeles Lakers.
This will be the first time the Rockets have reached the Western Conference Finals since 1997, and they’ve lived up to every bit of the “Clutch City” nickname that has been revived for them this postseason, a callback to the ’94 and ’95 Championship teams led by Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Clippers had three consecutive opportunities to close-out the series and advance to the conference finals, a feat they’ve never accomplished in the history of the franchise. On Thursday, the Rockets were able to force Game 7 back in Houston at the Toyota Center after a spectacular meltdown by the Clippers on their home court, when they blew a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 6.
James Harden finished with 31 points Sunday but didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, going just 7-for-20 from the field, including 2-for-7 from downtown. Dwight Howard had 15 points and 16 rebounds, but it was Trevor Ariza who was arguably the biggest catalyst to their Game 7 victory with 22 points on 50 percent shooting from downtown.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin tried to will their team to victory but didn’t get much help from their supporting cast, particularly Matt Barnes, who scored zero points, and J.J. Redick, who was 4-for-14 from the floor. Jamal Crawford, despite putting in 17 points, had a similarly poor shooting performance, going just 6-for-18 overall including 3-for-9 from three.
CP3 did everything he could to try to overcome a 20-point deficit in the second half, but it just wasn’t enough. He finished with 26 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, and four steals in a valiant but ultimately futile effort down the stretch. He and Griffin, who finished with 27 points, led a 9-0 run with a little more than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter but were never able to get over the hump.
DeAndre Jordan chipped in 16 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, but his biggest highlight of the night was probably missing this wide-open alley-oop dunk when the Clips were trailing by 20 points.
The Rockets will now face the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday.
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