The Los Angeles Clippers will visit the Houston Rockets in Game 7 on Sunday, as their second-round series is the only one of the 2015 NBA Playoffs to have gone the distance. It appeared that L.A. would advance to the next round in six games like the remaining teams in the postseason, but the No.3 seed is in danger of blowing their best ever chance to reach the Western Conference Finals.
Los Angeles blew a 19-point second-half lead on Thursday, being outscored by 25 points in their Game 6 loss. Despite losing consecutive contests, the Clippers, who once had a 3-1 series lead, are favored in Sunday’s deciding game.
Game 7 opened at Las Vegas sports books as a pick’em, but L.A. has moved to a 2.5-point favorite on the road. The Clippers have one victory against the Rockets in Houston, taking the series opener without Chris Paul. Los Angeles tied Houston in the regular season with the league’s second-best road record.
Houston didn’t come back to win Game 6 because of James Harden. The MVP runner-up sat for most of the fourth quarter when the Rockets made their comeback, watching Josh Smith score 19 points. Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer combined to score 35 points off the bench. In the playoffs, Smith, Jones and Brewer have combined to average 36.8 points per game.
“We don’t have a choice but to forget about (Thursday’s) game and move on,” Chris Paul told reporters. “We have another Game 7 on our hands.”
Harden, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin all finished in the top nine in voting for the MVP award, and all three players have carried their regular-season success into the playoffs. Harden has been even more efficient, averaging 26.3 points on just 16.7 field goal attempts per game. Paul and Griffin are totaling 47.1 points, 17.2 rebounds and 14.8 assists per game.
Even though the series is tied at 3-3, the Clippers have been the more dominant team. They split the first two games, despite not having an injured Paul. In Game 3 and Game 4, L.A. defeated Houston by 58 total points, and all three of their victories have come by at least 16 points. The Clippers have had a fourth-quarter lead in every contest except for Game 5.
Both teams could benefit from having two days off in between games. They haven’t had more than one day’s rest the entire series.
“I’m almost 30, so I need two days to get my body right,” Dwight Howard said, via The Houston Chronicle. “But it’s good for us to get this rest, get our minds prepared for what’s ahead. You know, it’s going to be a dogfight, and I think it’s just a great opportunity for that, get some rest, come back Sunday, and hopefully get a win.”
The winner of Game 7 will go on to play the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
Start Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Point Spread: Clippers by 2.5 points
Over/Under: 220 points