LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles Clippers punished the Houston Rockets 128-95 on Sunday night to take a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Semifinals.
With a win on Tuesday, the Clippers will secure a spot in the franchise’s first-ever Conference Finals.
Deandre Jordan made 14 of 34 free throws, attempting an NBA playoff-record 28 in the first half, and had 17 rebounds. Blake Griffin added 21 points, J.J. Redick had 18 points and Chris Paul finished with 15 points and 12 assists in the Clippers’ second straight blowout win in the best-of-7 series.
An impish Jordan flashed a grin from the bench in the fourth before turning deadly serious on the video board. By then, the game was all but over and fans began doing the wave in celebration.
James Harden scored 21 points and Trevor Ariza added 18 for the Rockets. Dwight Howard was held to seven points and six rebounds after being in foul trouble most of a game that grinded to a halt early on when Houston started forcing Jordan to the line. Howard fouled out with 9:52 remaining and left the court.
Jordan’s first trip came 4 minutes into the game. During one stretch, he made four straight visits to the line, keeping his cool while verbally expressing disgust. The fans detested the incessant fouling, too, with some of them cursing Rockets coach Kevin McHale.
The Rockets used their reserves to do most of the early fouling, with Clint Capela and Kostas Papanikolaou picking up four each. They barely touched Jordan, often just placing a hand on him, enough to trigger the referees’ whistle.
Jordan’s 28 attempts in the first half eclipsed the old mark of 27 by Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. Jordan made 10, while the Clippers went 24 of 44 from the line. The Rockets, who committed 27 fouls in the half, were 3 of 13.
Like they did in Game 3 on Friday night, the Clippers rode another big third quarter to victory, opening with a 29-7 run that extended their six-point halftime lead to 89-61. This time, it was a collective effort as six players contributed while Harden and Terry desperately tried to rally the Rockets with Howard and Ariza limited by fouls.
Jordan and Paul jolted the crowd out of its doldrums with vintage Lob City antics. Jordan dunked on three straight possessions, the last two coming on thunderous one-handed jams fed by alley-oop passes from Paul. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was on his feet bellowing and shaking his fists in jubilation.
Redick tossed in three 3-pointers, Game 3 hero Austin Rivers added another trey, and Paul beat the shot clock with a 3 of his own during the spurt.
The Rockets’ frustration boiled over, with Terrence Jones getting a technical for dragging Griffin to the court and Howard and Matt Barnes tangling arms. Howard and Ariza each picked up their fourth fouls, too.
Howard got called for his fifth after the Clippers’ run ended. He and Griffin got physical as Griffin went to the basket in a play that was reviewed but the call wasn’t changed. Griffin went down hard on his back after Howard tried to stop his drive with his hands near Griffin’s face and neck. Griffin elevated to the hoop with his left arm wrapped on Howard’s shoulder.
Rockets: Harden’s streak of consecutive free throws ended at 25 when he missed one in the third quarter. … They have given up 117, 109, 124 and 128 points in the first four games. … Harden has scored 20 or more points in 10 straight playoff games, the longest stretch since Tracy McGrady did it in nine straight from April 30, 2007, to May 2, 2008.
Clippers: Jordan just missed O’Neal’s playoff record of 39 free throw attempts in a game. … They were 12-0 in the regular season when Jordan made 14 or more free throws. … Even coach Doc Rivers’ children didn’t stick around to the end, joining the exodus with under 3 minutes to go.
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