The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers have history both on their side and working against them entering a must-win Game 7.
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After jumping out to a 3-1 series lead, Los Angeles fumbled away consecutive chances to wrap up a Western Conference finals berth with losses in Game 5 and 6.
Now, Houston sit in the driver’s seat with tonight’s decisive Game 7 on their home floor. The Clippers nearly avoided a dreaded do-or-die scenario in Game 6, in which they held a 19-point lead in the second half and appeared a lock to reach the next round.
Instead, the Rockets fought back in the fourth quarter and turned what was assumed to be a Los Angeles romp into a 12-point victory. The Rockets are attempting to become just the ninth team in history to climb out of a 3-1 deficit to win a series. Though the pressure has shifted squarely onto the Clippers, Houston still have their work cut out to complete the comeback.
"We just have a never-give-up attitude,” said Houston forward Josh Smith, who had a crucial 19 points in Game 6. “All year long we fought through a lot of adversity and it’s just a testament of what we did throughout the season.”
Game 7 won’t be a new experience for Los Angeles, who have been clutch with wins in their past three deciders, including a thrilling 111-109 victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round this year. With success in another Game 7, the Clippers will put to rest the notion they’re perpetually stuck in the second round, which they’ve yet to advance past since the start of the Chris Paul and Blake Griffin era in 2011-12.
Despite the experience Los Angeles boast, they’ll have to quickly rebound from the devastating loss of Game 6. That’s where coach Doc Rivers, who’s been in 11 Game 7s of his own with a 6-5 record, will be needed to refocus the squad.
“I think there’s probably a plethora of emotions when something like this happens,” Rivers said. “You know, I felt bad for them, honestly, because they want it so bad, and sometimes you want stuff so bad that you can’t get it because you’re in your own way and I thought we clearly got in our own way [in Game 7].”
The winner of Game 7 (tip-off: 23:00) will go on to meet the top-seeded Golden State Warriors for a chance at reaching the NBA Finals. One way or another, tonight’s result will fly in the face of history, as well as affirm it.
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