If judging by the on-going trend where venue plays an important role in their best-of-seven playoffs in the National Basketball Association's Western Conference series, then the Houston Rockets have an edge against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7 to be held at the Toyota Center, Houston, Texas.
After all, venue has been everything with the Rockets vs Clippers best-of-seven playoff series since Game 1. Which is why it was more heartbreaking that the Clippers lost, 119-107, to the visiting Rockets in Game 6 despite leading 19 points in the first half that was played in their home turf, and enjoying a home crowd, at the Staples Center. Thursday night could have been the franchise's ticket to their first trip to the Western Conference finals.
Then the epic collapse.
"We kept saying, 'We're not going to quit,"' commented Dwight Howard during the post-game interview. "We kept believing. We never gave up on each other," Howard, who contributed 20 points and 21 rebounds for the Houston Rockets, said.
Clippers power forward Blake Griffin has this to say after his team squandered an 87-68 lead going into the third quarters. "We took our foot off the gas, stopped defending, a lot of things. Griffin's 28 points were not enough to give his team a win. He also missed all five of his shots in the fourth quarter. "It's about who wants it more," Griffin continued.
Houston outscored the Clippers 51-20 at the end of the third quarter. By the fourth quarter, the hometown crowd of 19,417 fell into silence, shocked that the Clippers' first Western Conference finals berth was slipping.
While the Clippers were 4 of 22 from the field in the fourth quarter, the Rockets fired their engines and outscored Los Angeles 40-15. The strong defense of the Rockets prevented the Clippers from finding their basket. But the Clippers also missed some open looks that they had been making earlier in the game.
The Rockets made more 3-pointers in the final 14:30 of play than the Clippers made baskets (8-5). L.A. shot just 18.5% from the field and while they were perfect from the charity stripe, they only attempted five free throws compared to 25 for Houston. During the game-ending run, the Rockets shot 61.5% from 3-point range (8-13) and outrebounded the Clippers 24-8, including a 6-1 edge on the offensive glass.
Going into Game 7, the Los Angeles Times conducted a poll amongst its staff and asked about their predictions.
Melissa Rohlin said she is rooting for the Clippers and added that statistics do not show much which team has the edge. Although 80 percent of home team won Game 7s in the NBA playoff history, only eight teams in the NBA history were able to recover from a 3-1 series deficit.
Rohlin said, "I think the Clippers will win Game 7 because they'll finally be playing with the same sense of desperation that the Rockets have had when facing elimination in Games 5 and 6. The Clippers are on the verge of making the Western Conference Finals for the first time in their 45-year history, and they don't want to let that slip away. Point, Clippers."
A disappointed Eric Pincus said that "Perhaps the Clippers don't deserve to advance past the Houston Rockets, after their meltdown in Game 6. For most of the series, the Clippers have been the better team and yet they'll need to survive a Game 7 in Houston to make their first Western Conference Finals appearance."
To keep up to date, go to the NBA Playoffs site to track how your favorite NBA team is doing.
For those interested in more NBA Playoff action, here is how and when to watch the games online. Go to the NBA Stream site for this action, and be sure to check to see if you are in the right time zone:
For those who are interested in watching these games on television, here are the stations they will play on according to the National TV Schedule on the NBA Site. Any Tuesday or Wednesday game will be on the NBA on TNT. For Thursday and Friday, check on ESPN. For Sunday and Monday, it is back to NBA on TNT again. As for radio times, check your area.
Those that want even more action on their phone, tablet, or computer might want to check out TNT Overtime, a way to watch enhanced coverage of the NB on TNT Live. This service allows the viewer to watch on a phone or tablet, vote for a favorite NBA player to watch live, watch live from multiple camera angles, and follow social buzz on the games and players.