Monday night's Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals should have been an easy win for the Houston Rockets.
The Clippers were playing without their superstar point guard Chris Paul, and they were coming off Saturday's exhausting Game 7 of their first-round playoff series against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, which featured 31 lead changes.
The Rockets, on the other hand, had been resting for six days after beating the Dallas Mavericks in five games.
Before Monday's game, Charles Barkley made it very clear who his pick was.
"The Clippers got no chance," Barkley said on TNT. "I didn't think they had a chance with Chris Paul."
Barkley was then prodded to clarify whether he was referring to the Clippers' chances in Game 1 or in the series.
Said Barkley: "In either."
Those Chris Paul-less Clippers made Barkley eat his words, beating the Rockets, 117-101.
The Clippers, who trailed by as many as 13 points in the second quarter, went on a 12-0 run in the fourth, and went on to lead by as many as 18 points in the final minute.
Blake Griffin had his third triple-double of the playoffs with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. Jamal Crawford had 21 points off the bench. Matt Barnes had 20 points. Austin Rivers, who started in place of Paul, had 17 points, four steals and three assists. DeAndre Jordan had 10 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.
It was a sloppy game, with the teams combining for 47 turnovers -- the Rockets had 24; the Clippers had 23. But the Clippers showed more grit and determination, even with their floor general seated on the bench.
After the game, Barkley stuck to his guns. "I still think the Rockets are going to win the series," he said. "But the big winner tonight was Chris Paul because he's not going to play in Game 2."
Paul sustained a left hamstring strain in the first quarter of the Clippers' 111-109 win over the Spurs in Game 7. He went on to score 27 points in that game, including the game-winning shot with one second left.
Barkley said that if he were Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, he would sit Paul again in Game 2, scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. PDT in Houston.
"I don't play Chris at all," Barkley said. "You get a free game coming up."