The Clippers won Game 1 on Monday, 117-101, even though they were playing without eight-time All-Star Chris Paul, who was sidelined because of a strained left hamstring. Paul is listed as questionable for Game 2, but Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said he doubts Paul will play.
Blake Griffin led the Clippers' offense in Paul's absence Monday, finishing with game-highs in points (26), rebounds (14) and assists (13). Griffin, a power forward, had more than twice as many assists as any of his teammates.
"What he's doing right now is historically unprecedented and I expect him to continue to play at this level," J.J. Redick said.
In Game 1, the Clippers trailed by as much as 13 points in the second quarter, but slowly chipped away at their deficit, cutting it to just four points at halftime. Then in the fourth quarter, the Clippers went on a 12-0 run to pull away from the Rockets.
"There wasn't a sense of panic or anything like that with our team," Redick said. "We just kept plugging away, plugging away."
The Clippers outshot the Rockets from beyond the three-point line, 41.9% to 33.3%, and from the free-throw line, 73.3% to 58.3%. The teams combined for 47 turnovers in that game -- the Rockets had 24; the Clippers had 23.
Entering Monday's game, the Rockets had six days of rest after beating the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs in five games. The Clippers, on the other hand, only had one day off after defeating the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday in Game 7 of the teams' first-round series, 111-109.
“Our energy has to be better and it starts with mental energy,” Rockets' center Dwight Howard said Tuesday. “If you feed into all that negativity, all the things that went wrong, then it just tends to bring your energy level down. So we just have to stay positive.”
Howard led the Rockets with 22 points on nine-for-13 shooting, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. Rockets' Shooting guard James Harden had 20 points, 12 assists and nine turnovers.
Clippers' reserve guard Austin Rivers will likely start in Paul's place if Paul is out for Game 2, as expected. Rivers started in Paul's place for Game 1, finishing with 17 points and four steals, but he also had three turnovers.
The elder Rivers said he was proud of how the Clippers gutted out the win in Game 1 without Paul, though he added that he doesn't want it to give his team a false sense of confidence against the Rockets.
"I hope it doesnt make them let their guard down," Rivers said.