Thursday was almost a historical night for the Clippers, who are one win away from advancing to their first conference finals in franchise history. Then the fourth quarter happened.
The Rockets overcame a 19-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Clippers, 119-107, in Game 6 of their best-of-seven, second-round playoff series, which is now tied at 3-3. The teams will play a winner-takes-all Game 7 on Sunday in Houston.
The Rockets outscored the Clippers in the fourth quarter, 40-15.
They tied the score at 102-102 after Corey Brewer made a slam dunk with 4 minutes 21 seconds left. The Rockets then took their biggest lead of the game at 15 points after Jason Terry made a three-pointer with 11.1 seconds left.
There were seven lead changes and four ties, much more action than we had recently seen in this series. Before Game 6, the teams' last three games were blowouts, each team winning by more than 20 points.
It looked as though the Clippers had the game in the bank after outscoring the Rockets in the third quarter, 28-17.
But the Rockets recovered to outshoot the Clippers on the game, 42.5% to 41.8%, and from beyond the three-point line, 40.6% to 23.3%. The Rockets made as many free throws (32) as the Clippers attempted, and outrebounded the Clippers, 60-41.
Chris Paul led the Clippers with 31 points on 10-for-19 shooting, 11 assists and seven rebounds. Blake Griffin had 28 points, though he didn't score in the fourth quarter. Griffin also had eight rebounds.
James Harden led the Rockets with 23 points. Dwight Howard had 20 points and 21 rebounds. And Brewer had 19 points, making five of his seven three-point attemtps.
Only eight teams in NBA history have recovered from a 3-1 series deficit to advance to the next round. Come Sunday, one team will make history or the other will make a very short yet desirable list.
The Clippers, who have missed their last 12 shots, are in desperation foul mode in the final minute. Although the Rockets are one of the worst free-shooting teams in the NBA, they still have a 10-point lead, 114-104, with 53 seconds left and Dwight Howard at the line.
Blake Griffin has fouled out with 28 points and eight rebounds. He did miss his last four shots in the game, though.
It's suddenly looking bleak for the Clippers, who have been outscored, 24-2, since the 7:38 mark of the fourth quarter and now trail, 112-102.
Josh Smith, who just made another three-point shot, has scored 13 of the Rockets' 24 points in the run.
The Clippers have the ball with 1:15 left.
The Rockets have extended their run to 18-2 to take a 106-102 lead after Corey Brewer made a three-pointer in the corner and Josh Smith made one of two free throws.
Houston extended its lead to 108-102 with 2:28 left when Jason Terry made a jumper on the ensuing possession after Chris Paul missed a three-pointer in the corner.
The Rockets have a chance to take the lead after tying the score, 102-102, when Corey Brewer dunked in transition following a missed shot by Blake Griffin.
Griffin has missed his last three shots, all on consecutive possessions.
The Rockets are on a 14-2 run and have possession of the ball with 3:59 left. Josh Smith has scored eight of those points and assisted on Brewer's dunk.
The Rockets went on a 9-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to cut the Clippers' lead to 102-97 with 6 minutes 25 seconds left.
The Clippers had a 100-88 lead with 7:38 left after Austin Rivers made a driving layup, drew a foul and made the free throw.
Corey Brewer answered with his own three-point play before Josh Smith made a pair of three-point shots for the Rockets. Chris Paul made a driving layup between Smith's long-range baskets.
The Rockets opened the fourth quarter with a 6-2 run to cut their deficit to nine points, 94-85, with 9 minutes 46 seconds left.
The Clippers led by as many as 19 points in the third quarter.
Clippers 92, Rockets 79 (end of third quarter)
The Clippers outscored the Rockets in the third quarter, 28-17, to take a 13-point lead into the fourth.
The Clippers took their biggest lead of the game at 19 points, 87-68, after Chris Paul made a free throw with just more than 3 minutes left in the quarter.
The Rockets then closed the quarter with a 9-3 run.
The Clippers are outshooting the Rockets from the field, 49.3% to 36.8%.
Blake Griffin has a game-high 28 points on 12-for-15 shooting and seven rebounds. Chris Paul scored 12 of his 22 points in the third quarter. Paul also has 11 assists.
James Harden leads the Rockets with 23 points on five-for-20 shooting -- he's made each of his 11 free throws. Dwight Howard has 19 points on seven-for-12 shooting and 16 rebounds, though he also has three fouls.
The Clippers have taken their biggest lead of the game at 11 points after Chris Paul was fouled while making a layup and completed the three-point play to put the Clippers up, 77-66, with 7 minutes 9 seconds left.
The Clippers have outscored the Rockets, 13-4, so far in the third quarter.
The Clippers opened the third quarter with a 5-0 run to turn a two-point halftime advantage into a seven-point lead, 69-62, with 11 minutes 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
J.J. Redick made a three-pointer and Matt Barnes made a layup over that stretch.
Well folks, after three consecutive blowouts of more than 20 points, the Clippers and the Rockets are finally giving us a good game.
There have been six ties and three lead changes in the first half. Here's how it went down:
After trailing by as many as nine points in the first quarter, the Rockets took their first lead since 30 seconds into the game after James Harden made two free throws to put his team ahead, 43-41, with 6 minutes 41 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Rockets then went on a 6-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game at six points, 52-46, after Clint Capela made an alley-oop dunk with 5 minutes left.
The Clippers responded by turning to hack-a-Howard, which actually paid off for them. Howard missed four consecutive free throws as the Clippers went on an 7-0 run to take a two-point lead, 60-58, with 1:13 left.
In the final minute, both the Clippers and the Rockets made a dunk and a layup.
The Clippers are outshooting the Rockets from the field, 49% to 46.5%. The Rockets are outshooting the Clippers from beyond the three-point line, 38.5% to 21.4%. The Rockets are outrebounding the Clippers, 26-21. The Clippers have half as many turnovers as the Rockets, who have six.
Blake Griffin leads the Clippers with 22 points on nine-for-12 shooting and five rebounds.
James Harden leads the Rockets with 21 points. Harden is shooting four-for-13 from the field, but he's made each of his 11 free throws. Howard, on the other hand, has only made one of his six free throws.
After their lead was cut to just one point, the Clippers went on an 8-2 run to push their lead back up to seven points, 39-32, with just over 8 minutes left in the second quarter.
The Rockets opened the second quarter with a 5-2 run to cut their deficit to only one point, 31-30, with 10 minutes 44 seconds left.
The Rockets trailed by as many as nine points in the first quarter.
The Clippers led by as many as nine points in the first quarter of Game 6, as they outshot the Rockets from the field, 48% to 36.4%.
The Rockets went on a 9-4 run to cut their deficit to four points, 24-20, after Trevor Ariza made a three-pointer with 1 minute 49 seconds left. But the Clippers answered with a 5-0 run behind two layups from Chris Paul, including a three-point play, to retake a nine-point lead.
The Rockets then closed the quarter with a 5-0 run to cut the Clippers' lead to four points heading into the second quarter.
Blake Griffin leads all scorers with 11 points on five-for-seven shooting, two rebounds and one assist. Matt Barnes has seven points and three rebounds. And Paul has seven points, three rebounds and four assists.
Dwight Howard leads the Rockets with nine points on four-for-six shooting and six rebounds. The Rockets center, however, is in early foul trouble after picking up his second personal foul with 5 minutes 46 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Rockets are outrebounding the Clippers, 15-11. The Clippers only have one turnover while the Rockets have four.
The Rockets opened the first quarter looking jittery and out of sorts while the Clippers seemed cool and collected.
The first quarter is best described by this sequence that happened with less than 4 minutes left: James Harden stole the ball from the Clippers then passed it to Terrence Jones, who botched a wide open layup; Chris Paul then threw the ball downcourt to Blake Griffin, who made a slam dunk.
Griffin leads all scorers with six points on three-for-four shooting.
The Clippers have opened an 8-2 lead with 9 minutes left in the first quarter.
The only Rockets player who is on the scoreboard is Dwight Howard.
If the Clippers win, they will advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time in their 45-year franchise history. If the Clippers lose, the teams will play a winner-takes-all Game 7 in Houston on Sunday.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said that his team has to play with a sense of desperation, but he added that desperation is not enough.
"I don't know why you would ever not be desperate in a playoff game, but you still have to execute," Rivers said before Game 6. "Desperation will make you play hard and dumb sometimes."
The Clippers won Games 3 and 4 against the Rockets at Staples Center by 25 and 33 points, respectively. The Clippers then lost Game 5 at Toyota Center by 21 points.
"I think we've played well in stretches, and I think they have too," Rivers said.
"We're going to have to win a game where they play great -- and that's tonight."