Clippers vs. Houston Rockets: Game 4 preview

Clippers vs. Houston Rockets: Game 4 preview
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, left, celebrates next to Houston Rockets forward Dwight Howard during the Clippers' win in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said Saturday that Game 4 against the Houston Rockets on Sunday is going to be quite a game.

"It's going to be the most intense game of the series, and we're going to have to be ready for it," Rivers said.


The Clippers have a 2-1 lead over the Rockets in their best-of-seven, second-round series. Game 4 is Sunday at Staples Center at 5:30 p.m. PDT.

"You don't have home court until you win both of your games," Rivers said. "We have to get that, and our guys have to understand that. They understand that -- I guarantee you Houston does, they know if they win, they get home court back. So you're really playing for home court tomorrow."

The Rockets are coming off an embarrassing 124-99 loss to the Clippers in Game 3 on Friday. Something similar happened to the Clippers in their first-round series against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs -- with the series tied 1-1, they had an embarrassing Game 3 blowout loss, then came out very sharp in Game 4. Rivers expects nothing less from the Rockets on Sunday evening.

Clippers superstar point guard Chris Paul will start Sunday. The eight-time All-Star missed Games 1 and 2 of the series because of a strained left hamstring. He made his series debut in the Clippers' Game 3 win on Friday, finishing with 12 points on five-for-12 shooting, seven assists and one turnover in 23 minutes of play.

Paul said before Saturday's film session at the Clippers' practice facility that he felt "good," though he acknowledged that the hamstring injury presents an added challenge to his style of play.

"It's tricky because obviously at times you want to do this or do that, but luckily I sort of know how to manage it and get through," Paul said.

In Paul's first game back in one week in Game 3, backup point guard Austin Rivers took a lot of pressure off of his teammate. Rivers had 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting off the bench for the Clippers, including 15 points in the third quarter on six-for-eight shooting, sparking a 20-3 run that turned a five-point lead into a 23-point advantage for the Clippers heading into the fourth quarter.

"Seeing him do that, it gave me a chance to rest," Paul said after Friday's game.

In Game 3, the Clippers outshot the Rockets from the field, 55.4% to 39.8%, and from beyond the three-point line, 44.8% to 33.3%. The Rockets made just 18 of 31 free throws (58.1%) while the Clippers made 19 of their 23 attempts from the charity stripe (82.6%). The Clippers also out-rebounded the Rockets, 50-43.

J.J. Redick led the Clippers with 31 points on 11-for-14 shooting, including making five of his six three-point attempts. Rivers had as many points off the bench as the entire Rockets' bench combined. And Blake Griffin had 22 points, though it took him 20 shots to get them, 14 rebounds, four assists -- but he also had seven turnovers.

James Harden led the Rockets with 25 points on eight-for-16 shooting, 11 assists and five turnovers. Dwight Howard had 14 points on five-for-11 shooting, and he made just four of his 11 free-throw attempts. Howard also had 14 rebounds.