CLIPPERS VS. ROCKETS
56-26 (Home: 30-11; Road: 26-15; Playoffs: 4-1)
56-26 (Home: 30-11, Road: 26-15; Playoffs: 4-3)
Season series: 2-2.
Key stat: The Clippers beat the defending NBA champion Spurs in seven grueling games. That was no easy task. DeAndre Jordan ranked second in rebounds in the first round (13.3) and Blake Griffin third (13.1). Chris Paul ranked second in assists (7.9) and Griffin fifth (7.4). Dwight Howard was the rebounding leader (13.3), James Harden was third in scoring (28.4) and the Rockets led all teams in scoring (114.2).
Outlook: Will Lakers fans start rooting for the Clippers now? The Clippers are facing a Houston team with the one player the Lakers' fan base loathes — Howard. Paul played remarkably through Game 7 with a strained left hamstring, but his health in this series will be a key for the Clippers. Coach Doc Rivers said he may not play Paul in Game 1 on Monday night. Of course, Paul, who was listed as questionable by the Clippers on Sunday, will fight Rivers to play. Because of Paul's exploits in Game 7 against the Spurs, Griffin's triple-double of 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists was overshadowed. The Clippers have had their way with the Rockets the last two years, sweeping the four-game series last season and splitting four games this season. But the Rockets are stronger with a healthy Howard, and James Harden, an MVP candidate, is a big-time offensive force who gets to the free-throw line more often than any other player.
Prediction: The Clippers may be exhausted mentally and physically from the Spurs series and may get blown out in Game 1, but we've seen their resolve. Clippers in six.