Doc Rivers said his team must be about the finish and it was. It was about finishing its hopes of securing a second road victory in this series.
DeAndre Jordan said there was a need to stick to principles, and if he was referring to that old Clippers' method of finding a way to crumble, he was spot on.
The Clippers closed out nothing but their hopes for a quick and tidy conclusion to the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday night at
"I know that's not the team that I have gotten accustomed to watching play," said Rivers, whose team became the first in
The Clippers will return to Staples Center for Game 6 on Thursday holding a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and the pressure having reverted a bit to a team that is still seeking its first trip to the conference finals.
"Sort of throw this one away and go back home and try to close it out there," Paul said.
The Rockets overcame the mental strain of back-to-back blowouts in the previous two games in Los Angeles, finally playing like a second-seeded team instead of a discombobulated minion.
Strong games from Paul (22 points , 10 assists) and Blake Griffin (30 points, 16 rebounds) were not enough to save the Clippers on a night a foul-plagued Jordan was limited to 24 minutes and the perimeter trio of
"I just didn't like how we played offense," Rivers said. "I didn't recognize a lot of the things we were running."
Rivers yanked his starters with 3 minutes 43 seconds left and his team trailing by 17 points, a late surrender in a game that had been tilting heavily in the Rockets' direction since late in the second quarter.
The Clippers also slogged through a few minor injuries, with Barnes nursing a sore ankle and hip and reserve
It was first game in the series in which the Clippers did not hold a double-digit lead, their largest advantage a measly three points in the first quarter. Jordan picked up his second foul with 4:24 left in the quarter and was largely a non-factor.
"The same thing happened to Dwight the last game," said Jordan, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. "I guess it was my turn."
The Clippers won the third quarter, outscoring the Rockets, 28-27, but for the first time in the series it wasn't a predictor of the outcome. With his team trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half, Rivers tried one last comeback tack by sending Howard, Smith and
Houston finished the first half on a 15-2 run, Harden's 17-foot jumper in the final second giving the Rockets a 63-48 lead. They were on their way to launching some renewed interest in a series that had been nearly all Clippers before Tuesday.
"We came out like we were supposed to win this game," Jordan said. "We didn't have the same fight that we did before."