Grab, pull, tug.
Push, shove, hold.
The Clippers have won in back-to-back blowouts because they embraced defense and finishing around the rim and another humongous third-quarter surge. Those are concepts that eluded the Rockets once again while they experienced an inexplicable failure to launch for a second-seeded team playing more like a heavy underdog.
"They beat the hell out of us," Houston Coach
Here's a good start: It's over now, this series finished like the Rockets'
Meanwhile, Jordan triggered a standing ovation while being shown on the scoreboard midway through the fourth quarter of a game in which he missed 20 free throws and it didn't matter.
"Great win," Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said afterward, embodying his team's relentless mantra as he walked down a hallway with a sense of purpose and his team holding a 3-1 lead in a conference semifinals for the first time in franchise history.
The Clippers have such a commanding advantage largely because they outscored Houston, 43-25, in a third quarter that featured a variety of Jordan dunks during the rare moments of the game in which the Rockets didn't have their arms wrapped around him.
The Rockets made a mockery of free throws on both sides, converting 15 of 30 tries while initiating their intentional fouling strategy on Jordan only 3 minutes 40 seconds into the game.
"Was it that soon?" Clippers point guard
Indeed it was, the Rockets trying anything to slow down a game after Howard picked up his second foul early in the first quarter.
"We just wanted to see if we could muck up the game a little bit," McHale said.
The Rockets succeeded on that front, sending Jordan to the free-throw line an
The NBA doesn't need a competition committee for the intentional fouling strategy; it needs an exorcism.
Fortunately, the Clippers' play provided the ultimate retort, the team outscoring the Rockets, 9-0, during one hack-a-Jordan stretch in the second quarter while fans' booing increased in its intensity.
Asked about the Rockets' decision to foul him so early in the game, Jordan smiled and chuckled for about 10 seconds before actually rising from his seat in the postgame interview room. He started to leave before teammate Blake Griffin instructed Jordan to answer the question.
"I just tried to stay focused," Jordan, who made 14 of 34 free throws overall and finished with 26 points and 17 rebounds, said while leaning over a microphone, "and we executed."
Paul, Griffin and Jordan are suddenly one victory away from nudging the once franchise-defining trio of
The Clippers can close out this series in Houston with a victory in Game 5on Tuesday, and, yes, you have to wonder now whether the first conference finals in franchise history would be a mere stopover on the way to even greater things.
"We want to be able to win nine more games," Jordan said, alluding to the number the Clippers would need to win their first NBA title.
"I don't look at them but he files a report every day," Rivers said before mentioning a famed Grizzlies defender. "I don't know what he's saying. My guess is, '