HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – The Rockets finished their comeback from down 3-1 in the series to beat the Clippers 113-100 in Game 7 and advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The game got off on the right foot for the Rockets. James Harden responded in strong fashion from his benching in the fourth quarter of Game Six. The MVP runner-up scored 12 points in the first quarter on 4-6 shooting, adding three rebounds and three assists . At the end of one, the Rockets had themselves a 28-21 lead.
The beginning of the second quarter saw much of the same. The Rockets opened up a 48-33 advantage just past the midway point of the second, but a Clippers’ 7-0 run quickly cut that lead to 48-40. At the half, Houston was up 56-46. Dwight Howard and Harden shared the scoring lead at 12 points apiece.
The Clippers were able to reduce the deficit to 60-57 in the third quarter, but the Rockets responded yet again. Pablo Prigioni helped give Houston a pulse with his hustle, whether it be stealing inbounds passes, getting offensive rebounds, or doing the little things such as blocking out. Harden hit a jumper right before the third quarter buzzer and the Rockets had themselves a 85-68 lead after three.
That would expand to 88-68 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. However, the Clippers made a run in the final three minutes to pull within single digits. But after J.J. Redick missed an open three, Trevor Ariza nailed a triple with 55.8 seconds left for a 107-96 lead that essentially sealed the deal.
With the win, Houston becomes only the ninth team in NBA history to pull off the 3-1 comeback to win the series.
Harden led with way with 31 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. Dwight Howard had a strong double double with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Ariza added 22 points. The Clippers were led by Chris Paul’s 26 points and 10 assists. Blake Griffin had 27 points and 11 boards.
And so, for the first time in 18 years, the Rockets are headed to the Western Conference Finals, one step away from a berth in the NBA Finals.