Third and final chance to finish Rockets awaits

HOUSTON -- As Glen “Big Baby” Davis passed through the lobby of the Toyota Center on the way to the Houston Rockets’ practice court Saturday, he looked at the group of assembled media waiting there and said, “Y’all mad too. S---!”

Needless to say, this wasn’t the way the Los Angeles Clippers had expected to spend their weekend -- boarding a flight to Houston Saturday morning to play the Rockets in Game 7 of their West semifinal series on Sunday. After taking a 3-1 series lead and holding a 19-point advantage late in the third quarter of Game 6, the Clippers had mentally already moved onto a conference finals date with the Golden State Warriors, which was supposed to start on Sunday.

Instead, they are faced with their second Game 7 of these playoffs and third in their last four playoff series. In fact, five of the Clippers’ last eight playoff series have gone to seven games.

“Game 7s are kind of the ultimate player game and it kind of comes down to being better and outplaying, outworking and outhustling, all those things,” Blake Griffin said. “We have experience. This is my second Game 7 on the road, the last two Game 7s were played at home so it will be a different feeling but ultimately we just have to come out and play.”

The Clippers have not had a problem coming out to play the Rockets in this series -- they have been up by at least 13 points in the second half of all but one game -- but they have not always been able to close out games, let alone close a series out. They lost a 13-point third quarter lead in Game 2 and squandered a 19-point lead late in the third quarter of Game 6. The epic collapse in Game 6 which saw the Rockets outscore the Clippers 40-15 in the fourth quarter without James Harden or Dwight Howard recording a field goal was talked about on Friday during film session, but players said they had moved on from it by the time they boarded their flight for Houston on Saturday.

“Yesterday we were watching film and we were disappointed,” Griffin said. “Guys were frustrated but we realize what we have in front of us and it’s no time to keep hanging your head. Tomorrow you have to be ready to go.

“We played well at times throughout that game [six]; the last 15 minutes were awful, but we were good at times. We have to sustain that. We have to keep that. We can’t take our foot off and we let up; the other night we let up, and after we let up we got tight. We’ve admitted that, we know that, we saw that, we just have to be better. I think it’s kind of obvious how we have to be better.”

Chris Paul seemed unfazed by the Clippers’ meltdown in Game 6, which kept him and the Clippers from their first-ever conference finals.

“I went to dinner with my wife and some friends after the game, talked about it, woke up and had a neighborhood meeting about the bus stop,” Paul said. “It’s life. You get past it. You’ve got to move on.”

Doc Rivers said he addressed Game 6 with his players during Friday’s film session but told them to move on from it. There is nothing that can be done to change the result but the opportunity to erase its importance and move on to the conference finals was in front of them.

“The good news for us is we have a chance to win tomorrow and that game’s forgotten about,” Rivers said. “We move on. And that’s the great thing about sports. You have to. You have no choice.”

All but one game in this series has been decided by double digits, and Griffin said that was a big reason the Clippers let up in Game 6. Once they went up by 19, they assumed the Rockets would do what the loser has done in the fourth quarter of this series and give up but that didn’t happen. The fire the Clippers showed during their grueling seven-game series against the San Antonio Spurs has been missing in this series and certainly the last two games. Griffin said the Clippers will have to play like they did against the champs if they want to win their second Game 7 of these playoffs.

“It’s been a little different this series,” Griffin said. “We went from San Antonio where only a couple games were [not close]. It’s very different from that series but where we haven’t done as great a job in the San Antonio series is we were so locked in on every play. But because we’ve had so many 20-point wins or losses in this series when we got up [19] we sort of took our foot off the gas, and I think that’s what caused that to happen where when we played San Antonio we never had that luxury.”

The Clippers never expected to be in Houston this weekend but they know why they are. And they know the last two games will be quickly forgotten with a win on Sunday or hang over them like a dark cloud, which this franchise has become all too familiar with in its star-crossed history, with a season-ending loss.

“We haven’t closed it out,” Griffin said. “We had two opportunities and we haven’t closed it out. Give them credit. They played better than us the last two games and wanted it more clearly but we still got an opportunity so we have to take advantage of it.”