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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 8:00 PM

Three games into the second round Western Conference series between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers…it’s pretty clear that the Clips are the much superior team when there’s gas in their tank. And, that’s true even if Chris Paul can’t play! But, when the shorthanded Clippers run out of gas because their starters can’t keep carrying a full load all the time, THEN the Rockets are capable of winning.

Houston’s played one good half so far! That was the second half of Game Two, when Blake Griffin and the other overworked LAC starters just flat lost it. Otherwise…blowout city for the Clips. A shocker considering that Houston was the #2 seed in the West and had a bunch of extra preparation time after dismantling Dallas. The Rockets are playing like they have NO IDEA how to win playoff basketball vs. a quality opponent.

We haven’t checked in on this series in the NOTEBOOK since just after the opener. So, let’s review the key stats from both Game Two in Houston and Game Three in the Staples Center…



Houston 115, LA Clippers 109

Shooting Pct: LA Clippers 45%, Houston 43%

Three-Pointers: LA Clippers 6/25, Houston 5/26

Free Throws: LA Clippers 25/32, Houston 42/64

Rebounds: LA Clippers 40, Houston 54

Turnovers: LA Clippers 11, Houston 14

Vegas Line: Houston by 8, total of 214

The Clippers were on the verge of wrapping up the series at halftime of this game! They had jumped to a double digit lead. And, Houston still looked like a collection of incompetent goof-offs. That changed in the second half as Houston’s defensive intensity picked up…and as James Harden took over the offense for multiple clutch possessions. It obviously helped that shorthanded LAC ran out of gas. You could almost see Blake Griffin lose his legs after carrying the team on his back for six quarters. The lack of a bench is going to kill this team eventually. No team had less margin of error for an injury than the Clips before Paul pulled his hamstring.  



LA Clippers 124, Houston 99

Shooting Pct: Houston 40%, LA Clippers 55%

Three-Pointers: Houston 11/33, LA Clippers 13/29

Free Throws: Houston 18/31, LA Clippers 19/23

Rebounds: Houston 43, LA Clippers 50

Turnovers: Houston 15, LA Clippers 19

Vegas Line: LA Clippers by 4.5, total of 215.5

Wow…look at the shooting numbers for the Clippers. They were getting open looks (and dunks) all night long. During the regular season, Houston had graded out as one of the most efficient defenses in the NBA (points allowed per possession). In the playoffs, they’ve completely forgotten how to guard people! They have been forcing turnovers with some gambles. Doesn’t do you any good if the opponent is going to shoot 55% from the floor. Big rebounding edge to the Clips too. This team has a playoff gear that they learned to harness well in the Spurs series. Houston’s a train wreck, and their head coach isn’t much of an engineer when it comes to X’s and O’s.


Sunday’s Game Four Line: LA Clippers by 7.5, total of 217.5

The market is souring on Houston very quickly. They’re not getting any respect in a classic bounce back spot. Chris Paul is likely to play…though you could see Friday that he can’t sprint or provide any burst when needed. Didn’t matter Friday, and it won’t matter here unless Houston really cranks up its defensive intensity.

Of course…there is a chance that LAC used up a bit too much fuel Friday. This team has no depth…meaning their healthy stars have to keep producing. The key to picking this winner will involve properly assessing LAC’s physical readinesss to go 48 minutes. A replay of Game Two isn’t out of the question…particularly now that Houston is playing with its backs to the wall for the first time in the postseason.

JIM HURLEY will utilize the full force of NETWORK’S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach to make sure his clients get the best Sunday picks in this game and Cleveland/Chicago. You can purchase the final word for Sunday (basketball and baseball) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call is in the office at 1-888-777-4155 early Sunday before the games begin.

Here’s what’s coming up the next few days in the NOTEBOOK as our playoff coverage continues…

Monday: Atlanta at Washington Game Four Preview (Hawks must win!)

Tuesday: Most pivotal Game Five of Chicago/Cleveland and LAC/Houston

Wednesday: Most pivotal Game Five of Washington/Atlanta and Memphis/GS

Thursday: Game Six Preview from either Chicago/Cleveland or LAC/Houston

Friday: Game Six Preview from either Washington/Atlanta or Memphis/GS

Obviously we’ll look at any Game Sevens over Preakness Weekend. Amazing how much drama being created in the 2015 playoffs by who ISN’T on the floor rather than who is on a game-by-game basis!

One man who’s ALWAYS in the arena ready to do battle is JIM HURLEY! Take care of business early then spend Mother’s Day with the most important people in your life. Another big day awaits with the WORLD CHAMPION of Sports Handicapping!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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