Standing at the brink of elimination, the Houston Rockets bounced back to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 124-102 in Game 5 at the Toyota Center on Tuesday. James Harden scored a triple double and played his best all-round game of the series to lead the Rockets to avoid elimination. The Clippers now lead the best of seven Western Conference semifinal series 3-2.
The Rockets finished the first quarter on a 12-4 run to lead 27-22 at the end of that period. The most consistent Rocket of the series, Dwight Howard, pulled off 5 offensive rebounds to guide his teammates 11 of 27 shooting from the field, 1 of 7 from deep.
DeAndre Jordan picked up his third foul on Harden in the 3rd quarter, which ruined Clippers’ chances of a comeback, as the bigman had to sit-out for the rest of the half. Dwight Howard scored 15 points and 11 rebounds in the first half only.
“We weren’t aggressive enough the first four games,” Harden said after his side managed to extend the series. “We were timid. They have really good bigs. We made a conscious effort to go into attack mode.”
Harden scored 14 points in the second quarter to give the Rockets a 15-point lead at halftime. He returned with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and headed to the locker room after notching up a 3-pointer with 2:02 minutes remaining. The Rockets led by 21 points at that moment.
“He wasn’t feeling well all day,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “He had a hell of a game. He had an IV this afternoon and he played a great game for us and we needed it.”
The series now return to Staples Center for Game 6 on Thursday.