The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals, 117-101, with Blake Griffin recording his second consecutive triple-double.
At the onset, the Rockets showed a bit of rust when they turned the ball over nine times in the first 12 minutes. Off those early turnovers, the Clippers converted an extra 12 points. Despite the gifted points, Houston still led by six points at the end of the first quarter.
After hitting the dramatic game winning shot in Game Seven of the opening round, Chris Paul sat out of the series opener against the Rockets with a strained hamstring. The 29-year-old point guard suffered the strained hamstring during the first half of Game Seven but managed to play through a couple instances where he came up lame.
Considering the short turnaround and travel, Clippers coach Doc Rivers seemed comfortable with sitting down his superstar point guard, even leaving open the door for Paul to sit out a second game.
With Paul out, the Rockets should have run away with the contest early. And in the second quarter, Houston jumped out to a 13-point lead fairly quickly. At that moment, the home team should have been able to roar past the exhausted and short-handed visitors. However, Griffin would lead the Clippers into the halftime intermission trailing by only four points.
At the break, Griffin had 16 points, which was a game high, to go along with his six rebounds and three assists. For the Rockets, Trevor Ariza scored 11 points in the first quarter with Dwight Howard adding 11 points of his own in the second quarter. The duo led the Rockets in scoring at the break, as MVP runner-up James Harden entered the locker room with eight points and six assists, but he also accounted for four turnovers.
To be fair, the Clippers also played a sloppy half, as Jamal Crawford committed six turnovers to help the visitors to 13 turnovers at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Clippers caught fire from beyond the arc with J.J. Redick and Austin Rivers helping the visitors make all six of their long-range shots in the quarter. The Clippers would pour in 37 points in the third period, which added up to the Clippers' highest scoring quarter in the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Entering the fourth quarter, the Clippers led by six points.
On the road on short rest and without their star point guard, the Clippers felt great about where they stood entering the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Clippers would not let up. After the Rockets made a push to draw within one point at the 7:20 mark, the Clippers responded with three triples over the next two minutes. With 4:24 to play, Redick would hit a jump shot to extend the game to 13 points. The crowd in Houston seemed stunned, as the clock slowly counted down.
Free throws and intentional fouls turned the game into an ugly affair for a stretch of the fourth quarter. Eventually, Griffin would earn his second consecutive triple-double and third of the postseason. To this point, the 26-year-old forward has been the standout performer of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. For Game One, Griffin finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists.
Game Two will be in Houston on Wednesday night.
Notes: Austin Rivers, who started in place of Paul, finished with 17 points, four steals and three assists. Dwight Howard finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.