Kevin McHale on Clippers complaining that Rockets shot too many free throws: ‘Well, quit hacking us’


Game 2 between the Rockets and the Clippers was far from an aesthetic masterpiece.

While Houston will take the result — a very necessary come-from-behind victory that evened the best-of-seven series at a game apiece — it was an ugly contest that saw the Rockets go to the free throw line an insane 64 times.

L.A. was predictably less than pleased with this aspect of the loss.

“You’re not going to win many games when the other team shoots 64 free throws and they make more free throws than we even attempted,” Blake Griffin said after Game 2.

A day later, Rockets coach Kevin McHale fired back with a somewhat expected response.

From Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“I heard them saying, ‘Well, they shot too many free throws.’ Well, quit hacking us,” McHale said. “We shoot a lot of free throws when you decide that you’re just going to get in the penalty and start hacking everybody. You end up (with your opponent) shooting a lot of free throws when you put in your backup, backup center (Ekpe Udoh) to just grab guys.

“James (Harden) goes downhill and plays hard. There’s a lot of contact when James plays. I can show you every game, five where he clearly gets grabbed and they don’t call. But I mean, James runs downt he floor. The referees are not trying to screw anybody. It’s a hard game to referee. I’m the worst referee in practices you’ve ever seen. I never blow my whistle. It’s a tough game to call. I don’t put too much into all that.”

Harden led the league in free throw attempts during the regular season, and in fact attempted more (824) than the player who finished second was able to make (Russell Westbrook, 546).

Add in the intentional fouls, along with the way Houston plays the percentages in taking their shots almost exclusively from beyond the arc or in the paint, and McHale is right — if the Clippers want to keep Houston off of the line, they’ll simply need to do a much better job defensively.

McHale appeared on Sports Talk 790 radio in Houston and had plenty more to say on the subject.

Down 13 Rockets finally play with desperation, come back to beat Clippers, even series 1-1


The Houston Rockets were staring the end of their playoff run in the face. It’s only Game 2, but the Rockets had lost Game 1 and were down 13 points at home to a Los Angeles Clippers team that had their all-world point guard Chris Paul still in street clothes.

The Rockets finally started to play with some desperation in the second half — they defended better, forced turnovers and held the Clippers to 36.6 percent shooting after the half. They finally kept Blake Griffin in check with 8 points on 2-of-9 shooting in the second half (after he destroyed them in the first half). Houston turned those missed Clippers shots into transition or early offense options the other way. And James Harden finally found his stroke, scoring 20 points in the second half.

All of that — combined with 64 Rockets free throw attempts on the night in what was not a pretty game at times — led to a 109-101 Houston win. The victory ties the series at 1-1 heading to Los Angeles for Game 3 Friday.

That is a game Chris Paul likely plays in, coach Doc Rivers held him out again on Wednesday to help his strained right hamstring recover. The Clippers can feel good that they beat the Rockets in one game and hung with them in another when they were without the quarterback of their offense and best closer.

However, McHale and the Rockets figured out some things that worked, too, For example, a lot of the Rockets’ second half success came in part when they went small, at times using Trevor Ariza to front Griffin in the post.

“That group really was getting the defense turned up, we were getting stops, then we were able to get out and run a little bit. We just got more energy from that group,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said after the game.

Everything started out well for the Rockets Wednesday night. DeAndre Jordan picked up two fouls in the first three minutes, the second one when Dwight Howard pushed Jordan in the back and into the driving player. Doesn’t matter. Jordan goes out, and Glen Davis comes in and Howard could do whatever he wanted. Rockets were +13 the rest of the quarter when Jordan went to the bench. Part of that was bad offense from Los Angeles, too much dribbling, which led to contested shots. The Rockets ran off misses and led by 11 at the end of first quarter.

Then in the second quarter everything changed. Jordan came back in, and when the Clips went on a 12-0 run they lead by three. The Rockets were overplaying the guys on the wings and getting burned, their transition defense was terrible. Plus, the Rockets were 1-of-13 from three.

Meanwhile, the Clippers were 16-of-21 shooting in the second quarter, putting up 41 points in the frame and were up 65-56 at the half. Griffin had 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting up to that point.

Griffin would go on to finish with 34 points, and he’s been the best player in the series. It wasn’t enough.

Early in the third quarter Harden picks up fourth foul, and was sent to the bench. That’s when the Clippers pushed the lead up to 13.

With that the Rockets finally started to defend with some energy and smart play, they went small, and they went on a 14-4 run to cut the lead to three.

“We got out of rhythm offensively, that’s when the game changed for us,” Rivers said. “I thought it was the first game we didn’t trust each other. We got stuck trying to get the ball to Blake so much we forgot there were other guys on the other side of the floor. The ball never changed sides of the floor. That hurt us.”

The rhythm of the game was also thrown off by a lot of fouling — both intentional and because guys were getting inside. The game started just to get choppy and at times sloppy.

But it worked for Houston which went on a 15-2 run across the third and fourth quarters to take 93-88 lead, running off Clipper missed shots and taking advantage of scrambling Clipper transition defense. Clipper floor spacing led to some ugly possessions and poor shots; the Rockets took full advantage of that in transition.

The other key was the Rockets going small and fronting Blake in the post. The Clippers response to this seemed to be to stand around and watch. The Clippers didn’t cut, the ball didn’t move. It allowed the Rockets to stretch the lead out to 10. Griffin had just eight points in the second half on 2-of-9 shooting. Jamal Crawford had 19 points on the night but needed 22 shots to get there,

In a parade to the free throw line during the fourth the Rockets played good enough defense to hold on and get the win.

James Harden also took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of his 32 points on the night (on just 17 shots). Dwight Howard had a fantastic game as well, scoring 24 points and had 16 rebounds. Ariza said seven of his 15 in the fourth quarter.

Chris Paul out Game 2 against Rockets

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Doc Rivers leaned yes. Then he leaned no.

Finally, the Clippers coach announced his decision on Chris Paul.

Arash Markazi of ESPN:

The Clippers surprisingly won Game 1 over the Rockets without Paul. Can lightning strike twice?

Austin Rivers exceeded expectations while starting starting Game 1, but he was still the weak link in the Clippers’ starting lineup. A stat I found telling: Clippers starters in Game 1 were:

  • Blake Griffin: +21
  • Matt Barnes: +21
  • J.J. Redick: +20
  • DeAndre Jordan: +19
  • Austin Rivers: +2

Austin’s job remains simple: Don’t try to do too much, hit spot-up 3s, apply his energy toward defense. He mostly did that in Game 1, making 4-of-6 3-pointers and getting four steals, though he still occasionally tried to do too much (three turnovers in 28 minutes).

The Clippers should continue running their offense through Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford. It might not work again, but it’s their best chance.

If the Rockets can’t win even one of two home games with Paul out, they’re almost certainly not advancing. They really need to win tonight.

For the Clippers, either way, they’ll probably go back to Los Angeles feeling good about themselves. How long that positivity lasts will depend when Paul is ready to return.

Last summer Blake Griffin talked to Tim Duncan about leadership


Blake Griffin has been nothing short of brilliant these playoffs, averaging 24.4 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game through eight games. Those are historic great numbers. He put up a triple-double in Game 7 against the Spurs, then another in Game 1 against the Rockets when Chris Paul had to sit due to his hamstring.

So when your buddy tells you all Griffin can do is dunk and he spends too much time making KIA commercials, you will know this guy doesn’t watch much NBA ball. And maybe isn’t the kind of person you should be hanging out with in the first place.

Griffin has moved onto the plateau with CP3 as a genuine leader of the Clippers. How did he make that leap? By talking to Tim Duncan and taking notes, reports Ken Berger of

Last summer, (Duncan) gave Griffin, a 26-year-old, five-time All-Star, his blueprint — only to watch Griffin ultimately embrace it at the Spurs’ expense.

Produce, Duncan told him. Lead by example. Make people respect your actions. Have personal relationships with each of your teammates so you can have one-on-one conversations with them when they need you. Griffin listened, and took notes. Then, during the idyllic summer months in LA, it was time to execute the plan.

It was more than just that. Griffin went through an intense, high-tech workout plan designed to push his body to recover more quickly from the bursts of energy he uses during games. That worked too. While Griffin looked winded at points early in the series against the Spurs, he was brilliant in the fourth quarters of games six and seven.

With Paul likely out for Game 2 Wednesday night, the Clippers will run their offense through Griffin, who has developed point-forward skills — he is a fantastic passer with great handles for a big. He can set guys up in rhythm, and Houston had no answer for him in Game 1.

If they don’t find one in Game 2, this series could be very short. Blake Griffin has learned how to lead.

Doc Rivers on whether Chris Paul plays in Game 2 vs. Rockets: ‘Right now, I just don’t think so’


UPDATE 12:59 p.m. ET: At Wednesday morning’s shootaround, both Doc Rivers and Chris Paul expressed doubt that Paul would be ready to go in Game 2.

“I pretty much doubt it, to be honest, just from talking to him,” Rivers said, via Arash Markazi of “But we’ll see. Right now, I just don’t think so.”

“It’s one of those things that you don’t want to make it worse than it already is,” Paul said.

12:30 p.m.: Chris Paul was sidelined with a hamstring injury in Game 1 of his team’s second-round series versus the Rockets, but thanks to a historically-great performance from Blake Griffin, L.A. managed to win anyway, and steal Houston’s home-court advantage in the process.

With the Clippers now playing with house money, there might be a temptation to sit him once more, ensuring he’s as right as possible for the remainder of what would then be a relatively short five-game series.

But Doc Rivers doesn’t seem to be leaning that way just yet.

From Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles:

There’s a “50-50” chance Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul will play in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, Doc Rivers said Tuesday. …

“I’d say 50-50,” Rivers said when asked what his gut feeling on Paul playing Wednesday was. “I honestly don’t know. My gut before last night was there would be a good chance [he would play Wednesday] so I’d probably lean that way. He looked good walking today.”

Rivers said he would not play or rest Paul based on the Clippers winning the first game of the series without him.

“If he can play, he’ll play,” Rivers said. “We just want to make sure he’s healthy.”

The schedule for this series doesn’t exactly lend itself to rest; games take place every other day until there are two days between a possible Game 6 and a Game 7, which would take place in Houston on May 17 if necessary.

The Clippers undoubtedly want to give themselves the best chance possible at winning Game 2, a feat that would put the Rockets in an 0-2 hole that may seem insurmountable. But Rivers shouldn’t be short-sighted, here. If there’s even a chance Paul isn’t right, and could aggravate his injury to the point where it could affect him in the later rounds, then L.A. should take the cautious approach and once again sit him out.