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.