Saturday, May 16, 2015

On the Wrong Side of History

Someone is going home very unhappy Sunday afternoon. 

"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past." - Thomas Jefferson

Those who are blessed with immense talents (whatever the field one may be in) rarely ever take the time to appreciate what they have accomplished. They just move on to the next thing, always looking to evolve. Regression is feared, and being complacent is looked at as a disease.

Well, unless you are Kanye West. Dude loves him some Kanye and practically invented the phrase "pat yourself on the back". 

If the Clippers and Rockets plan on advancing to the Western Conference Finals, they should embrace the potential of making history and not getting lost in the past. Clippers stole home court advantage after a Game 1 117-101 thrashing in Houston? Big deal. Houston wins the next game by six.

Only six points? The Clippers respond and win games 3 and 4 by a combined 58 points. Not to be outdone the Rockets win by 21 in Game 5, and use a 34 point swing on the road to even up the series 3-3.

What's that all mean now?


Both teams know what is on the line. If players need motivation at this point in the season, they might as well just not show up. The Clippers (and Chris Paul) have been on the verge of being to their first ever Western Conference Finals. The Rockets are trying to reverse this and become the ninth team to win a series after being down 3-1. (There is a franchise precedent: the 1995 Rockets did this against the Phoenix Suns in the semifinals.)

credit: ESPN Stats and Info
Now the only advantage that either team has is Houston's home court. Clutch City is passionate about their basketball, and fans will be on full display Sunday afternoon.  This is the Game 7 they so desperately wanted to get to before Damian Lillard destroyed everything.

Does that scare the Clippers? Likely not, after opening the series by deflating Rockets fans everywhere. They led 3-1, and those teams all-time are 219-8 (96%).

But home teams win 80% of the time, favoring Houston- who have also won two in a row.  Paul's Clippers have played in four Game 7's together (their second in two series).

While all these nuggets of statistical info are intriguing, come tomorrow afternoon they mean nothing. All the adjustments have been made by both Doc Rivers and Kevin McHale. Chris Paul's minutes were limited early on. Doc was daring McHale to foul DeAndre Jordan, leaving him to sink or swim at the free-throw line. Josh Smith was shifted into the starting line up. James Harden was held on the bench for the entire fourth quarter in Game 6. All these moves have paid off so far and gotten each team to a deciding Game 7. (The one last move that can be made is neither coach employing the "hack-a-whoever" strategy.)

Tomorrow is not about adjusting is much as it is about sustaining. Both teams have shown they are susceptible to losing leads and momentum. The Clippers admitted they had even taken their foot off the gas on Thursday night, allowing Josh Smith and Corey Brewer to look like 2010's LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.

Each squad is left with major questions. In a "what have you done for me lately" sports world, are the Clippers as good as advertised in the first four games? Or are we going to see the team who has disappeared the last two games? Can Blake Griffin keep his gas tank full, or will he be running on empty in the fourth?

After a regular season where Houston won its division and finished second in the West, can they be that team and finish strong? Or are they the team who is prone to blowouts and goes through long periods of sloppy play and bad shots? After a sub-par Game 6, James Harden must have a statement game to assure a showdown against NBA MVP Stephen Curry.

With it being the lone game left in the second round, the stage is set for the winner to receive an inordinate amount of adulation heading into a Western Conference Finals match-up against the very scary Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors have come out to play. Who's going to embrace the future and join them?

Like it? Love it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.

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