LOS ANGELES – Houston, we have lift off.
James Harden played all but 18 seconds of the fourth quarter in Game 7 and the Rockets crushed the Los Angeles Clippers 113-100 on Sunday to complete the improbable comeback down 3-1 in the series.
"This is a very special group," Harden said. "Everyone counted us out. We're always overlooked, but we don't worry about it. We just fight."
The Rockets become just the ninth team in NBA Playoff history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit. The 1995 Houston Rockets led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler aptly named, "Clutch City," also did it in the Western Conference Finals.
Appropriately, fans in attendance at the Toyota Center on Sunday received "Clutch City" t-shirts as a tribute to the 95' team that made history.
Harden had 31 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists to lead Houston. In the three games the Clippers won in the series, they were able to keep Harden off the free-throw line. Not so, in Game 7 as Harden went 15-for-18 from the line.
"We were down 3-1, but we didn't give up," added Harden. "We have the will to win. We've been through adversity this whole year and we kept fighting."
Dwight Howard had 16 points and 15 rebounds
Trevor Ariza was lethal from beyond the arc, knocking down six three-pointers for 22 total points.
"When we lost Chandler Parsons the first guy I wanted was Trevor Ariza," continued Harden. "He brings defensive intensity and knocks down big threes. He's a winner."
Josh Smith was the star of the team for the third straight game scoring 15 big points.
The Rockets launched in the third quarter thanks to Harden and his "step daddy," the name he has for his step back jumper. The Rockets outscored the Clippers 29-22 in the quarter to take a 17-point lead into the fourth.
The Clippers were sloppy all game committing 18 turnovers that put them in an early hole.
Chris Paul did all he could to manufacture a come back scoring 26 points with 10 assists.
Blake Griffin had a good game as well with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
The Clippers couldn't get any help from anybody else in the most crucial game of the series. Matt Barnes went scoreless and J.J. Redick was 3-of-10 from the field with a team-high six turnovers.
Unfortunately for Los Angeles, more attention will be put on the Clippers epic collapse than it will on the Rockets rally. With the loss, the Clippers still have not made it further than the second round of the playoffs in franchise history.
The Clippers made just one of their first 10 shots from beyond the arc Dwight Howard picked up his 18th career playoff double-double. The Rockets advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1997.
Rapper Nelly, and NFL running back Adrian Peterson were in attendance.