LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Corey Brewer-inspired Houston Rockets overcame a 19-point deficit in the third quarter to set up a Game Seven decider in their Western Conference semi-final series with a stunning 119-107 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.
Reserve Brewer, who finished with 19 points, poured in a brace of three-pointers to spark a rousing display by the visitors in the final period as the Clippers offense wilted for Houston to tie the best-of-seven series at 3-3.
Powerful shooting guard James Harden contributed 23 points and Dwight Howard weighed in with 20 along with 21 rebounds for the Rockets, who will return to their home court for the series decider on Sunday.
”We defended and we ran, we got stops,“ Rockets coach Kevin McHale told reporters. ”That group ... they fought and they played their tails off.
”Brew (Brewer) went in and got seven defensive rebounds, 10 total, along with 19 points. That was huge.
“We had to win this game today to get back to Houston, and in Houston we’ve just got to take care of business.”
All-Star point guard Chris Paul scored a team-high 31 points and 11 assists for the Clippers while forward Blake Griffin added 28 but the home team were left bewildered after squandering a second chance in a row to close out the series.
The Clippers, bidding to reach their first ever Western Conference final, had traveled to Houston with a 3-1 series lead for Game Five on Tuesday but were pounded 124-103.
”We were trying to run the clock out and we stopped playing,“ said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. ”The pressure mounted. It happens, but it’s hard to happen when you have a lead like that.
“We gave this one away, there’s no doubt about that.”
The Rockets now have a chance to add their name to an exclusive list of comeback kings as only eight teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series, the most recent being the Phoenix Suns against the LA Lakers in 2006.
With Paul and Griffin sparking the offense, the Clippers made a fast start and twice streaked nine points in front before ending the first quarter with a 29-25 lead.
Though Harden poured in two three-pointers to help the Rockets take control for much of the second period, the Clippers fought back and a driving layup by J.J. Redick earned the home team a slender 64-62 advantage at halftime.
Roared on by increasingly vocal fans, the Clippers then took control with sizzling offense allied to strong defense, a driving reverse layup from Paul giving them a 19-point cushion before they ended the third quarter leading 92-79.
Once again, though, Houston clawed their way back and a driving dunk shot by Brewer tied the score at 102-102 with a little more than four minutes left before his second three-pointer of the night put them ahead for good.
The Clippers missed 15 of their last 16 shots from the field and were outscored 40-15 in the fourth quarter.
Editing by John O'Brien/Nick Mulvenney