CLEVELAND, USA States – The Los Angeles Clippers and the Chicago Bulls stole homecourt advantage by stealing game one against the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers respectively.
Los Angeles Clippers 117 - 101 Houston Rockets
The Los Angeles Clippers rose to the challenge of playing without Chris Paul, who injured his hamstring in game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs Saturday.
Paul watched from the sidelines as his teammates prevailed in game one of the best-of-7 Western Conference semi-finals.
"We don't mention injuries, we don't talk about them, we just tell our guys to keep executing and play and our guys did that," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. "They knew that without Chris it would be different in the way they play, but they accepted that."
Blake Griffin recorded his third triple-double of the playoffs with a monster performance of 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists as a half dozen Clippers reached double figures in the win.
Jamal Crawford chipped in with 21 points off the bench while running the point on certain stretches during the game. Matt Barnes added 20 and J.J. Redick scored all 17 of his points in a second half completely controlled by Los Angeles.
Austin Rivers, who started in place of Paul, tallied 17 points for the Clippers, who can take a 2-0 series lead when the teams square off again Wednesday.
James Harden, on the same day of learning he finished second to Stephen Curry in MVP voting, finished with 20 points and 12 assists but turned it over 9 times and went nearly 18 minutes without a field goal in the second half.
Dwight Howard, who recorded a double-double (22 points, 10 rebounds) also had his fair share of highlight plays:
J-Smoove + Dwight Howard link up for the LOB on @NBAonTNT! #NBARapidReplay #Day1s http://t.co/hvlCHIAYaZ — NBA (@NBA) May 5, 2015
D12 ELEVATES through the lane for the OOP on @NBAonTNT! #NBARapidReplay http://t.co/t2HuerlplX — NBA (@NBA) May 5, 2015
"We looked and felt a half step slower the whole night. We were not being proactive at all," said Kevin McHale, head coach of the Rockets.
Chicago Bulls 99 - 92 Cleveland Cavaliers
In Cleveland, Derrick Rose scored 25 points, Pau Gasol added 21 points and 10 rebounds and the Chicago Bulls eased past LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers with a 99-92 win.
D-Rose RISES + FIRES on @NBAonTNT! #NBARapidReplay http://t.co/oT95PN4ApH — NBA (@NBA) May 5, 2015
The Bulls blew a 16-point lead in the first half, but then used a 15-0 surge in the third quarter to take a comfortable lead.
Cleveland charged back and trimmed the deficit to two in the fourth quarter with 5:21 remaining on the clock. Butler, though, split a pair of free throws and drained a three-pointer before Gasol's jumper gave the Bulls a 94-86 lead with 3:26 to go.
The Cavs never got closer than 4 points the rest of the game. Butler scored 7 of Chicago's last 11 points.
This is the first time Rose and Irving faced-off in a playoff game and it was nothing short of spectacular:
Another marquee match-up in the series is between Jimmy Butler and LeBron James.
"You can never let your guard down," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They can score points in a hurry."
Game two is Wednesday in Cleveland. – Rappler.com