Matt Barnes believes Clippers took Dwight Howard “out of the game mentally”

"Rockets Dwight Howard makes a hard foul on Clippers Blake Griffin during second half action at Staples Center Sunday, May 10, 2015. Clippers defeated the Rockets 128-95 to go up 3-1 in the series.  ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News ) "

“Rockets Dwight Howard makes a hard foul on Clippers Blake Griffin during second half action at Staples Center Sunday, May 10, 2015. Clippers defeated the Rockets 128-95 to go up 3-1 in the series. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News ) “

The lack of touches bothered Dwight Howard. The physical play irked him, too. The frustration over an eventual double-digit playoff loss escalated enough to show something far from what his team expected from him as the NBA’s most athletic and dominant center.

He failed to produce on either end of the floor. He committed silly fouls. He then walked through the entrance tunnel in shame before the loss became official.

The Lakers, Kobe Bryant and their passionate fanbase remember these images well, Howard’s last game in a purple and gold uniform two years ago ending with an ejection well before the San Antonio Spurs swept the Lakers in a forgettable first-round series. Yet, nearly the same scene played out again for Howard wearing a Houston Rockets uniform as they suffered a 128-95 Game 4 loss of their Western Conference semifinals series to the Clippers on Sunday at Staples Center.

The Rockets pledged they would feature Howard more on offense in Game 4 after he only had three second-half field-goal attempts in a Game 3 loss. Instead, Howard recorded nearly as many fouls (six) as points (seven) and rebounds (six) as the Clippers took a 3-1 lead with a chance to close out the series in Houston on Tuesday and advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.

“We were able to take him out of the game mentally,” Clippers forward Matt Barnes boasted afterwards. “They need him on the floor to be able to win.”
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Clippers’ Doc Rivers believes Chris Paul will nurse hamstring injury through rest of playoffs

"Clippers#3 Chris Paul drives around Rockets#1 Trevor Ariza in the first quarter. The Los Angeles Clippers played the Houston Rockets in the game 3 of the second round of the NBA iWestern Conference Playoffs. Los Angeles, CA 5/8/2015 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)"

“Clippers#3 Chris Paul drives around Rockets#1 Trevor Ariza in the first quarter. The Los Angeles Clippers played the Houston Rockets in the game 3 of the second round of the NBA iWestern Conference Playoffs. Los Angeles, CA 5/8/2015 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)”

A week has passed since Clippers guard Chris Paul strained his left hamstring, and Clippers coach Doc Rivers expects the injury will last much longer. Possibly until June, assuming the Clippers are still playing.

“You know it will be with him through the playoffs,” Rivers said before the Clippers hosted Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against Houston Rockets at Staples Center. “We’re going to have to monitor this throughout. It’s never going to go away. Once they start, it doesn’t go away. We have to feel careful.”

Paul will play in Game 4 after posting 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting and seven assists through 23 minutes in a Game 3 victory over Houston on Friday that gave the Clippers a 2-1 series lead. That happened after Paul sat in the first two games in Houston. Yet, Rivers said he and Clippers trainer Jason Powell have not concluded how they will handle his workload in Game 4.

“He’s more confident,” Rivers said of Paul. “That helps. I know he feels better than he did two days ago. That should help. I’m not sure if we are going to increase minutes or not yet.”

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Clippers’ Chris Paul says he’s good to go for Game 4
Austin Rivers proving Doc did right thing bringing him to Clippers

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Houston’s James Harden calls it “disrespectful” Matt Barnes talked trash to his mom

"HOUSTON, TX - MAY 06:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets walks across the court late in the second half against the Los Angeles Clippers during Game Two in the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2015 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)"

“HOUSTON, TX – MAY 06: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets walks across the court late in the second half against the Los Angeles Clippers during Game Two in the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2015 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)”

The NBA playoffs took on a new twist surrounding Houston guard James Harden and Clippers forward Matt Barnes.

The implications have more than just how the Clippers break a 1-1 tie when they host the Rockets in Game 3 of Western Conference semifinals on Friday at Staples Center. Or how the Clippers will stop Harden, the NBA’s runner-up MVP averaging 27.4 points on 44 percent shooting and 7.0 assists thus far in the postseason. Harden hardly sounded pleased that Barnes talked trash with his mother during the Clippers’ Game 2 loss on Wednesday.

“Any situation where you’re talking about somebody else’s parents, that’s just disrespectful,” Harden said after the Rockets’ morning shootaround at Staples Center. “I’m focused on Game 3 and we’re very focused and locked in. There will be some great intensity tonight.”

Barnes has since said he apologized Harden’s mom, explaining he thought he was just arguing with another fan. This happened shortly after Barnes picked up a technical foul for bumping in Harden. His mother, Monja Willis, since told TMZ that she accepted Barnes’ apology.

Does all of this resolve the issue?

“I’m not focused on that,” Harden said. “I’m focused on Game 3. We’re going to go out there, compete and try to get a victory on the road.”
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Clippers’ Doc Rivers still unsure about Chris Paul’s availability for Game 3

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul signals from the sidelines during the first half of Game 1 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Houston Rockets, Monday, May 4, 2015, in Houston. Chris Paul is out for game 1 with a strained left hamstring. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul signals from the sidelines during the first half of Game 1 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Houston Rockets, Monday, May 4, 2015, in Houston. Chris Paul is out for game 1 with a strained left hamstring. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Less than a week ago, Chris Paul left a lasting impression by securing a first-round series on a game-winning bank shot while hobbling a strained left hamstring.

Since then, the only images of Paul has entailed sitting on the Clippers’ bench in dapper clothing, while mentoring his teammates. Behind the scenes, however, Paul has furiously worked to heal his hamstring so he can help the Clippers break a 1-1 series tie when they host the Houston Rockets for Game 3 on Friday at Staples Center.

“I think everything is going well,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Thursday on a conference call. “But we still don’t know anything about tomorrow yet.”
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Houston’s Corey Brewer fined $5,000 for flopping in Game 2 win over Clippers

The NBA fined Houston Rockets forward Corey Brewer $5,000 on Thursday for flopping in the team’s Game 2 win over the Clippers on Thursday at Toyota Center.

Replays showed that Brewer dramatically fell backwards and landed on floor underneath the basket after Clippers guard Lester Hudson mildly pushed him away during an inbounds play. Hudson was called for the foul on the call.

The monetary penalties for flopping increase with each offense in the playoffs, including fines worth $10,000 (second offense), $15,000 (third offense) and $30,000 (fourth offense). A fifth violation could prompt the NBA to punish with both an increased fine and suspension.

The NBA defines flopping “as any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the
referees to call a foul on another player.” The league mostly determined if a player committed a flop based on whether “their physical reaction to contact with another player is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force or direction of the contact.”

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Without Chris Paul, Clippers fall 115-109 to Houston Rockets in Game 2

Follow L.A. Daily News’ Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Clippers’ Glen Davis to play in Game 7 vs. Spurs

San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan (21) and Los Angeles Clippers' Glen Davis (0) scramble for a rebound during the first half of Game 6 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in San Antonio. Los Angeles Clippers' Austin Rivers is at left. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan (21) and Los Angeles Clippers’ Glen Davis (0) scramble for a rebound during the first half of Game 6 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in San Antonio. Los Angeles Clippers’ Austin Rivers is at left. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

The Clippers consider forward Glen Davis available to play in Game 7 of their first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday at Staples Center, two days after nursing a sprained left ankle that kept him out for most of the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ Game 6 win over the Spurs.

“Baby’s fine,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “If you play in the game, you’re healthy. That’s the way the other team views it. That’s the way I always view it. If you’re on the floor, I expect you to be 100 percent.”

Davis walked around gingerly in the locker room before indicating that he feels fine and would not sit out a game that will decide the first-round series.

The Clippers have featured an eight-man rotation through six playoff games, a trend that speaks both to the Spur’s depth superiority and the Clippers’ talented starters that include Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Though Rivers has downplayed the trend, the Spurs’ reserves have outscored the Clippers’ bench, 217-134.

Yet, Davis has helped the Clippers despite averaging only 3.2 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game. He has provided energy. Davis also has given the Clippers a dependable option in place DeAndre Jordan whenever the Spurs intentionally send him to the foul line. But Rivers said he may play Spencer Hawes or Hedo Turkoglu should Davis experience any limitations.

“We pay them all. They all have to be ready,” Rivers said. “That doesn’t mean we’ll plya them all. But if somebody is not performing well, or goes out with injury when it’s your role players, you expect someone else to come in and do the job.”

RELATED:
Clippers force Game 7 they appear ready to win
Clippers play for a series, Spurs for an era
Clippers’ Davis questionable for Game 7 against Spurs

Follow L.A. Daily News’ Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Clippers’ Blake Griffin admitted fatigue factored into his late Game 5 struggles

Clippers#32 Blake Griffin comforts Clippers#6 DeAndre Jordan after he was called for offensive goal tending in the final seconds of the game. The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 111-107 in game 5 of the first round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs. Los Angeles, CA 4/28/2015 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)

Clippers#32 Blake Griffin comforts Clippers#6 DeAndre Jordan after he was called for offensive goal tending in the final seconds of the game. The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 111-107 in game 5 of the first round of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs. Los Angeles, CA 4/28/2015 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)

He stormed onto the court, Blake Griffin putting his fingerprints all over a game with timely stops, accurate jumpers and athletic dunks.

Once it ended, the Clippers forward walked off nursing a soaked jersey, a sore body and gasping for breath.

The deflating feeling surrounding the Clippers’ 111-107 Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday at Staples Center goes beyond trailing 3-2 in first-round series and facing a potential elimination in Game 6 in San Antonio on Thursday. Griffin’s towering presence also shrank as every exhausting minute passed.

Though he posted a team-high 30 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes, Griffin labored through the fourth quarter as he went 1-of-9 from the field and committed three turnovers. All of which Griffin conceded partly stemmed from his series-high 41.2 minutes finally catching up.

“Down the stretch, everybody is tired,” Griffin said. “It’s a factor. But it’s a factor for everybody, so it’s not really an advantage or disadvantage for anybody.”
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Clippers’ Doc Rivers laments the ‘brutal calls” in 111-107 Game 5 loss to Spurs

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, left, greets Blake Griffin as he walks to the bench during Tuesday night’s game against San Antonio. Griffin entered the game leading L.A. in rebounds and assists through the first four games of the series. JOHN MCCOY — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, left, greets Blake Griffin as he walks to the bench during Tuesday night’s game against San Antonio. Griffin entered the game leading L.A. in rebounds and assists through the first four games of the series. JOHN MCCOY — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Over and over again, Clippers coach Doc Rivers tells his players that playoff games come down to single possessions.

When it came down to analyzing the Clippers’ 111-107 Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday at Staples Center, those single possessions made a mounting difference. Among one of many factors: Rivers lamented about what he called the “brutal calls” the team received.

“I don’t complain much. I thought we got some really tough calls,” Rivers said. “It’s not why we lost. But those were big plays for us.”
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Clippers see Blake Griffin emerging as a leader

Blake Griffin skies for a dunk over San Antonio’s Tim Duncan in the first half of the Clippers’ Game 1 victory Sunday night at Staples Center. (David Crane/Staff Photographer)

Blake Griffin skies for a dunk over San Antonio’s Tim Duncan in the first half of the Clippers’ Game 1 victory Sunday night at Staples Center. (David Crane/Staff Photographer)

The man has defied gravity with his earth-shattering dunks. He has proven more to be a one-trick pony with an increasingly dependable mid-range jumper.

But Blake Griffin added another line to his resume through the Clippers’ 114-105 Game 4 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday at AT&T Center. As the Clippers enter Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples Center with the series tied at 2-2, Griffin has become one of the team’s leaders.

Chris Paul briefly sat out of the game because of foul trouble. DeAndre Jordan also left to escape the Spurs from intentionally sending him to the free throw line. But even without the Clippers’ leading passer and rebounder, Griffin filled in both areas well. Griffin offered a near triple double, his 20 points, career-high 19 rebounds and seven assists continuing a series-long trend in which he has dominated nearly every category.

“Blake has taken the lead on both ends of the floor now,” Clippers forward Matt Barnes said. “He really has a complete game in offense, whether it’s picking and popping, attacking the basket, making shots or making plays for others.”

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Clippers believe urgency will determine outcome in Game 5 vs. Spurs

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul (3) celebrates after scoring against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul (3) celebrates after scoring against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

When the Clippers account for Doc River’s honest film sessions, Chris Paul’s demanding leadership and Blake Griffin’s expanded game, an underlying theme emerges.

The difference between a Clippers debilitating loss or an inspiring win in their 2-2 first-round series to San Antonio traces to one thing. With Rivers calling the Clippers and Spurs “evenly matched” and describing his opponent as “really fundamentally sound,” he and his players echoed after Monday’s practice that urgency will play the main factor in determining the outcome of Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples Center.

“You have to be ready to play and ready to sustain play in this series,” Rivers said at the Clippers’ practice facility in Playa Vista. “Even in the middle of a game, you can’t take a break. When you take a break, they make a run. When they take a break, we make a run.”

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