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Rockets Beat Clippers, Head To First Conference Finals Since 1997

HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets are heading to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 18 years after overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate the Los Angeles Clippers. “It’s the ultimate confidence-booster,” James Harden said. “There’s only a handful of teams that’s done that. We fought back. We fought three really hard games and came away with it.”

Harden scored 31 points, Dwight Howard had 16 points and 15 rebounds and the Rockets never trailed in a 113-100 victory over the Clippers on Sunday, sending them to the conference finals for the first time since 1997.

It’s the ninth time in NBA history that a team has overcome a 3-1 series deficit to win a playoff series.

The Rockets overcame a 19-point third-quarter deficit in Game 6 on Thursday night to stay alive. No such heroics were needed Sunday when they were up by 17 after three and Howard opened the fourth quarter with a 3-point play to push it to 88-68.

“When you’re down 19 on the road, it’s easy to give in and just say, ‘Maybe next year,’” Harden said. “But I think the injuries throughout the entire year kind of made us fight through adversity no matter what. We always find a way to fight, and another case was being down 3-1.”

The Western Conference finals begin Tuesday night at Golden State.

Every fan in the arena was given a red shirt emblazoned with the words “Clutch City” in yellow letters, bringing back the moniker of the 1994 and ’95 teams that won back-to-back titles. These Rockets lived up to the nickname, winning their third straight game to become the first team to win a playoff series after trailing 3-1 since the Phoenix Suns did it in 2006 against the Lakers. (AP)