Jordan weathers hack-a-DJ as Clippers one win away from conference finals

DeAndre Jordan sat there and smiled, and then smiled some more. He looked around and smirked. He looked at Blake Griffin. Then he chuckled and got up from his podium chair and was leaving the pressroom.

Griffin, who was sitting by him, told him he had to answer before leaving. So Jordan turned around and leaned over to use Griffin’s microphone.

Jordan was asked what he thought about being intentionally fouled 3 minutes, 40 seconds into Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.

"I just tried to stay focused," Jordan said. "And we executed."

And then he walked out of the room, still smiling.

Jordan’s facial expressions indicated his displeasure with the incessant strategy, but he kept his poise.

After a hackathon in the first half, what said more than those words were his three early dunks in the third quarter to help the Clippers rout the Rockets 128-95 in Game 4 Sunday at Staples Center.

Rockets coach Kevin McHale sent DeAndre Jordan to the free-throw line a playoff-record 28 times in the first half — and most of those were intentional fouls — and Jordan made 10 of those free throws. That bettered Shaquille O’Neal’s postseason record 27 first-half free throw attempts when he was with the Lakers in 2000.

Jordan was 14-of-34 from the free-throw line and he had a double double with a career playoff-best 26 points and 17 rebounds. He completely outplayed Dwight Howard, who fouled out and had just 7 points and 6 rebounds.

The Clippers broke open a 60-54 halftime lead and then outscored the Rockets 43-25 in the third quarter.

If the Rockets were going to lose, they were going to go down swinging. Err, fouling. And Jordan handled the hackathon well. 

"I didn’t really know how many (free throws) I was shooting," Jordan said. "I was just trying to make as many as I could for our team. On the other end, just try to get us as many stops in a row. In that stretch, they scored a little bit but we were able to get stops and cut their lead a little bit in the first quarter."

The Rockets’ strategy to foul him early and often backfired on Rockets coach Kevin McHale.

McHale sent DeAndre Jordan to the free-throw line a playoff-record 28 times in the first half. That bettered Shaquille O’Neal’s postseason record 27 first-half free throws when he was with the Lakers in 2000.

Jordan also scored more than 20 points and had more than 15 rebounds for the second time this postseason. 

"You’re never surprised with it," Doc Rivers said. "It’s a strategy, and again, you can use it. We’ve done it, too. I thought we handled it OK. I thought we tried to play too fast for a little stretch there trying to beat it. I told our guys at halftime, we scored 60 points with them doing it. But we gave up too many points. It’s funny, I was upset because of that. I thought we were thinking about that instead of thinking about defending. In the second half, I thought we did a better job of defending and the game changed."

One fan behind the Clippers basket in the first half would yell, "We love you, D.J.," each trip to the line before his second attempt. Jordan made it known that fans chanting his name made things worse, so one fan figured he needed some love.

"Great," Chris Paul said of the way Jordan handled hack-a-DJ. "Doc kept telling us and we told D.J., this isn’t the first time we’ve seen it. I mean, I just kept telling him to embrace it. It is what it is. He went to the line, he made a few and that was huge."

Asked about Jordan being intentional fouled 3:40 into the game, or 220 seconds into Game 4, Paul said: "Was it that soon?"

Yes, it was that soon.

Paintstakingly, clock-watching, slow-moving soon.

It was so slow, even Jordan’s mom tweeted: "What is the longest @nba game ever played? Today?!"

McHale’s strategy worked in making the game ugly, but it resulted in a crushing loss for the Rockets.

"We got Dwight in foul trouble right away," McHale said. "I kind of thought our big guy, we were just trying to see if we could muck up the game a little bit. We didn’t. We came back in and we kind of had to play small, so we just thought maybe we could get them out of their rhythm a little bit."

They tried to muck up the game, but now they’ve mucked up the series and will face elimination in two days.

And the Clippers’ film session will be a good session in the art of free throw shooting. There 93 free throws in the game and more than one-third were Jordan’s.

"Well, 28 (free throws). I hope that’s a record," Rivers said. "Please tell me that’s a record. I knew he took a lot. I never look at the stats during the game. I’ll look at halftime. But I’ve got Lawrence and Mike Woodson and Sam Cassell saying 22, 24, so you don’t need a stat sheet when you’ve got a verbal stat sheet sitting next to you.

"… I just decided to leave him in there. I’m sorry you guys missed your (dinner) reservations. Did we break a record there, too, in a fourth-quarter game? It has to be the longest."

It had its benefits.

The strategy also gave Paul, who played in his second game since his left hamstring injury, plenty of time to rest during the game.

"I’m sure they’re not fouling to make sure my hamstring feels good, you know what I mean?" Paul said. "If so, I appreciate it. I guess. I don’t know. I’m feeling better. I think that’s all that matters. We’ve just got to stay hungry for Tuesday."

And that might mean feasting on more free throws.

"It’s a good thing to be able to weather that," Griffin said. "It just slows the game down so much. Anybody that shoots 28 free throws in the first half, that’s just crazy. I’ve never witnessed or experienced that.

"For us to maintain our composure, he hit shots and he hit some free throws, and we got some stops, and we just grinded it out. I think it’s a little demoralizing for us to be up six at halftime and the team to be putting somebody on the line 28 times in the half. It’s a good sign for us."