In the aftermath of Game 7

  • It dawned on me this morning that last night’s result was the first time in my adult life that I became crushed emotionally from a loss by one of the Houston sports teams. The Texans have never been good enough to warrant anything but ridicule, even if some around these parts seem to think they would have been on their way to a Super Bowl had Matt Schaub not been stepped on at the line of scrimmage; they would have found a way to mess it up anyways because that’s what they do. Albert Pujols’ shot off Brad Lidge didn’t end the series and a sweep (like the one the Astros suffered at the hands of the White Sox) isn’t crushing so much as it is merciful to finally be put out of one’s misery. And the Rockets, for as good as they’ve been, and they’ve been very good, since the Stockton shot, have never quite fit the bill as a true bonafide contender or anything more than a team that maybe could put together a run if things went their way. Until this year.

  • This will go down as the greatest “what if?” in Houston sports history. It’s been said that Mike Scott would have blown away the Mets in Game 7; you had better believe the Rockets are playing on Thursday if Chris Paul doesn’t go down.
  • The predictable referendum today on Houston’s style of play has been nauseating, for no other reason than the complete failure in logic. The suggestion that Houston’s system is what led to its undoing is completely laughable in light of the fact that the team came within a mere single digit deficit of knocking off the greatest team in NBA history. Proponents of this line of thinking are essentially saying that the Rockets would have somehow done better than they already did–which was far better than anyone alive had predicted–if they had veered from their strengths and the gameplay that got them to the best record in the first place. Okay.
  • The system isn’t broken. The Rockets planned for that moment last night when they traded for Chris Paul, knowing full well he would capitalize on the gaps in the defense when the three point shot wasn’t falling. This movie premiered last year as well against the Spurs, and Paul was the antidote, but he was sitting on the bench in sweats. Again, there’s not a shred of doubt in my mind of how things would have played out with Paul in uniform.
  • It will long be forgotten because of the spotlight on Paul’s injury, and also because he became sort of a punchline, but the injury to Luc Mbah a Moute was tragic in its own right. Even setting aside his tremendous impact in the regular season and that he was a plus double digits in the net against the Warriors in the regular season, at the very least, Mbah a Moute would’ve been just another body for Mike D’Antoni to throw in to keep his regulars at least a little bit fresher. Mbah a Moute was supposed to be part of the solution against Golden State with his ability to guard multiple positions and plausibly knock down the open ‘3’. Instead, he was unplayable, and Mike D’Antoni simply couldn’t find any warm bodies with which to buy time. And despite all this, despite having even Mbah a Moute rendered completely useless, remarkably, the Rockets were still in position to knock off Golden State. That’s not going to get talked about.
  • I hope everyone who was screaming about Mike D’Antoni’s “short rotation” and the supposed stupidity of such a tight leash was paying attention when Steph Curry blew the game completely open in the three soul-crushing minutes he shared the floor with Ryan Anderson in the third quarter. This is how I know someone either doesn’t watch basketball closely, hasn’t been watching closely this season, or just isn’t very smart – when they are incapable of grasping nuances such as what the Warriors do to teams who play weak defenders. It’s not like it is against regular teams where you can just get by – the Warriors seek out weak links and cut your heart out mercilessly, the way Curry did last night, toying with Anderson. D’Antoni wishes he had those minutes back because that was when it completely got away.
  • I still can’t believe the Rockets were up 3-2 on the Warriors.
  • Much of the discussion today has been curious, as noted above, but one of the chief oddities has been the insinuation that because the Rockets missed a ton of threes, the officiating had no bearing on the outcome. To wit, the officiating was a complete and utter disgrace, particularly for a game of such magnitude. The Rockets didn’t help their cause any going cold from the field, but having such an uphill battle to climb didn’t help matters. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that an outcome can have multiple causes? The two Harden threes and the moving screen alone were enough to make up the difference, not even mentioning the countless drives on which Houston players were mauled at the basket with no call. I quipped at the time that the league is rigged – it’s not. But I can’t fault any observer for thinking otherwise. That was an absolutely embarrassing display of either incompetence or bias.
  • There will be ample opportunity for discussion of roster moves, but immediately, I’m wondering how such a crushing blow will impact interest in the team next season. The fanbase already was downright apathetic this year, in the midst of the best season in franchise history. Does getting so close and failing instill interest or does it reaffirm the belief in the inevitability of the outcome?
  • The above may turn on whether the Rockets can acquire Lebron James.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.

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