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.

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Sort of a rambling Game 7 preview

It\’s not hyperbole to refer to tonight as the biggest game in Rockets history since 1995. You could argue that only Game 7 in 1994 against the Knicks was bigger. The two Game 7\’s against Phoenix were in the semifinals, and Houston never faced elimination in the Finals against Orlando or in the conference finals either year. Game 6 in 1997–the Stockton game–also was not for all the chips, though before today it probably stood up there in second place. Nothing that has happened ever since has been even remotely close in significance. The Game 7 Houston played against Kobe\’s Lakers, without either Yao or McGrady, never even felt like the good guys had a chance.

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Had the Astros not won the city’s first major sports championship in over 20 years just several months ago, the image of Chris Paul limping stone-faced off the Toyota Center hardwood during the closing moments of Game 5 would have undoubtedly evoked nothing less but the #Houstonsports emotion. But if our curse has been lifted, then why are the Gods in this moment being so cruel? Daryl Morey assembled this team last summer with the intended goal of topping the Warriors, making that point very clear throughout the season, inviting universal mockery along the way. Houston’s Game 1 performance only cemented the belief that nothing had changed and that the club was really a pretender. But after taking three of four from the Warriors, you had better damn well believe that the Rockets would not have lost the next two with a fully healthy Chris Paul. The Rockets had their mojo and had figured out this Warriors motion offense in a way almost everyone thought was impossible. That’s why this hurts so bad, not just for the team and its fans, but for Paul, a player whose entire legacy was on the verge of validation against the backdrop of undue criticisms regarding his ability to “get it done.” In those fourth quarters of Games 4 and Game 5, Houston looked almost as if it had memorized Golden State’s playbook, anticipating every pass, relegating that team’s offense to the same isoball spreads for which the Rockets had been mercilessly denigrated all week long.

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