The Western Conference Finals have begun and the Golden State Warriors have taken the expected 1-0 series lead on the Houston Rockets. It was not, however, a double-digit bashing, nor was it an ugly, one-sided game. This was a real contest, the kind that suggests an entertaining series worthy of the third round of the NBA playoffs. James Harden is exceptional, Trevor Ariza has icewater in his veins, and the Rockets aren’t afraid of the Warriors. This is gonna be fun.

The biggest worry, bigger even than going in a one game hole, is that Dwight Howard suffered a bruised knee when Josh Smith slid into him. He played through it to the best of his ability, and still grabbed 13 rebounds in the game, but had to leave in the fourth quarter, and did not return in a critical stretch run. If his knee will recover soon, the Rockets look to be in surprisingly good shape. When he wasn’t posting up (which he should stop doing, forever, immediately), he was a force of nature, and was winning his matchup and more. His presence is mission critical here, and the news that comes out over the next forty-eight hours may determine Houston’s fate.

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I was happy with this series just getting to a seventh game.

After getting wrecked as badly as they did in the first four games, the fact that the Houston Rockets made this series competitive was good enough for me. Sure, other teams had come back from 3-1 deficits. But none had done so while getting blown out as badly as the Rockets.

But the Rockets won Game 7. They led wire to wire. And aside from two scary moments early in the third  as well as the last minute of the game, they were in complete control. The lead went up to 20 in the fourth. But with less than 90 seconds, Los Angeles made a final push to get within eight points with less than 90 seconds left. Howard observed later that at that point, he thought “we can’t let them pull an us on us.”

The Clippers did not. J.J. Redick bricked yet another three and Trevor Ariza hit the dagger trey. A few free throws later, and the series was over. The Houston Rockets are going to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in almost 20 years, when John Stockton taught my childhood self that good does not always triumph.

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Before tomorrow’s deciding Game 7, we traded a few emails with a friend of Red94, Law Murray of ClipperBlog.  Follow Law on Twitter @LawMurrayTheNU

MF – What were your thoughts after 128-95 in Game 4? Series over, or were you more reserved?

LM – When I helped the Podium Game with their preview of this series, I thought it was going 7. A series isn’t over just because a team goes up 3-1. And the Clippers know this better than most teams. After all, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan were in red and blue blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Memphis Grizzlies just three years ago. It’s the playoffs. You can’t expect your opponent to quit!

I’m sure we have differing opinions, but that fourth quarter in Game 6 was awesome. The Clips looked gassed, but Josh Smith also looked like LeBron…Did you see it as more meltdown, or more comeback?
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June 7, 1995.  I was an 11-year old gangly mess of arms and legs that refused to wear shoes outside of school and couldn’t even look a girl in the face yet.  But I was the biggest sports fan in the world, so who needed girls anyway.  And to that point, I’d lived quite the charmed sports-life.  Being born in rural north Texas, the only thing that mattered to me was that blue star (I know, I know).  But after moving with my family to Houston in the early 90’s, it didn’t take long for basketball (and to a lesser extent, baseball) to get its claws into me.  Soon the Dreamshake and Killer B’s were right there on the wall next to my Michael Irvin “Playmaker” poster.

So to recap, before my 12th birthday, I was in the midst of the greatest NFL dynasty there will ever be (save it, THE. GREATEST.), had seen a National league MVP and likely champ in baseball if not for a soul-killing strike, and had already witnessed my still-favorite basketball player ever carry a ragtag team to an NBA Championship.

So in Game 1 of the ’95 Finals, with the Magic up by three on the Rockets with six seconds to play and Nick Anderson at the free throw stripe, I was pretty sure I was about to explode with anxiety.  I was basically batting 1.000 in big games at that point in my life (who knew that would flip so, so hard), so I had no idea what to do with my self when it seemed the Rockets may lose.  My dad was plugging away on the graveyard shift, and my mom had zero interest in sports, so I was left to my own devices during one of the biggest moments I’d ever witnessed.  We all know how Nick the Brick earned his nickname, but when he missed that second free throw and yet managed to grab his own rebound before getting fouled again, I spiked the remote control (don’t tell Dad) and turned off the TV to go shoot baskets in the dark to cool off.  It wasn’t till two hours later, after I’d imaginarily helped Dream dispatch Shaq and Penny in Game 7 to win the title, that I came back in and watched Sportscenter.  To my shock/elation/dismay, Anderson missed two more free throws, the Jet tied the game to send it to overtime, and the Magic didn’t box out Hakeem (6:10 mark).

My point is, kids are dumb.  “I’ll never make that mistake again,” I told myself.

Well, some things never change.  I’m still an idiot.   [read more…]






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There are few things that irritate me more  – whether about the Houston Rockets or otherwise – then when people talk about basketball players in terms of “heart” or “will.” Everyone in the NBA playoffs wants to win. The Houston Rockets lost Games 3 and 4 to the Los Angeles Clippers primarily because of horrible defensive execution and a punch-drunk bench, not because of a lack of heart. There is nothing more to it.

But tonight the Rockets did execute better, the Rockets shot better, and the Rockets played harder with their backs against the wall. And this time was yet another blowout, but in favor of the good guys. Harden dropped in a triple double along with 26 points, Howard thrived with DeAndre Jordan in foul trouble, and the result of the Rockets learned of this concept called “shooting.” And now, there will be a Game 6.

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