Red Nation, we have reached the crossroads of our beloved Rockets season. The Rockets are down 3-2 to the Trailblazers after a few heartbreaking sequences away from possibly being 3-2 the other way. Sequences like a phantom out of bounds call on Dwight Howard, a phantom technical on Howard, and the most sickening one, Jeremy Lin dribbling the ball too fast, going out of bounds.
Nonetheless, today is a new day and it is time to put up or shut up. Win or go home. Put any sports cliche you want here. If the Rockets do not win tonight, the Rockets will go from “Team to watch” and “Championship contenders” to “overrated” and “first round bust”, pleasing Laker Nation EVERYWHERE.
But, I do have some good news. Coming back from 3-1 is not a death sentence. The Rockets are halfway there to causing a Game-7 in H-Town. Eight teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series, including the Sequel of Clutch City in 1995 which ironically involved the “Kiss of Death” against the Phoenix Suns. But can this team do it almost 20 years later? Here are some keys for this game:
1. Value every possession - In other words, turnovers: THEY WILL KILL YOU. Don’t do anything stupid and keep your composure. The playoffs are when the men are separated from the boys.
2. Beard Reawakening - James Harden, for the umpteenth time, must play his game. He scored just 17 points in Game 5, but he did have some clutch moments in “winning time”, including a BLOCK! WHAAAA? You mean he can play defense? Nonetheless, he needs to take control all game. After all, this team goes where The Beard goes.
3. Team play - Part of the reason why the Trailblazers are beating the Rockets is because they play as a coherent unit. Sometimes the Rockets have too many “I’s” on the team. You can see it in their play. Sometimes they’re too nonchalant. Sometimes they run too many isolation plays. Sometimes they’re just out hustled. The Rockets do have a tendency to look down/past their competition and say “We got this.” Um… No, you don’t. In Game 5, they had that intensity that Portland normally comes out with. They played as a coherent unit and as a team and got a decisive win.
4. And most of all…. AVOID GETTING BEAT - AVOID IT. I know it’s in Portland and they have the home court advantage. Their crowd will be crazy. But AVOID GETTING BEAT AT ALL COSTS. This is a must win. Take them out of the game as quickly as possible.
We’ve reached The Crossroads, Red Nation. If this really is the end, Red Nation Army, I love y’all and I will see y’all next year, but it ain’t over until Portland gets four wins. SQUAD. And if you don’t know… Now you know.