Well, the teams will soon be lined up on the hardwood once again as the corporate anthem is played. Another exhibition of mayhem and destruction in the name of sport is soon to follow. Adrenaline and fervor. Basket Ball Murder.
There were no Laker heroes in Game 4, only losing participants in a rather horrific exhibition. Not only egos were bruised in the "Mother's Day Miracle" — Lamar Odom staggered off with significant bruising to his lower back after being given the Rudy Fernandez treatment going to the hole. He remains questionable for Tuesday's game.
Other than that, Team Purple should be revved up and ready to reclaim their mantle as Western Conference favorite. This will take some doing after Sunday's humiliating 20 point shellacking disguised by a garbage-time recovery. It's best of 3 now with those hustling Houstoners — first team to 2 advances, loser goes home. No room for errors.
Let's hear what the Rocket boosters have to say about this 5th tilt, shall we?
(More after the jump...)
Click the headlines to read full stories...
by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. - The Rockets had one practice to change everything and save their season.
They didn't know Yao Ming would be out for the remainder of the playoffs, but they were certain enough he would miss Sunday's key Game 4 against the Lakers to know that in the span of a few hours, they would have to junk the offense that had been built around him and the opportunities that come in his orbit and replace them with something very different.
They would plug in a 6-6 center who does not shoot, put the ball in the hands of a second-year point guard who aspires to be the 6 feet tall he claims to be, and fire the ball around the floor until it found open shooters.
There was nothing in those orders the Rockets players hadn't heard before, but with their best offensive player out, they still had to make enormous changes in priorities, and they would have to be far better.
Now, with the Western Conference semifinals tied 2-2 heading to tonight's Game 5, the Rockets must do it again. And again. * * *
by David Barron, Houston Chronicle
Having witnessed some fairly spectacular events during his career with the Rockets, TNT analyst Kenny Smith isn't quite ready to include Houston's Game 4 win over the Lakers in the team's Improbability Hall of Fame.
Yao Ming's absence after a season-ending foot injury, Smith said Monday, did not alter certain strengths by the Rockets - and weaknesses on the Lakers' part - that remain in place as the teams prepare for Game 5 tonight in Los Angeles on TNT.
"I probably was one of the few people who thought (the Rockets) would win Game 4," Smith said. "The advantages they had weren't all Yao Ming. A big part was, but it wasn't just him. ... In a close game is where they will miss him, but the Rockets will be in every game."
While Yao's absence has reduced the Rockets' margin for error, Smith said, it has not necessarily increased the Lakers' chances to prevail in the series.
"The advantage (the Lakers) have is that Kobe Bryant is the best player on the planet. They have that whether Yao Ming is there or not there," he said. "They had trouble posting Lamar Odom, whom Yao Ming did not guard, and Kobe Bryant does not go into the lane because the perimeter defenders are making him take jump shots, not because of Yao Ming." * * *
by Jonathan Feigen, Brain McTaggart, and David Barron, Houston Chronicle/Chron.com
Although Lakers coach Phil Jackson went to great lengths to credit the Rockets for their Game 4 rout, the Rockets noticed a general impression that the Lakers lost the game, as opposed to the Rockets winning it.
ABC/ESPN announcer and Lakers minority owner Magic Johnson even called the performance "embarrassing."
"They can say what they want," the Rockets' Ron Artest said. "We're all NBA players. They can say it was an embarrassment, but I think the Lakers would not mind having some players on this team. I thought we played well. We played hard. We had fun." * * *
Game 3 of the Rockets-Lakers series on ESPN was seen by 4.4 million TV households and 5.9 million total viewers. It was the most-viewed conference semifinal game on the network and ESPN's most-viewed program of 2009.
In Houston, the game had a 12.2 Nielsen household rating, which equates to an average audience of about 257,000 households. The national Nielsen rating was 4.8.
Sunday's game on ABC had a 4.1 Nielsen major market rating and a 13.7 rating on KTRK (Channel 13) for an average audience of 289,000 households.
by GrungeDave, The Dream Shake
1. Aaron Brooks will not score 34 points again. His previous career high was 30 (thanks to Steve Nash), so it would be highly unfair of us to expect our favorite midget to have a similar encore performance. * * *
2. Coach Sleepy might actually call a play. Okay, this is just playing on the law of averages. At some point he has to call an actual play out of a timeout. Right?
3. Von Wafer will play more than 7 minutes. I fully believe that Adelman was continuing to punish our mohawked friend for his Game 2 attitude by not letting Von participate in Sunday's epic blowout. * * *
4. Ron Artest will make an open jumpshot. Maybe even two! I know, it's hard to believe given his 4-19 performance. * * *
5. Someone will pick up a technical foul. I don't even think it will be Artest. It will probably be Adelman or Von... but I'd pay good money to see Shane get T'd up just to prove a point, if necessary! Wouldn't you? "When Choir Boys Get Mad!"
6. Luis Scola will stop playing tentatively. For as awesome as Scola played in the series against the Blazers, he's been equally forgettable against the Lakers. * * *
7. If the Rockets win... Phil Jackson will drop another F bomb on live TV. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part though!
8. Lakers fans will not show up for the game until midway through the 1st quarter. They will also leave at least 10 minutes before the game actually ends (win or lose). Yes, Houston fans have this bad habit, too - but Game 5 isn't in Houston now, is it?
9. Carl Landry will make more than one shot. Yes, the one shot he made in Game 4 was out-freakin'-standing and made everyone get out of their seats. In Game 5, he's going to need to be a bit more assertive. * * *
10. Kobe is going to try to go for 50+. That might even be a conservative estimate.
by Brody, Rockets Buzz
Between Game's 3 and 4, Rockets fans, and I'm sure some players as well, assumed the season was over. Now, as we wait on tonight's outcome, there is no longer any sense of mourning or anxiety.
Therein lies the difference between winning and losing.
The Rocket squad taking the floor tonight at the Staples Center isn't one that's lost any sleep the past few night's. This team is playing with house money and that means there aren't any expectations.
But does that make a positive difference in the way this team plays?
I don't think so.
Good defense will keep the Rockets in the game tonight, and low turnovers and a well-executed offense will get them the win. All three of those elements imply discipline and endurance, two things the Lakers lacked and the Rockets excelled at in Game 4.
So is there any merit to the argument that the Rockets play better without pressure?
Possibly, but for their sake I hope not. This team needs a thorn in their side that reminds them of their role on the team-first as a defender and second as a facilitator of an offense based on five not one. * * *
by "ScriboErgoSum" - posted to ClutchFans.com
Obviously we need to win 1 more in LA to take this series. We could take game 7, but I think game 5 is our absolute best shot. Of course, we still have to win one in Houston, but I'm felling pretty damn good about that game on Thursday. Could it be a closeout game for the Rockets?
Odom is likely out, and even if he does play, it sounds like he has a mighty sore back. I don't know who has tried to play basketball with a sore back, but it is hell. I've played through ankle injuries and knee problems, but I had a strained back and could barely run up and down the court let alone jump about.
I think either way, the Lakers are hampered in the front court. They either roll with Gasol, Byum, and an injured Odom or they roll with Gasol, Bynum, and Powell. I like our front court against those combos. Chuck, Scola, and Landry should be able to wrangle their fair share of rebounds, and I think we should pick up even more offensive boards. Obviously Gasol is a beast, but I think we can defend that group pretty well. Odom hasn't given them much offensively, but he's still a much better option than Bynum or Powell.
Phil will make adjustments to deal with the Brooks/Lowry explosion in Game 4. Still we have them a bit on their heels with this new look, and they've been vulnerable to quick guards all season. I expect the Lakers to pressure our young guards a lot more and to close out on 3 point shooters, but I expect Rick to be ready.
Our front court should punish the Lakers with midrange jumpshots and open layups by sliding to the basket if their man leaves to double or pressure. Given time, I think the Lakers can adjust to this new lineup, so we need to hit them while they are still wrapping their heads around this new up-tempo, attacking version of the Rockets.
Surely the Lakers will play with more fire, but I think that could work to our advantage. If we play smart and hard and stick to the gameplan, we should keep the turnovers low, battle hard on the boards, and prevent the Lakers from getting open looks from their preferred spots. If we stay steady and poised, the Lakers will make mistakes. Kobe will surely rise to the occasion, but if we can keep the rest of the Lake Show from having a good game, this game will be there for the taking.
This team has a je ne sais quoi about them. I haven't felt this confident in or proud of a Rockets team since the Championship years. This trumps even the 22 game winning streak. There is a resiliency about this team, and I can't stop myself from thinking that they will find a way to pull a victory no matter what the Basketball Gods throw their way. Certainly this squad believes they can win, and that's half the battle.
I don't know who the hero of Game 5 will be, but I know one or more Rockets will reach down and find another gear. Not since the 1995 run when a different Rocket stepped up each night have I felt absolute confidence that someone will catch fire.
I don't guarantee a victory, but I think this team is ready for the Laker's best shot now. Bring it, LA. Our team is waiting, and they are not afraid. Tuesday should be one hell of a game, and I am bouncing off walls with expectation.
Rockets win 98-84.
by Wanks MacGruber, Fourth and Fifty.com
* * *
Don't let the 12 point margin of victory fool you. We were up by 27 at one point, and had at least a 20 point gap for a long stretch in the second half. Battier played like a monster, Lowry and Landry were slashing and jukin' and jivin' all game long. Kobe FINALLY got T'd up for being a little bitch.
But we're not winning this series. We could play like this in the remaining games, and we will not win. It just won't happen, and I am here to explain why.
The NBA is hurting during the recession, as our friend Bill so eloquently pointed out some time ago. They're borrowing money from big banks, for fuck's sake. There's one way out of these troubles: a monster NBA Finals featuring a guy who was supposed to be the next Michael Jordan (Kobe "No means yes" Bryant), and the guy who probably is the next Michael Jordan (LeBron "My back hurts from carrying this entire city" James.
There is absolutely no way that David Stern will allow a finals match-up that doesn't include these guys in it. The Rockets maybe had a small chance when the series started, with the odds increasing after the Game 1 victory. But once Yao went down and was pronounced out Saturday night, 1.5 billion Chinese TV sets were turned off. So that means no Chinese viewers for the Finals, and that means no Rockets in the finals. * * *
by The Random Guy, Fourth and Fifty.com
That isn't some sort of pun or triple entendre. Kobe Bryant is a mean, vindictive asshole who takes everything personally and he is going to come out and break shit in game 5.
S. Rex, Professional Blogger, really hit the nail on the head. I really am scared of what Kobe is going to do in game 5. Probably 38, 7, and 4 in a blowout. Shane Battier et al have done their best to not rouse the Black Mamba, but thanks to stupid Michael Lewis, Kobe has all the motivation he'll ever need. Don't think for a second that article isn't posted in Kobe's locker and above his bed like the Jonas Brothers poster above Reginald Blackstone's bed. Kobe is a control freak. * * *
Here are some more random thoughts...
Raise your hand if during the preseason you said "as Aaron Brooks goes, so goeth the Rockets". If you have your hand raised: you're a liar and a fake and a phony and I wish I never laid my eyes on ya. In order of importance, when the season started, this is how everyone, including you, thought it would go. Yao, McGrady, Artest, Battier, Rafer, Scola, Landry, Brent Barry, Aaron Breezey, Chuck Wagon, and maybe Deke.
An up-to-date ("real time", as the kids say) list looks like this: Scola, Breezey, Artest, Battier, Wafer, Landry, Lowry, Chuck, Injured Giants, Brian Cook, Double Chin Playoff Beard McGrady. A little different, eh?
I'm perpetually worried about another piss poor Artest game, which game 4 was, but it doesn't mean he doesn't have another one right up his sleeve for game 5. Double negative, foolz.
We'll live and die by the 3 for the rest of the playoffs. The thing is, we didn't shoot tremendously well from beyond the arc (10-29). Another stressor adding to my growing Rockets ulcer.
The Random prediction: Lakers win in a blowout in game 5, Rox squeak by at home in game 6 thanks to a faithful bandwagon crowd, and God only knows about game 7. * * *
The Bottom Line:
1. We're not afraid of you, Lakers. We just might pull off the stunner and beat you in this series. Our Point Guard is faster than you can handle. Rockets play tough defense, Lakers are lazy. Artest and Scola could go off at any time.
2. We already know the Rockets are not winning game 5 in LA. This is Kobe's game... We've see his schtick before. We know the MO...
3. Forget Game 5, we are gonna kick your ass sideways in Game 6 in Houston. Then we'll see what is what in a Game 7 for all the marbles. (Don't choke!)