Well, everything has more or less proceeded according to plan for Houston. Other than Yao Ming getting hurt — they didn't figure on that one...
1. Hit the Lakers fast and hard in Game 1, as they did with the Portland Trailblazers, turning home court advantage to their favor. (1-0)
2. Lost Game 2, but a split is okay in Staples; the best case scenario, realistically. (1-1)
3. A letdown in Game 3, but they are the Lakers (best road warriors in the NBA) and expecting to take them all three games in Houston was a bit much. (1-2)
4. The Mother's Day Miracle. No Yao but the Lakers were run out of the building anyway. (2-2)
5. The revenge of Kobe. The margin of loss was bigger than anticipated, but this visit to Staples was gonna be payback one way or another— and the margin of victory actually helped restore the Lakers' #1 enemy, overconfidence. (2-3)
6. Home cooking with another extremely fast start and solid finish. Torched 'em like cajun redfish, as planned. (3-3)
Three games to three and the only thing left to complete a historic upset is the "Do You Believe in Miracles? YESSSSSSS!!!" Game 7. And the Rockets are penciling that finish in, let there be no mistake.
If I were the Lakers, I would be more than a little nervous right now. It was not supposed to be like this. Houston was known to be hot going into the playoffs, yes, and scrappy, yes, but was also thought to be seriously undermanned.
At the moment, the Lakers are looking very much like the Western Conference version of this year's Boston Celtics — SUPPOSED to be dominant, but living on desperation energy and harrowing escapes. Sixty-five regular season wins doesn't mean much when you're up against a team in the playoffs that really wants it... The Lakers have assumed that the NBA Finals was their birthright this season. Incorrectly.
Well, the Rocket boosters would have to be really happy about all this, would they not? Let's see...
(More stuff after the jump...)
Click on the headlines to read the full stories...
Never Say Never: Rockets jump out to 17-1 advantage, keep lead for good
by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle
The Lakers had spent a couple days offering praise, genuine if a bit patronizing. They tousled the Rockets' hair, admired their spunk and came to town to expel them from the NBA playoffs on their presumed way to bigger and better things.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson even allowed a pregame chat about the Nuggets, waiting in the Western Conference finals.
The Rockets, however, refused again to get out of the way, whipping the Lakers early and pulling away late. They rebounded from their worst-ever playoff loss with perhaps their greatest win since the championship era, stunning the Lakers again with a 95-80 victory Thursday night, taking the series to a seventh game Sunday in Los Angeles.
"Maaaaan, you cannot count us out," Rockets center Chuck Hayes said. "We're surprising a lot of people. A lot of people had us written off. If you do that, you really haven't been watching basketball the past month. When people least expect it, somehow we get the job done." * * *
"The last two days, all I heard was we weren't going back to L.A.," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "I just can't give our guys enough credit. After the game the other night, I knew we were going to come out ... and play with intensity and lay it all out there.
"This team is a special team, special guys. I knew they were going to play hard. We were going to defend better. This team, the way they listened and the way they went about the game plan and the way they executed, they've grown. And they just keep growing. This team has so much heart. And they don't care what people think. When Yao went down, they haven't blinked an eye. We're just playing to see how far we can take it."
As with Sunday's triumph, the Rockets were led by Aaron Brooks, who made 8 of 13 shots to score 26, including eight when the Rockets pulled away late in the third and early in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant had 32, but made just 11 of 27 shots going against Shane Battier, who was ill and said never he felt strong with Chuck Hayes repeatedly stepping out to help on screens.
The Rockets hit the Lakers' early, roaring to a 21-3 start as the Lakers needed six minutes to hit their first basket.
When all but the last two points of that 18-point lead were gone, they rallied again, pushing the lead to nine heading to the fourth quarter and 11 with 4 ½ minutes left. * * *
This Is the Little Team That Could
by Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle
So they live to play another day. Once more, these Rockets were an exhibition of heart and grit and resolve.
Are those clichés? You bet they are. The Rockets ARE a cliché, so don't even think of trying to sell this screenplay. No one would buy such a sappy story.
They're too small and too young and too undermanned to do the things they've been doing. They did them again, though, resoundingly, amazingly in a 95-80 defeat of the Los Angeles Lakers in front of 18,510 at Toyota Center on Thursday night.
Now a series that seemed headed for an inevitable conclusion after the Lakers blew out the Rockets by 40 in Game 5 will be decided Sunday afternoon in a Game 7 in Los Angeles.
"Let's roll the dice and see what happens," Rockets forward Luis Scola said.
If you think the Rockets have already won because they've pushed the Lakers farther than anyone thought possible, because they've survived without Yao Ming and because they've exhibited so much determination and fearlessness, you don't understand this group.
"I've stopped trying to figure this team out," Rockets forward Shane Battier said. "I just think when we are down and out, this team comes together." * * *
Landry Epitomizes Team's Spirit
by Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle
Before Thursday's game against the Rockets, Phil Jackson took questions from the Los Angeles media about the Denver Nuggets.
Not many coaches would have done that. See, the Nuggets are the team his team figured it would be playing in the next round of the playoffs.
Somebody forgot to tell the Rockets.
In what will surely be described as stunning, amazing, astounding and the like, the Rockets kept their season alive with a rousing 95-80 romp over that supposed-to-be-playing-the-Nuggets squad otherwise known as the Lakers.
In a way, being stunned, amazed or astounded by anything these Rockets manage to pull off is like being surprised when the sun comes up.
Dare question them, dare blow them out, then count them out, and wait for their response.
It is always the same: more grit.
Following the lead of their never-say-die coach, who poked a certain media member in his scrawny little the chest after the game and said with a smile, "We're still here," these Rockets apparently aren't aware that their season is over.
They are fighting like they have a fighting chance.
"There are a lot of dogs in this locker room," Carl Landry said. "We're hungry. We slipped up the other day and let them beat us and it was an embarrassment but it wasn't going to happen tonight." * * *
Rockets Burn Lakers with Hot Start: Kobe and Co. started cold and trailed to the end
by Brian McTaggart, Houston Chronicle
The Lakers were back in a familiar situation, facing the same question for which they still had no answer. How could they let the Rockets get off to such a quick start and not respond?
For the second time in three games in the Western Conference semifinal series, the Lakers were buried in the first quarter and never recovered, losing Game 6 to the Rockets 95-80 on Thursday.
"We started out a little tentative, and they just hit us in the mouth," Lakers point guard Jordan Farmar said. "Once we were in the daze, they kept going."
The Rockets, buoyed by a raucous home crowd, stunned the Lakers by jumping out to a 17-1 lead and never trailed in the game. The Lakers got within two points midway through the third quarter, but they couldn't over the hump.
It was a familiar scenario for the Lakers. In a 99-87 Game 4 loss to the Rockets on Sunday at Toyota Center, they fell behind 22-7 and trailed by as many as 29 points.
"Nobody stepped up and got a score," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said following Thursday's game. "We had some open looks. Kobe (Bryant) had a couple of running shots, a couple of tough ones, and we had some other guys that had some open looks, but we really came at them, and they were able to convert.
"They were able to convert early, and we made some turnovers to give them easy run-outs again and set ourselves right back on our heels again, like the Sunday game. It was very similar."
The Lakers missed their first six shots from the field, with Bryant starting 0-of-4. Bryant finished with 32 points on 11-of-27 shooting. Pau Gasol added 14 points, but Trevor Ariza, Andrew Bynum and Derek Fisher combined to score nine points.
"From the looks of things, they did what they wanted to and we did nothing about it," Ariza said. "There were too many turnovers, too many mental mistakes and a lot of mistakes by myself. We just weren't focused." * * *
Scola Breaks Ice Early in Game 6: Forward helps Rockets jump out to early advantage by scoring 14 in first quarter
by Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle
Luis Scola made a spin move to his right that completely fooled Lamar Odom in the first quarter Thursday night.
Scola was just warming up.
By the time the first quarter ended, Scola had nearly outscored the Los Angeles Lakers by himself.
"He was in attack mode," Rockets guard Aaron Brooks said. "He set the tone."
Scola gave the Rockets an early jump-start and finished with a playoff career-high 24 points and had 12 rebounds as the Rockets beat the Lakers 95-80 in Game 6 at Toyota Center.
"Yao (Ming) is out and the re's a lot of shots to go around for everyone else," said Scola, who was 10-of-17 from the floor. "Someone will have to shoot them. Sometimes it's me. Sometimes it's Shane (Battier). Sometimes it's Aaron. Sometimes it's somebody else. Today, it happened to be me." * * *
Game 6 Recap: The Return of Luis Landry
by Tom Martin, The Dream Shake
Anyone else think the Rockets can't win without Yao Ming? How much longer can we talk about "stunning wins" before we all stop and realize that this scrappy bunch is one helluva basketball team? If you're still in doubt, that is, if you still believe that every Rockets win is merely an outlier, then turn on your TV and actually watch them play. Tonight would have been a good place to start, as the Rockets, led by their shallow frontcourt, defeated the Lakers 95-80 to force a seventh game in Los Angeles.
We like our power forwards in Houston. They're so popular that we've combined them into a single entity. Problem is, Luis Scola and Carl Landry haven't done a whole lot together since the postseason began. Before tonight, they were polar opposites. If Scola played well, Landry didn't show up, and vice-versa. It was time that the two finally put together a complete game.
Consider Game 6 the official return of your beloved Luis Landry. I'm know I'm excited.
Too much focus was placed upon Ron Artest's game five performance, when it should have been placed upon our horrible post play. Rick Adelman made it clear to his team that we were going to score in the paint as often as possible. That meant running the offense through a single post player. With Yao Ming stuck on the bench, Scola stepped up and became our go-to player once the game began. Every time down the court, the ball went to Luis Scola. Not Ron Artest, not Shane Battier -- Luis Scola. Not only did the Argentinian Slayer deliver; he nearly had a double-double by the second quarter.
Scola used everything in his arsenal. He Dream Shook Lamar Odom. He plowed through contact from Gasol to make a layup en route to a three point play. He hit open jumpshots from the elbow, as well as from the baseline. He even made a few nice passes, namely a short dish to Chuck Hayes for two. * * *
However, Scola eventualy cooled down and was forgotten on offense. As the third quarter began, the Rockets became...(gulp)...stagnant! We hadn't looked this inept of movement since JVG and T-Mac were running the show. We were dribbling way too much, and it became clear that we were just throwing up prayers instead of running an offense. The Lakers took the opportunity to make a big run, and cut our sixteen point lead down to three. We needed a sparkplug, a wake-up call. Anything to start us up again.
Enter Carl Landry.
Immediately after coming into the game, Landry got the ball in the post and attacked the basket. He jumped through two defenders, brought the ball down to his waist in mid-air, and then brought it back up again to complete a reverse layup despite being fouled. The crowd, which included myself on this occasion, went nuts. Landry hit the ensuing free throw, and soon after, our offense, ignited by the crowd, found its rhythm again. We pushed our lead back up to eight by the time the fourth quarter began. From there, Rick Adelman decided that Landry was the best option, and he stuck with him for the remainder of the game. Good call, Rick.
Carl hit a jump shot to bring the lead to nine points. However, about three minutes later, Pau Gasol hit his third shot in a row, and the crowd became uneasy. Was this the time the Lakers would come back? Was Pau Gasol going to take the game over? We got our answer right away. As an added bonus, it was in the form of a posterizing Landry dunk that nearly blew the roof off the Toyota Center.
From there, the Rockets continued to build their lead on a string of tough Aaron Brooks jumpers. Then our defense went on lockdown and put an end to L.A.'s comeback attempt. Punch the plane tickets; we're going back to California. * * *
Reliving initial predictions, Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers: I'm just saying...
by U of T Orange, The Dream Shake
Here was what I told Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don't Lie before the series started:
Prediction: Rockets win Game 1, Lakers win games 2 and 3, Rockets win Game 4, Lakers win Game 5, Rockets win Game 6 and then anything can happen. Will the rich price out the true diehard in the upper deck at Staples for Game 7, negating home court advantage a bit? I don't know, but I do know this series is going seven games. * * *
I don't know what happens in Game 7. Frankly, I don't much care. I don't believe in "moral victories" really, but it really is a huge step that the Rockets got this far.
Don't stop believing though, the Rockets can beat the Lakers in Game 7. LA is snakebit right now, they can't believe what just happened. You could see Kobe at the end of the game, he knows that anything can happen in winner take all game. His teammates openly quit in the fourth quarter on him, and the Rockets defense made him work 10X harder to get a good look. He's Kobe, so of course he hit a lot of them. But the Rockets weathered the 3rd quarter storm and took the game in epic fashion.
posted by "CheeseNacho" to The Dream Shake
* * *
I'm proud. Truly proud. My Rockets have re-discovered their Clutch City roots. Tonight I began having flashbacks of coming back from being down 3-1 to Chuckster and the Suns. I flashed on Mario Elie's kiss of death in Utah. To put the finishing touches on my stroll down memory lane, I revisited Ralph Sampson's catch and shoot miracle against the Lakers in '86. These warm fuzzies remind of times when we weren't supposed to succeed, and yet.......
This is why we actually play the games.
From this point on, I will not be bothered if we lose. Make no mistake, I'm dying to win. I can just TASTE the sweetness of flying under the radar and yanking the carpet out from under the Lakers. And it's now winner take all, one game, sudden death. But if we fall I am content that we have gotten a lot of respectful attention that we didn't have before.
The odds are against us yet again. We will face a hostile crowd. We will face an angry team that is now officially humiliated at having to go 7 games with a team that is minus 2 of their top players. We will face a refereeing corps that will be reluctant to make calls in the visiting team's favor(and twice as reluctant when it comes to Artest) unless they are blatant offenses(please God, hear my cries, no Bennett Salvatore or Joey Crawford either). Never mind the notion that both the NBA and the TV network want to see Kobe vs. LeBron. They always deny it as a factor that influences anything, even though we all know that it has to and therefore does.
So even though the deck is still stacked against us, history gives us hope. I am proud of them no matter what happens this weekend.
"We have no chance, but that's the way we like it."
by Brody, Rockets Buzz
No, I didn't say that. Aaron Brooks did.
He must've been kidding, but if you think about it, the Rockets really aren't about joking around. The entire franchise is built on statistics-facts-and little discrepancies like the Rockets pulling off the unthinkable in Game 6 just doesn't make any sense.
Of course the announcers were just as surprised as Brooks that Kobe Bryant and the other not-quite-as important Lakers were struggling again. The Rockets aren't supposed to be here. Just yesterday Mike Bresnahan published an article in the LA Times listing five things he could've been doing had the Lakers closed out the series in 5 games as was the plan.
Right now I'm sure writers everywhere are scrambling to come up with a story. Andrew Bynum struggled; there's one. Lamar Odom is inconsistent; there's another. Kobe can't win without Shaq; that's my favorite but nobody's picked up on it yet, and probably won't until the finals. Or we could spend more time discussing that 40-point blowout and how the Lakers were probably still blinded by the afterglow emanating from such an astounding victory. * * *
At what point does the unimaginable become the accepted?
How many games do they have to win before the story switches from the stumbling and bumbling Lakers to the hardnosed, persistent, and always graceless Rockets? * * *
No Layups Game 6 Recap: Take That, Pow!
by 1560-AM The Game, Houston
by Clutch, front page of ClutchFans.com
Home Depot doesn't sell ballbearings this big.
Luis Scola and Aaron Brooks combined for 50 points and the Chuck Hayes-anchored defense held the Lakers to 35.7% shooting as Houston forced a Game 7 with a 95-80 win Thursday night.
Carl Landry was huge, hitting all 6 shots he took -- including a poster jam over Lamar Odom.
Shane Battier was outstanding against Kobe Bryant, holding him to 11-27 shooting from the field.
Rockets are still huge underdogs, but they have a chance to pull off one of the great upsets in NBA history on Sunday.
Pure Will and Heart and Intensity
posted by "JunkyardDwg" to ClutchFans.com
I cannot believe, after everything we've seen this series and last, the pure will and heart and intensity this team brings; the unflinching desire to never give up in the face of adversity, that someone still refuses to acknowledge that this team is for real.
This team wouldn't have it any other way though, so bring on Game 7 and continue to shut up the nonbelievers.
posted by "Solid" to ClutchFans.com
Besides being incredibly proud of our team, I have come to another conclusion: the Lakers do not have the heart of a champion. They may be long, big, talented, and pretty, but they don't have the grit, the toughness, the determination to be champions.
So, I think the Rockets should just go ahead and beat them. The West needs to represented by a team with heart.
by Septimus Rex, Fourth and Fifty.com
* * *
Tonight's game was definitely satisfying.
The Rockets came out of the gates like gangbusters. A seventeen to one run? Yes, thank you very much. I'll have some more of that. At that point in the game Reginald Blackstone was calling for a complete and utter shutdown of the Lakers. "I bet they hold them to one point for the entire game." Homer...
Things got a little sketchy there in the third quarter with the Lakers surging, cutting the deficit to three points. I thought that my fantasies of game seven were completely inappropriate. I did naughty things to that game seven. I did. I can admit that. I'm not pure of heart.
Thankfully the Rockets managed to quell the attack of the defending Western Conference champs and finish out the game. Coffee is for closers (Ed. Note - Yes, it's the return of the mega-long Glengarry Glen Ross clip). Rockets, you have made Houston proud and deserve your caffiene high this morning.
So, everyone, ride this high for the next couple days. The rubber game of the series is on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 in the pm. Live it up until then.
Though we're all still waiting on the "fuck you" game by Kobe that both me and THE Random Guy have predicted, I do have one point to make: We still haven't seen the "fuck you" game by Ron-Ron. Could it be that both superstars, Artest and Bryant, will explode in the final game? Only time will tell. * * *
The Bottom Line:
1. Get this straight if you remember nothing else, Laker fans: The Lakers didn't lose Game 6, the Houston Rockets beat their asses. Again.
2. When the Rockets win the first quarter, they win the game. Period.
3. Rockets are underdogs in Game 7. But do we believe in miracles? YESSSSSSSS!!!