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Game 7 Preview — The View from Houston...

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So it has come to this: one 48 minute basketball contest for the whole sack of marbles. They're playing for keepsies — one game, single elimination.

A Rocket victory and history is made — one of the greatest upsets in NBA Playoff history, with the McGrady-less and Center-less Houston Rockets putting the 65-win Los Angeles Lakers on the golf course...

A Laker victory and it is another trip to the Western Conference Finals, where they will face the Denver Nuggets best of 7 for the right to play for some shiny rings...

When last we visited LA, it was a very satisfying performance for the adherents of Lakerland. Game 5 was a 40 point massacre of the Rockets that had the visitors pondering their ability to dribble a basketball and chew gum at the same time. The Lakers have to feel very comfortable about their chances in this return to the friendly confines of Staples Center.

Then again, "very comfortable" is not the best emotional sensation for this particular group, as even the most casual observer of Team Purple in the 2008-09 post-season should agree...

The Rockets have been playing for this rubber game the entire series. They had no delusions of the 4 game knockout or the 5 game thumping. String it out, string it out, string it out, and pull the upset — that has been their plan. They ambushed the Lakers in Game 1 at Staples and now they will need to repeat the feat when it matters the most. Will they pull off the miracle series win? We shall see.

Do the Rocket boosters think their big little men have a chance? Let's find out...

(More stuff after the jump...)

Click the headlines to read the complete stories...

(1)

Rockets win, and there's something weird going on here

by Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle

The Rockets can't win this thing, right? I know they can't. At least that's what my brain tells me. As for my heart, it's so completely in the tank for these guys that I just don't know anymore.

It's starting to feel awfully strange around here, like the Astros of 2005. Things sometimes happen in sports that can't be explained. Maybe that's what's going on here.

If I'm the Los Angeles Lakers, I'm wondering if I'm caught up in something magical. There have so many weird twists and turns in this series, so who is to say there won't be one more? * * *

 

(2)

Do the Math: Jackson has edge: Adelman trails Lakers coach in playoff series

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

For the first time since the celebrated 2002 Western Conference finals, Rockets coach Rick Adelman and the Lakers' Phil Jackson will be in a Game 7.

The Lakers won that series, taking the seventh game in overtime on the way to a third consecutive title. It was Adelman's fourth series against Jackson, with Jackson winning all four.

"I don't compare myself to anybody else," Adelman said. "He's obviously a great coach. He's won a lot of championships. This is a totally different team, a different situation. I hope fate is looking down on us this time. They've had enough." * * *

"Phil Jackson's had great teams," Adelman said. "Guys with great records in the playoff have great teams. It's not to discredit anything he's done. I've played twice against him I thought we had a legitimate chance to win." * * *

 

(3)

Rebound for Life: Less than two months after being shot, Landry has become a Rockets symbol for overcoming adversity

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

A few blocks removed from the moment that nearly took everything from him, Carl Landry was flying. He was soaring and scoring and as always, he was smiling that broad, toothpaste commercial smile.

Landry nailed tough jumpers and bent Toyota Center rims. He drove the Rockets through their final run past the Lakers in Thursday's Game 6 triumph and to Sunday's Game 7 in Los Angeles.

Never in the glow of success that followed did he think of how it all could have been lost when he was shot in his left leg after unknown assailants rammed his SUV near downtown in the early hours of March 17. It was an inexplicable and terrifying night when he went from being a young and gifted Rockets power forward in the second year of a promising NBA career to the victim of a senseless crime lucky to be alive.

"I would say I'm blessed," Landry said. "God's arms of protection were around me. I could be in a different situation. It could be worse. It's just life."

Less than two months later, he is never better. He had 16 points and nine rebounds on Thursday, becoming a symbol of the Rockets' ability to overcome adversities as varied as tough losses or a gunshot wound.

"I look at it like, I was shot in the leg, but I was only out six games," Landry said. "Some guys have really been through adversity, like Yao (Ming), who hasn't played a full season. Dikembe (Mutombo), in his last season, is missing one of the greatest runs of his life. I look at it that they're missing 10, 20, Tracy (McGrady's) missing 50 games. I only missed six.

"I know people look at it as, ‘Oh, he got shot.' I look at it as it could have happened to everybody and it could have been worse." * * *

 

(4)

Gaining On-site Training: Aaron Brooks learns how to win as an NBA point guard during the pressure-packed playoffs

by Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle

Not long ago — Feb. 18 to be exact — Rockets guard Aaron Brooks had everything he could possibly want.

He was 24, in his second year in the NBA and on a comfortable pace to grow and develop behind veteran starting point guard Rafer Alston in the Rockets organization.

The next day, the Rockets sent Alston to the Orlando Magic at the trade deadline. Ready or not, Brooks was anointed the starting point guard.

"I was content with my role," Brooks said Friday as the Rockets prepared for the decisive Game 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday. "I was happy being a spark plug off the bench. You have a good game or a bad one and (Rafer) would come in and clean it up. There's less pressure on you.

"I was just going out and having fun."

Three months later, Brooks has emerged as a savior for the injury-ravaged Rockets. Without stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Brooks is averaging 14.8 points in the playoffs and has become known as much for scoring and creating matchup problems as his wardrobe.

Yes, he is averaging 26.3 points and shooting 57.4 percent in three victories against the Lakers. * * *

At the time of the Alston deal, Rockets coach Rick Adelman told Brooks, "you're going to be the guy we're leaning on."

How did the 6-0 Brooks respond?

He averaged 11.2 points and three assists during the regular season. Since the trade, the Rockets are 27-13.

"He has certainly stepped up," Adelman said. "He's everything we hoped he'd be." * * *

 

(5)

A Rockets Game 7 Pep Talk from....... Yoda.

by GrungeDave, The Dream Shake

The Rockets feature a 6'5" starting center in Chuck Hayes. The tallest remaining player on the team is Luis Scola, who is probably 6'9" but is not exactly a high jumper.

Furthermore, the Rockets apparently lack NBA-level athleticism; the only true athlete on the team being Von Wafer, who has been banished to the bench by Coach Sleepy. Carl Landry is another good athlete, but he got shot in the leg and is not exactly 100%. Meanwhile our best offensive player is a midget and the team leader is a "no stats" all-star of sorts.

When things get tough, the team takes its cues from a guy most famous for having a cup of beer poured on him in the middle of a game. And the coach can usually be found napping on the sidelines...

In contrast, the Los Angeles Lakers have the best player in basketball in Kobe Bryant. They have another All-Star in Pau Gasol. They have a coach that has won 9 championship rings and once actually spoke to *the* Michael Jordan. (And Jordan spoke back!) The Lakers also feature a trio of tall front court players in Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum.

The Lakers are God's gift to basketball. Or so I am told. They are all athletic and young and theoretically better overall players than anyone according to ESPN some media outlets...

Which is why few people, if any, are giving the Houston Rockets a chance to win Game 7 in Los Angeles this Sunday.  * * *

 

(6)

Ten Reasons the Rockets will Win Game 7

by GrungeDave, The Dream Shake (lifted in full with apologies and thanks)

Yes, more lists. Now that the Rockets have forced a Game 7 in L.A., there is only one more opportunity to poke fun at the Lakers. Because Kobe's season ends tomorrow. Which will coincide nicely with the premiere of Kobe Doin' Work.

Ten Reasons the Rockets Win Game 7 on Sunday

10. Even Hollywood would have to admit that the Rockets winning would make for a better story than the Lakers winning.

9. Unbeknownst to the Lakers... or even to Keith Jones... the undersized Rockets have switched to a steady diet of Weight Gain 4000. Luis Scola is going to be such a beefcake he won't fit in the Staples Center. BEEFCAKE!! ... just try to stop him now, Mr. Gasol!

8. Now that the Lakers have struck down Yao Ming, they've only made him more powerful than anyone could possibly imagine. The Force is strong with the Rockets.

7. Because Violet Palmer will probably be assigned as one of the referees... and one of her calls will backfire in the Rockets' favor. Law of averages or something.

6. Tracy McGrady will not be in the building to bring his bad mojo to the team.

5. Kobe Bryant is too much like Maverick. And we all know that Maverick was a badass before he went psycho on Oprah... but he also finished 2nd to Iceman. On Sunday, Shane Battier will be playing the role of Iceman. He isn't flashy. But he just doesn't make mistakes.

4. Rick Adelman is due. He has never beaten Phil Jackson in a playoff series. Like... ever. Memorably in the 1992 NBA Finals. Again ten years later in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. (Though Robert Horry had a lot to do with that. Horry being the greatest winner of the modern era playing a huge role there.)

3. Because Chuck Hayes making two free throws to clinch the series would be the most awesome and hilarious thing... EVAR.

2. Scola's hair > Vujacic's hair.

1. Because Sunday will be God's way of letting David Stern know who is really in charge of things. And it ain't David Stern.

GO ROCKETS!!!

 

(7)

And the Cheapie goes to....Kobe Bryant

by Anup, Rockets Buzz

Before we start, you have to love this: the NBA has rescinded Kobe's technical foul against Artest in Game 6. They figure that since he already had four technicals, that if he got three more between now and the pre-planned Kobe-LeBron Finals, that the league could lose money.

I say it once again. Different rules for Kobe and LeBron. (Though I feel bad for mentioning LeBron in the same statement as Kobe when discussing sportsmanship.) * * *

[full article includes videos of purported Kobe transgressions]

 

*  *  ADDENDA  *  *

(8)

Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers - Game 7 - NBA Playoffs - Conference Semifinals

by U of T Orange, The Dream Shake

We've gone over the match-ups for 6 games. Now, let's go over what the Rockets need to do to put themselves in a position to win. I'm not saying every one of these things has to happen, but 3 out of 5 will keep the game close.

Point Guard
Brooks/Lowry vs. Fisher/Brown/Farmar - To win this match-up Lowry and Brooks need to bring their magic to the road. Brooks has to drive the lane and look for the open man, but not be afraid to finish. You could say the exact same thing for Kyle Lowry, run, drive, score or pass. One things for sure, this HAS to be one of the 3 spots the Rockets win. A loss of an edge here will just about guarantee a blowout. * * *
Edge: Rockets

Shooting Guard
Battier/Wafer/Artest vs. Bryant/Vujacic - Battier has held Kobe for 3 of the 6 games, and it has been the biggest key to Rockets victories. That's not to say Kobe didn't score or shoot well, it's just that he worked about 30% harder to do so and it was at the expense of his teammates to some extent. Will Kobe's teammates show up? Hopefully not, but even if they don't, making Kobe into a one man scoring show can help the Rockets win, as long as he has to work extra hard and long for those shots. * * *
Edge: Lakers

Small Forward
Artest/Battier vs. Ariza/Odom - Artest on Odom has been a defensive masterpiece, it needs to continue in Game 7. If Lamar Odom goes for more than 16 the Rockets could find themselves on the wrong end of the war. * * * Ron needs to take care of the ball as well. No lazy passes, not even one and no crazy jumpers. * * *
Edge: Rockets

Power Forward
Scola/Landry/Cook vs. Gasol/Odom/Powell - Luis Landry had a night in Game 6, but Game 7 needs to be the game of their lives. It's time to show the league that you can be a star Mr. Scola. Come out with the passion and fire that makes you who you are. Rebounding out of this group is absolutely key. A line that I expect from the duo is somewhere in the neighborhood of 28 and 22, if it's close to that, the Rockets will have a shot. * * *
Edge: Lakers

Center
Hayes/Scola vs. Bynum/Gasol/Mbegna - This one is easy: Stay out of foul trouble Chuck, it's just that simple. Do what you always do, but stay away from the ticky tack calls.
Edge: Lakers

Prediction: I'm going full homer, Rockets Win, Beat LA

 

(9)

A Few Words from a Phoenix Fan

posted by "Fritzy" to The Dream Shake

* * *
Let me tell you a story. You see, last season the Suns drew the Spurs in round 1 and in spite of alot of troubles, we were confident we matched up well and were poised to defeat our foes at long last. And when game 1 rolled around, we executed well, leading throughout most of the game. We had all but won when a couple mistakes in the final seconds got the game closer than it ever should have been. And it finally came down to one stop, which would win the game for us, or send it into overtime for them.

Well, we didn't get the stop, and it came from a tim duncan 3, of all places. With that one shot, the Spurs eventually won the series, and tore apart the Suns from top to bottom. In that offseason, our coach departed, unable to forget that horrible shot, and the foul he should have used. Players got dumped and traded, and our whole philosophy was overturned.

The reason I bring this up is that now, the Rockets have the opportunity to do the same thing to the Lakers. A game 7 win would send the Lakers organization into a tailspin, and as in the resulting panic the team would be torn apart. Free agents will leave, Phil may decide to retire in shame, Kobe may even leave for greener pastures. The power of the hated Laker organization may be broken forever.

So you see, there's alot more than just one series at stake here...We stand on the precipice of never having to see all those damned Kobe ads again... Sasha's punch worthy face will never again soil our screens. In short..freedom.

God speed Rockets fans, the entire Western Conference is counting on you.

 

(10)

The Odds Are We Will Lose

posted by "Sweet Lou 4 2" to ClutchFans.com

Hey guys, tomorrow the odds are we will lose, our season will be over, and the magical run will be over.

I just want to say, if that happens, I will be disappointed, but not upset. I will be sad, but still proud. And of course, I can say this has been a lot of fun...not just the run, but all the discussions and stuff, and being able to connect with fellow Rocket fans about all the excitement. It's been more than even the 22 game winning streak.

I hope everyone who can joins in the chat room tomorrow. And don't get pissed of, let's just chill as rockets fans online.

GO Rockets!

 

(11)

If We Win We Will Win the West!

posted by "W22 Streak" to ClutchFans.com

IF WE WIN THIS...I KNOW WE ARE GOING TO WIN THE WEST!!!

This will be a test of determination, courage, grace, and the heart of a champion.

Whether we win or not is actually not what this game will be remembered for. It is how hard and passionately this Rockets team fought, how classily we handled our opponents, how brave the team was to put everything into the game that we all love.

This had already been an epic series, our players have shown they are a class above the rest. No Yao, No T-Mac, Ron jacking up shots at a 30 percent shooting clip, 6'6 center with no offensive skills at all, a second year starting PG who before this series was looked as hopeless and immature. We've come through all this to be at 3-3 against a talent-loaded Lakers team that had been pencilled in all the way from the beginning of the year in the Finals.

Whatever the result, let's enjoy this amazing series.

 

(12)

Lakers Get Diarrhea

by The Random Guy, Fourth and Fifty.com

I'm putting the diarrhea hex on the Lakers for game 7.

We've all gotten some incredible spam emails, everything from buying a new home with no money (not no money down - no money at all) to enlarging your penis and/or breasts (not mutually exclusive) to the African prince who wants to give you 25% of his fortune.

I got one yesterday that said "Answer or Get Diarreah". Spelled just like that. It was so fucking awesome I almost clicked on it, just to thank them for making an awesome spam. But then I remembered that they'd crash my computer and steal my identity and the $5 I have in savings. I still gave it some thought, tho.

So in the spirit of the spam, here is the Lakers peoples I wish the diarrheas on (and yes, this is the "Pussy Ass Bitches 2.0" list). I even spelled it spam's way to honor Mr. Spam. If you don't like this post, you obviously don't get modern art and/or a warlock's hex.

 

*  *  BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! ! !  *  *

(13)

Lakers See Fast Start as a Must: Los Angeles historically good in home Game 7s

by Brian McTaggart, Houston Chronicle

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - Kobe Bryant doesn't care if the Rockets team that takes the floor today at Staples Center is the one that blew out the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 or the one that lost by 40 points in Game 5.

"We have to come out fighting, simple as that," Bryant said. "We can't sit back and guess what Rockets team is going to show up. We have to worry about what we're going to do."

The Lakers, of course, are trying to avoid a stunning upset to the undermanned Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals heading into an improbable winner-take-all Game 7.

Coming into the playoffs as the reigning conference champions and with 65 wins, the Lakers were peppered with questions following Saturday's practice about their state of mind.

Are they mad? Nervous? Determined? Do they feel the pressure?

"It's a good kind of pressure," forward Pau Gasol said. "It's the kind of pressure you want. Game 7, playing at home is something you deserved and earned throughout the regular season. It's pressure, but we're a good enough team to respond."

The Lakers are 13-8 all-time in Game 7s, including 12-1 at home. They have won eight consecutive Game 7 home games since losing to the Boston Celtics in the 1969 NBA Finals.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who is 4-3 all-time in Game 7s (2-1 with the Lakers, 2-2 with the Chicago Bulls), believes his team will be ready. Unlike his star player, he believes the series will be decided by the Rockets.

"I think it's more about which Houston team shows up," Jackson said. "I think they've been the provocateur and they've been the one that has been the team that goes out and makes a decided difference between games. Their activity level certainly wasn't greater than games four and six." * * *

 

(14)

Believe it or not, Rockets just a win away

by Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle

LOS ANGELES - We've buried miraculous, killed off amazing and gotten bored with stunning.

The Rockets never believed that stuff anyway, but they played along because it served their purpose. There's no more playing that card. Not in a Game 7. No more moral victories.

"We've shown we can win with the team we have," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said.

There's your bottom line. He has done a masterful job of keeping this team pointed in the right direction, in allowing players to flourish, in building on the fly and in shocking the world.

"I don't think we're going to get overwhelmed by Game 7," Adelman said. "If they beat us, they beat us. I would be very shocked if we got overwhelmed by it."

The Rockets don't have as much size or experience as the Lakers. The Rockets don't have a player as good as Kobe Bryant.

The Rockets don't have a lot of things, and they especially have little margin for error. If they miss shots and get careless with the ball, they can be run off the floor as they were in Game 5.

What they've also shown is that when they take care of business, they have enough speed, tenacity, smarts and confidence to win.

Mainly what they have is a team. As they've lost star players to injuries, other players have stepped forward and bonded and performed better than the outside world thought possible.

That's the part of this story that's easy to overlook. The Rockets think they're going to win. The Rockets believe. * * *

 

(15)

What, them worry?

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. - Luis Scola remembers that feeling. A veteran of so many championship games all over the world, he thought about the way it feels to play knowing there won't be another chance.

Shane Battier spoke of the Rockets' previous Game 7 and how it slipped away. Ron Artest talked about the atmosphere he expects to be awaiting the Rockets today in Staples Center.

The Rockets will face the Los Angeles Lakers today with a trip to the Western Conference finals at stake. But in another part of the massive Los Angeles Clippers training facility, there was the usual silliness and laughter.

Chuck Hayes, Kyle Lowry and James White entertained themselves with a no-look contest of H-O-R-S-E. And as the Rockets fielded questions about the importance of the game and the opportunity they had given themselves, in many ways nothing had changed.

"As far as the stakes, what's on the line, you have to have fun with it," Hayes said. "Take everything we learned all series, all season long and apply it to this one game because this is the only one that counts and we should be fine."

They will face that challenge against a team tested by a run to the NBA Finals last season and against a player, Kobe Bryant, built for such occasions. The Lakers expected games like these - if not necessarily against the Rockets in the second round; the Rockets forced a Game 7 despite the injuries to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady with an attitude the obstacles could not defeat.

But now they must mix their fearless, confident, sometimes goofy approach with the pressure of a Game 7.

"We're the same type of players, the same people," Artest said. "Game 7. Game 1. Nothing is going to change with this team. It's fun. The games never change. I learned that late." * * *

 

(16)

Once again... this time with emphasis! (David Stern assigns Joey Crawford to ref Game 7)

by GrungeDave, The Dream Shake (lifted in full with apologies and thanks)

David Stern really isn't even trying to be subtle anymore. Nope. Yeah, the one game where the Rockets/Lakers matchup almost ended up in a brawl... guess who the lead referee was? That's right -- Joey Crawford!

You would think that Stern would like to avoid the mere appearance of impropriety by assigning damn near anyone but Crawford to be at today's game. Take a big, BIG guess as to who has been assigned as the lead referee for Game 7 in Los Angeles. That's right -- Joey Crawford!

I hate you Joey Crawford. I know you have an agenda. I also know that your particular agenda (assignment?) for today is a polar opposite of my preferred outcome for Game 7. This does not make me a happy person this morning.

This is essentially a memo to Kobe Bryant that errant elbows will be allowed all throughout this afternoon's contest. At this point, the only thing that would shock me more is if Jake O'Donnell was brought out of retirement to screw the Rockets over again.

 

(17)

Game 7 Preview: For Rick

by Anup, Rockets Buzz

If there's one person Rockets fans should want this win for, I implore Rockets fans, let it be Rick Adelman. If we're going to talk about this year, then yes, Adelman should have gotten coach of the year. No coach in the NBA had to deal with as much adversity and change as Adelman did.

Think about the lineup he came into the season with:

 

  • PG - Rafer Alston
  • SG - Tracy McGrady
  • SF - Shane Battier
  • PF - Luis Scola
  • C - Yao Ming

 

Compare that to the starters for Game 7:

 

  • PG - Aaron Brooks
  • SG - Ron Artest
  • SF - Shane Battier
  • PF - Luis Scola
  • C - Chuck Hayes

Alston, McGrady, and Yao - the three leading scorers from the previous season - all gone. Yet somehow Adelman manages to take this team to a Game 7 against the Lakers.

The only thing Mike Brown has done all year is hug LeBron at the end of the game. The Coach of the Year Award shouldn't be about wins. It should be about who coaches a team past its potential. Writers should have realized that. * * *

The Lakers look like a team with no heart while the Rockets are facing borderline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. *  *  *

 

The Bottom Line:

1. The Lakers have the home court. The league (and its refs) wants the Lakers to win. The Lakers have the biggest and most athletic players. They have to be regarded as big favorites to win and advance.

2. What the Rockets have going for them is heart. And sometimes desire and intensity overcomes all obstacles.

3. Win or lose in Game 7, the Rockets have triumphed over the Lakers this season. You Laker fans know exactly what we mean.