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Game 1 Recap — The View from Houston...

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So I was dreaming about basketball in the early morning hours today as a big storm blew through Oregon. I don't usually dream about basketball, fortunately, but today I did. In the first scene, Portland Trailblazers GM Kevin Pritchard (Hallowed be His Name) had just announced that he had obtained Small Forward Caron Butler from the Washington Wizards without trading either Travis Outlaw or Martell Webster. Nic Batum was not mentioned. It was confusing — Portland needs another SF like Michael Jackson needs more rhinoplasty... Was KP gonna shop Travis now? Did he screw up bad and trade Nic in the Butler deal?

Scene 2 was about the NBA Playoffs. This year's NBA Playoffs. The Houston Rockets had just defeated the Dallas Mavericks to advance to the NBA Finals against..... Some Team Not Named in Dream. (That'd have to be Cleveland, would it not?) Bingo-Bango-Bongo, Houston had beaten my two favorite teams and the third team I've rooted for on slow nights this season. Here's the weird thing: I wasn't mad and I was pulling for them in the Finals.

Fortunately, I don't believe in predestiny. I don't believe that The Basketball Gods whisper to me in my sleep. All I know is what I read in the newspapers and what I see with my eyes. Here's what the Houston Folk are reading and writing about this morning in the aftermath of the Rockets' convincing 100-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

(more after the jump...)

Click the headlines to jump to the full stories...

(1)

It's a Blockbuster: Yao shakes off fourth-quarter collision to continue late surge

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

LOS ANGELES. - For a few agonizing, heart-stopping moments, Yao Ming rocked back and forth on the floor, grimacing and holding his right knee.

The Rockets had taken the usual Lakers fourth-quarter hit and hit back harder. But then Yao crumbled to the floor, felled when Kobe Bryant's left knee crashed into Yao's right. All that the Rockets had built seemed to be crashing with him.

Yao, however, had been knocked down, but not out. He grew stronger, more unstoppable and so did the Rockets, until they surged through the final six minutes to stun the Lakers with a 100-92 win Monday at Staples Center in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals.

"I felt it would be gone quick," Yao said. "It was fine, nothing to worry about. When I get a hit, I knew I could come back. I just felt so sore at the moment. I had that before. I felt I just needed a minute, maybe two minutes so the soreness could go away and I could come back to play..." * * *

Bryant, who had missed Saturday's practice and was called a game-time decision with a sore throat, scored 32 points. But he needed 31 shots and a seven-point run in the final minutes after the Rockets had taken their 11-point lead to do it. The Rockets' defense kept the Lakers to 44.3 percent shooting, including just 2-of-18 shooting from the 3-point arc. * * *

 

(2)

The Late Show: Rockets take over, win Game 1 and maybe more

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

The Rockets knew it was coming, and now perhaps are glad that it did.

They would have enjoyed it had they won easily, taking that nine-point lead they had early in the second half and opening up a safe cushion. It would not, however, been anywhere near as valuable a victory as the one they grabbed Monday to stun the Lakers and take a 1-0 series lead.

The Rockets needed to win this way. They needed to have the Lakers make that fourth-quarter run everyone knew was coming. They needed to feel the heat of pressure mounting, with a Staples Center crowd (unusually sedate, even by Staples Center standards) growing loud and the Lakers rising to take over down the stretch again.

The Rockets needed to take on that challenge and chase those demons.

That nine-point lead slipped away and with eight minutes left, the Rockets trailed by one. The Rockets had spent days talking about all those fourth-quarter collapses against the Lakers this season. Had they suffered another, they would have trailed the series and had that hanging over them like the sword of Damocles. It would have seemed to be just a matter of time before the Lakers sliced them to pieces in a few more dominant fourth quarters.

Instead, the Rockets rolled down the stretch. * * *

 

(3)

Playoff Recap: Yao returns to lead Rockets to 100-92 victory over Lakers in Game 1

by Tom Martin, The Dream Shake

Tonight was all about getting banged up. Yao Ming hurt his knee, Shane Battier cut his eye, and I nearly suffered a heart attack while watching The Great Wall come crashing to the ground. And then after all of that, I probably strained my arm after some intense, European-techno-rave fist pumping following each and every made free throw of ours. But no matter; it was all worth it for the win, a win that we absolutely had to have. And not because it was pivotal that we take a game in Los Angeles, but because the Lakers weren't on their game at all. Luckily, we took advant age of that. * * *

The first three quarters we nt as planned. The Rockets played hard, had a lead, and Kobe had yet to really bring down the house. It was the same song that had been sung in the four regular season match ups between Houston and L.A. But in each of those contests, the Lakers had blown the Rockets out of the water in the fourth behind a thunderous wave of scoring from Bryant. Nobody expected tonight to be any different.

We all waited for it. Our fate was certain. Kobe was bound to erupt at any moment and take over. He was going to dribble up the court and find Pau Gasol. Then he was going to rise up behind the Spaniard and knock down a three like it was practice. And then, as usual, he was going to jog back down the court with that casual slouch in his shoulders, like it was all a joke. Rockets fans had seen it too often. So we waited. And waited. But then something strange happened. * * *

 

(4)

Great, We Shocked Them

Message board post by "Jeff Who," Clutch Fans BB

Great, we SHOCKED them.

1. We played good defense, to keep LA in low 90s — it is amazing.

2. Great defense on Kobe. We really made him work.

3. Yao really stepped up, I am proud.

4. Brooks is just toying with Derek, too quick.

5. Ron took and actually made some WILD shots but he played within the offense. I like that.

 

(5)

The Best Part of This Game

Message board post by "Tslee98," Clutch Fans BB

The best part of this game is that it exposed the Fakers' role players as mediocre. I couldn't stand all the talk about how deep that team is. I think our talent stacks up well against them and performs better in a tough situation. The Fakers rely on Kobe to be their safety net, and when he's contained by Shane and Ron, the other guys crumble. Phil Jackson said he couldn't imagine how they could've played any worse than they did. What an insult to our defense and what a load of crock in terms of his own assessment of his team. * * *

 

(6)

Battier's Eye: Where Amazing Happens video

 

**ADDENDA**

(7)

Where there's a will, there's a way

by Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle

LOS ANGELES. - No one gave them a chance. Go ahead and admit you didn't give them one, either.

Only thing is, they believed. They believed and didn't care if anyone else on earth believed. The Rockets believed they could steal a game here and then take care of business at Toyota Center.

That's exactly what they did, winning a game with poise and defense and all the things they've ridden these last two months.

The Rockets have grown and grown this season, and on Monday night, they grew some more in defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 100-92 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven second-round series at Staples Center.

I'd like to tell you there was a wild locker-room celebration complete with tearful hugs and champagne showers afterwards.

There wasn't. The Rockets accepted Game 1 as a nice moment, but not a shocking one.

"Our first thought was that it's time to get ready for Game 2," Shane Battier said.

The Rockets believe in themselves. I'm not sure when they started to believe. It probably was sometime after the trading deadline when the roster finally was stabilized. * * *

 

(8)

Rockets > Lakers - 5 reasons why this was true in Game 1

by Brody, Rockets Buzz

5. Ron Artest was worth every penny.

For me, Artest defines the Rockets. He plays hungry, he plays with passion, and is absolutely fearless. * * *

4. The Rockets bench was better.

It was and there shouldn't be any argument otherwise. The Lakers second unit didn't provide any spark, at least not like the Rockets. * * *

3. Aaron Brooks > Derek Fisher.

The Lakers were incapable of stopping Aaron Brooks. He's seeing the floor and penetrating to the basket almost at will, and that won't stop. His quickness is the Rockets greatest weapon along the perimeter and so long as he remains confident their offense will click. * * *

2. The Lakers played like the Blazers.

They the lacked the toughness needed to win a game when your shots aren't falling. Each time they got the lead, including twice in the second quarter, the Rockets responded with runs. Kobe can whine, but last night that only meant his teammates took a step back and shied away from the spotlight, delegating all responsibility to their superstar... * * *

1. Yao Ming was the best player on the floor.

He stole the show. He battled through injury and returned to not just dominate the post, but the entire flow of the game. * * *

 

(9)

Mortal Kombat!

by The Random Guy, Fourth-and-Fifty.com

 

* * *
El Recap (that's Spanish for recap):
Shane Battier is a Fighter of Ultimate-ness. He'd beat Sasha's ass in the octagon any day of the week. Probably not in a street fight, because Sasha's euro-trash possee would jump in and shank Battier in the back with their broken Zima bottles and then drive away on their mopeds.

Yao woke up from his 15-8 slumber and had a gigantic game. Get it? Gigantic? Zing! 28, 10, 2, and 1 (knee). * * *

Kyle Lowry is very fast. I put that in italics because it looks faster written that way. The Rox have the fastest PG tandem in the league, methinks.

You have to love plus/minuses. Scola +12. Brooks +11. Artest + 19?!? * * *

I'm not sure if there is a bigger hit-or-miss player in the league than Ron Artest. I know he was NBA Jam On Fire (tm) last night, but we should all be very worried about him jacking up 43 shots in game 2. * * *

 

In conclusion:

1. We TOLD you we're not afraid of you, Lakers... We mean it.

2. Our defense is the key. Let's see you put that in a slump.

3. Yao Ming + Aaron Brooks + Ron Artest + defense > Kobe + roleplayers.