Rockets-Thunder Game 5: 4 Winners, 4 Losers
The Rockets began this series with the Thunder by falling behind three games to none, with a deer-in-the-headlights Game 1 preceding two very winnable games in Games 2 and 3. No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, and to expect an 8 seed like the Rockets to become the first is virtually implausible.
But that doesn't mean we can't savor every minute that took place and continues to take place from the beginning of Game 4 this past Monday night through the final buzzer of whatever game ends this wild ride.
And yes, the ride was officially ratcheted up to "WILD" Wednesday night as the Rockets rode the hot hand of James Harden and Kevin Durant's placing himself on the side of a milk carton for the entire fourth quarter to an improbable 107-100 win in Game 5, sending the series back to Houston this Friday night for Game 6.
There were winners and losers last night. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
4. Omer Asik
Trailing 92-82 with 6:22 remaining in the game, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks decided to employ the old Hack-a-Shaq intentional foul tactic on Rockets center Omer Asik. Depending on who you talked to, it was either called Hack-Asik or Hack-a-Turk (Kevin McHale's name for it). Most Rocket fans just called it punk ass. At any rate, the Thunder continually sent Asik to the line because a) Asik is a notorious brick mason from the line and b) they couldn't stop the Rockets any other way. Asik answered by going 8 for 12 on six possessions, which is how you say "Shove it up your ass, Brooks" in fluent Hack-Asik.
(SIDE BAR #1: I'm not a big fan of Shaquille O'Neal, the studio analyst, but it was absolutely phenomenal that he finally had something he could sink his teeth into topically on Wednesday night. "Shaq, teams used to foul you because you sucked balls at free throw shooting. What's going through Omer Asik's mind here?")
(SIDE BAR #2: I was really hoping Kevin McHale would send Asik to the line to shoot the technical foul shot when Durant got teed up in the final minute of the game. Would've been the ultimate "fuck you" to Scott Brooks.)
3. James Harden
Up until Wednesday night, this series had been a nightmare for Harden. The return home to the city he in which he started his NBA career had yielded a four game shooting percentage of 36 percent from the field and 16 percent from three point range, making it the worst homecoming since Janice Soprano returned to Jersey in Season 2 of The Sopranos. Wednesday night was vintage efficient Harden: 10 of 16 from the field with an astounding 7 of 9 from distance, many of them timed perfectly at a time when it felt like Oklahoma City was about to make a run. This was the statement game everyone has been waiting for from Harden.
2. Francisco Garcia
The trade with Sacramento back at deadline time was ostensibly done to bring in Thomas Robinson and see if the number five pick in the 2012 draft could develop under the watchful eye of a Hall of Fame big man like Kevin McHale, and that may still happen. Garcia was a throw-in salary dump that the Rockets had to take to get Robinson. Now he's become one of their five most important players in the series, shooting 45 percent from distance and providing as decent an effort as you can on Kevin Durant at the defensive end, considering he's about five inches shorter.
1. Daryl Morey
Bill Simmons put it best:
James Harden outscored Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb 31-3.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 2, 2013
Kevin Martin/Kendrick Perkins combined '12-13 salaries: $20,740,206. Combined '12-13 salary of every Rocket that played tonight: $24,352,241— Sean Pendergast (@SeanCablinasian) May 2, 2013
Morey's pretty good at this G.M. thing, it turns out.