The Four Winners, Four Losers in Rockets' Game 5 Win
If there is one thing we have learned through five games between Houston and Portland, it is that these are two very evenly matched teams. In five games, there have been three overtimes. Take away Wednesday night's win for the Rockets by 10 points and the remaining four games were decided by a total of 17 points.
Photo by Brian Austin Getting ready to head back to Portland.
There were surprises all over the floor on Wednesday, including James Harden being outscored by both Jeremy Lin (21) and Robin Lopez (18), as Harden's struggles shooting continue. But the defense for the Rockets saw marked improvement in game five, forcing yet another elimination game Friday in Portland. As always, you win some, you lose some, and here are some examples.
If anything can put a submission hold on the Donald Sterling debacle -- besides the lady boners Adam Silver gave middle-age women balding lawyer-loving ladies across the country with his no-BS speech and sanctions against the bigoted soon-to-be-former LA Clippers owner -- it's great basketball, and this first round of the NBA playoffs has provided it. With more overtime games than any previous first round and incredible competition across the league, maybe this can help squelch a scandal surround a racist idiot who also happens to be one of the worst owners in professional sports.
Jermey Lin Fans
For all the conspiracy theorists who think Coach Kevin McHale holds Lin back and the players shut him out (puh-lease!) for whatever reason you want -- racism, his documentary, he went to Harvard -- I would hope this would remind them that if Lin plays well, people will get behind him again. His fans are certainly diehard (some even claiming to be sports "journalists" for local commercial blogs) -- and it didn't hurt that Patrick Beverley could only play about 20 minutes with a 101-degree fever -- and as I tweeted Wednesday night, the good news is Lin played really well, but the bad news his fans will be even more insufferable than ever.
Well, well, it turns out that defense is not just something that fans mindlessly chant at games hoping someone, anyone on the floor will listen. Dwight Howard and Omer Asik have been outstanding most of the series, but on Wednesday even Harden, a sieve of a defender, managed to make some significant plays on the opposite end of the floor from normal. The rotations on the perimeter were outstanding and, for the first time in the series, LaMarcus Aldridge looked like just another power forward.
In the first four games, the Rockets were shooting under 25 percent with less than five minutes to play (and in overtime) and with the teams separated by five points or less. I'm not sure the numbers from Wednesday, but no doubt they were above that. Game after game, the Rockets have been unable to hold leads thanks mainly to porous defense, but it never helps when you can't make shots and on Wednesday, they made the shots they needed to win...never mind maintain the lead they got early.