The Rockets continued their run of stunning almost everyone around the league Thursday night. After being smacked down by 40 points against the Lakers Tuesday night, they resurrected themselves in an elimination game (down 3-2 in their series), coming up with one of their most inspiring victories in years when everyone thought they would lay down and die.
Yao continues to join his teammates in pregame huddles to show his commitment toward his team. Click here for more photos of Yao at the game.
What else can be said about this Rockets team that hasn’t already been said in Houston?…well, almost everyone in Houston except for one particular Houston Chronicle columnist I referenced earlier today who thought the Rockets were dead on arrival, trying to bring down the whole town to his depressing level.
We all know the national media hasn’t given much to what the Rockets have been able to do this series against the Lakers. The chatter has been all about how the Lakers are making stupid mistakes and aren’t playing with energy or commitment, and how they should be “embarrassed” playing down or below Houston’s level.
As much as my brain or the oddsmakers told us they had no chance Thursday night (9-point underdogs), my heart told me they could show that amazing resiliency at least one more time.
Every game they win against the Lakers, it seems like it’s a different player, or players, who step up and surprise them. It could be Aaron Brooks, Shane Battier, or Chuck Hayes like in Game 4. However, I knew it was just a matter of time before the Rockets’ power forwards would make their impact late in this series.
Luis Scola and Carl Landry had almost become forgotten men. Scola had only averaged 11 points per game in this series before Thursday night, not scoring more than 12 points or hitting more than 5 field goals in any of those games.
Well, Scola knew it was time for him to step up in a do-or-die game, and he erupted by doubling his series averages, scoring 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including scoring 14 points in the first quarter on a variety of slick offensive moves and jumpers that made him a tough cover. Oh yeah, he also grabbed 12 boards, AND HE WAS DOING IT WITHOUT YAO MING IN THE LINEUP to give him more “open looks.” Scola scored in the heart of the Laker defense over Pau Gasol.
Luis Scola is pumped after an impressive bucket he scored in the low post. Click here for more action photos from the game.
This type of performance is the reason why I was so ecstatic to hear before last season started that the Rockets had landed a savvy, skilled, and seasoned veteran power forward in Scola who could score in the low post.
Meanwhile, Landry had only scored 2 points in that incredible Game 4 win, and 9 points in the Game 5 blowout. So he was due for a big game. He delivered when they needed all hands on deck.
Landry attacked the rack like we’ve seen so many times before, especially during that 22-game winning streak last season, but not much in front of a national TV audience where he could show how athletic he is. Landry would make all 6 of his shots, almost all highlight reel plays, for 15 points. He also grabbed 9 boards and had 2 blocks.
I think the Lakers must now be wondering, “Man, now we’ve got ANOTHER guy to worry about?”
And Aaron Brooks was money at home again, scoring a game high 26 points on 8-of-13 shots. He knew if he was going to be effective, he had to recapture some of that same Game 4 mojo back where he scored 34 points by penetrating into the lane and being aggressive with his shot.
On Thursday, Brooks amazed the entire country again with his fearlessness of going into the trees and taking shots in the crowded paint scoring over tall guys like Gasol or Lamar Odom, or being confident enough to take tough 3-pointers when the game was in the balance. It’s just incredible to see a young player who everyone doubted to become closer to Tony Parker levels so quickly, earlier than anyone thought could happen
This is all good for Yao Ming fans, you know. With the success of players in this series like Brooks, Battier, Scola and Landry, they are going to be so much better next season playing with even more confidence. Because of it, the Rockets could be THE major force in the West once Yao returns to the lineup. And they could even become what the Spurs have been the past few years.
Ron Artest had a slightly better game than he’s had recently, scoring 14 points and hitting a couple of big buckets. I have to admit when he launched some of those shots, I was wondering what in the world was he doing? But then they went through the basket, and I’d say, “Whew!” Artest would only make 6-of-17 shots on the night, but he had 3 assists. Just think how convincing these wins would be once he starts hitting for a higher percentage.
There was so much to this game, I could keep writing and writing. But since we have almost 3 days before Game 7 in LA, I’m going to call it a night, but you can bet I’ll be back to write more in the next 48 hours.
I’ll leave off on this note, though. The last time a Texas team went to LA to play against a heavily favored opponent to win something major where no one gave them a chance, it was the Texas Longhorns facing the USC Trojans in the 2006 National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl. No one gave Texas a chance, and looked what happened in that one!
The question is, who can be the Rockets’ “Vince Young” on Sunday?
If I were a betting man, I think it will be a team effort, just like it has been all series long.