GAME 6 PREVIEW

Keep doubting these Rockets; it has worked well so far

James Harden's bad shooting streak will come to an end at some point. Kevin C. Cox

Keep doubting, go ahead.

Keep soaking up the narrative that the national media has been spoon feeding everyone since even before Game 1's tip off.

“The Rockets have no chance.”

“The Rockets are going to get swept.”

“They just don't match up well.”

I bet you took that and ran with it. Plenty of people did. I bet you pointed at the TV screen as the Rockets fell in Game 1 and validated your skepticism to your buddies.

Then Game 2 happened, and Houston beat the brakes off of the untouchable Golden State super team. Houston had drawn blood against Xerxes, proving that they were in fact mortal. Houston fans were offered a faint glimmer of hope.

The next four days gave way to hot takes from the talking head prognosticators who began spreading whispers of heresy regarding the vulnerability of the NBA’s god-king.

Could they fall?

Is this the end of their reign?

The Warriors utilized Game 3 to crush the uprising with gratuitous show of force against the insubordinate upstart Rockets. Order must be restored, and a 41-point victory did just that.

With the status quo returned, Houston was once again given the “dead man walking" treatment. 

“They're just too much for Houston.”

“Who will the Warriors play in the finals?”

Unphased by their defeat, the Rockets took to the court and insolently battled back from multiple double-digit deficits to steal a win at Golden State. They then returned home and gutted out a filthy victory to seize a 3-2 series lead in spite of a horrendous shooting performance from James Harden and the last minute loss of Chris Paul.

So here we are. The Rockets are up 3-2 against one of the greatest teams ever assembled in the history of basketball. Golden State is hurt. Houston is hurt. But that's what happens in a battle.

The loss of Chris Paul has seemingly negated the position the Rockets are in by most people following the series. In spite of a 3-2 lead and two convincing back to back victories, the grave has already been dug and the majority of those following this series are already lowering Houston's casket.

The majority of those following this series, however, haven't watched the Rockets all season.

They probably can't tell you that when Chris Paul was out in the beginning of the season, Eric Gordon slid into the starting rotation and the Rockets didn't miss a beat while he averaged 22 points a game. 

They probably didn't see Gordon take over and average the same numbers for 10 games straight during Harden's injury either. They simply saw Chris Paul go down and called it a wrap.

This isn't Game 7, and Harden will not stay this cold shooting from range. The Rockets will have to find a way to productively divide roughly 40 minutes of playing time, but the firepower is still there. The main difference is that Houston is far more capable of playing their same style in the midst of injuries than Golden State. The Warriors, in the other hand, have just looked confused with the loss of Andre Igoudala. They have two chances to win just one game, and those are some pretty great odds.

So keep writing them off. Keep coming up with reasons to undermine Houston's performance into mediocrity. It's worked pretty well so far.

 

 

 

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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