HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Rockets remind us of some big comebacks

James Harden and the Rockets took care of business. Kevin C. Cox

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

The first round of the playoffs is a wrap. Four games to one, if you’re counting.

James Harden appears to be an MVP in-waiting and everyone is taking turns at stepping up when defenses try to stop him. Take away that one head-shaker of a 19-point loss in Game 3 and the Rockets are, indeed, running as one as they careen into the second round of the NBA playoffs against the winner of the Utah-Oklahoma City series.

Yes, everyone’s talking. About Harden and Chris Paul. Clint Capela. The possibility of defensive star Luc Mbah a Moute coming back from his shoulder injury. About taking care of business.

And about the third quarter. Specifically that 50-point explosion – 22 of them from Harden -- by the Rockets in Game 4. It was brilliant. A game changer. A total takedown. And, it seems, hint of things to come.

The only team in history to score more points in one quarter of an NBA playoff game?  Los Angeles, which scored 51 in the fourth in a 1962 loss to Detroit.

Two nights later, the Rockets broke it open just after halftime with a 30-15 run that had us wondering if they’re about to make third quarters their own.

It also got us remembering some of the other huge comebacks we’ve witnessed in Houston sports history.

We’re only skimming the surface, but we offer the following up – in no certain order to get you thinking what you’d put on your list.

* The Astros’ World Series wild, magical run last fall. They came back against the Yankees and the Dodgers – in individual games and in the ALCS and World Series. But what sticks out are Games 2 and 5 of the #HoustonStrong World Series.

We only thought we had seen an incredible comeback in Game 2 when Jose Altuve came home on Carlos Correa’s deep line drive in the bottom of the ninth. In Game 5, what didn’t happen? The Astros had to come from behind three times, including twice when they were down by three runs. They needed five homeruns and a walk-off single from Alex Bregman in the 10th before Houston won it 13-12. Did we also mention the game went five hours, 17 minutes, had a total of 417 pitches and seven homeruns and was the second-highest scoring game in World Series history? And was named 2018 Houston Sports Awards Moment of the Year? Whew.

*Sticking with baseball, we remind you about last May’s game against Minnesota when the Astros trailed 8-2 going into the eighth inning and scored 11 runs in the eighth and three more in the ninth to win 16-8. Going into that game, the Astros were 0-659 in franchise history (back to 1962) when they were down by at least six runs going into the eighth. That win made them 1-659.

*  Tracy McGrady’s whirlwind 13 points in 35 seconds against the Spurs in 2004. With the Rockets down by 10 in the closing minute, announcers said the game was over. Then McGrady took over. He  scored on a three-pointer, a three-pointer where he was fouled and made the free throw and two more three-pointers. The last one came when McGrady got a turnover on the other end of the court and took it the distance to score with 1.7 seconds left to give Houston an 81-80 win.

* The NFL Playoffs, Wild-Card Game, January 3, 1993, Rich Stadium. Not a comeback, rather The Collapse. The Houston Oilers dominated the first half of the game and took a 35-3 lead over Buffalo early in the third quarter on safety Bubba McDowell’s 58-yard interception return. Then things turned. With Jim Kelly on the sidelines, Frank Reich came off the bench, picked Houston apart and rallied the Bills to 38-35 lead before Houston sent the game into overtime with an Al Del Greco field goal. In overtime, Warren Moon overthrew Ernest Givins and Nate Odomes intercepted to set up a field goal and a 41-38 Bills’ win. It remains the largest comeback/collapse in NFL history.

* Super Bowl LI. Okay. No Houston team was playing, but the Bayou City was the game’s congenial host. With New England, down 28-3 early in the third quarter, Tom Brady and the Patriots scored 25 unanswered points to tie the game on James White’s 1-yard run and a Brady-to-Danny Amendola two-point conversion, then won the game in overtime on a 2-yard White run.

* Ian Poulter, 2018 Houston Open. The man made for big moments opened the week with a 73, was in 123rd place and had his bags packed for the trip home after round one. He bounced back to shoot rounds of 64-65-67 and earn the final spot in the 2018 Masters with a one-hole playoff win over former University of Texas star Beau Hossler. It was the largest first-round-to-win jump in 35 years on the PGA TOUR.

Feel free to chime in and send us your favorite Houston comeback moment on Twitter - @HOUsportsAwards.







 

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THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600 preview, picks

Watch out for Ryan Blaney this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons

It’s a Memorial Day Tradition; The NASCAR Cup Series heads home to Charlotte for the annual Coca-Cola 600. This race is probably the third most crucial race all season, behind the Daytona 500 and the Season Finale at Phoenix. Anyone who wins this race will always be able to say that they were Coke 600 champions. No race on the schedule is as long as this one, because of this there will be a 4th stage added to the race. Teams will be provided 13 sets of tires, and if the last few weeks have been any indication, they will need all the tires they can get. With the race being as long as it is, there is a good possibility this could be an attrition race and the driver that survives will more than likely win. The record for the most cautions in NASCAR history was 22 cautions, at this same race in 2005. Come Sunday, I bet we get close to that number.

What's the deal with all of these tire failures? Last week in the All-Star race we saw drivers like Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Erik Jones all crash out because they had a flat. There are many factors that could be contributing to this, for one the tires are much wider and the sidewalls are much more narrow. Because of this, the tire falloff is much shorter, so now instead of going maybe 40-45 laps on one set of tires, drivers can now only go 25-30 laps. The other major facet is that a lot of teams are running much lower air pressures to get the car to handle better by being closer to the ground. Goodyear and NASCAR usually require the right side tires to run around 51-52 PSI, the rule however isn’t enforced for the left side tires, so drivers will push the limits to see how much they can take out to make the car faster. The fact that we were seeing such tire ware on smooth surfaces like Texas and Atlanta is a clear sign that there is a problem, but not all of it is on Goodyear. Only time will tell how this develops on tracks with old abrasive surfaces, like when they go back to Bristol in the fall.

One of NASCAR’s newest teams, Trackhouse racing, made a bit of a surprise announcement this week. Starting at Watkins Glenn in August, the team will run a third car with a series of international drivers, starting with 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. This is something that I think is interesting for the sport. I am a bit surprised that another team hasn’t already done this before. Having drivers like Kimi, one of the more world renowned racers in F1, can really bring a whole new audience to NASCAR. There have been rumors on whom some of the other drivers might be, from Daniel Riccardo to even Lewis Hamilton. There will be a lot of intrigue about who will be the next driver.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Ryan Blaney. After winning the All-Star race, it seems like Roger Penske and the rest of the Ford camp are picking up steam. Overall, Blaney tends to struggle at this track with an 18.8 average finish, but if last week is any indication of how his car will run on mile and halves like Charlotte, he will be a fierce contender for the win.

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