No Tracy McGrady?
No Dikembe Mutombo?
No Yao Ming?
Hey... what else is new? The Rockets steal the ball from the Lakers on the opening possession. Ron Artest (in one of the few instances he actually put the ball in the basket) converts the fast break layup.
From there... the Rockets were off and running.
Shane Battier outplayed Kobe Bryant. Even on the offensive end. Battier started out 5-5 and the Rockets took control early. Only Rick Adelman's decision to play the prevent offense throughout the fourth quarter kept the final margin of victory from being 20+. Thanks for that, Sleepy.
Aaron Brooks finished with a career high 34 points. Battier chipped in with a monster offensive game. Chuck Hayes and Luis Scola got seemingly every rebound there was to get. If you had told me before the game that Von Wafer would only play 7 minutes and score only 4 points I would have predicted doom. Fortunately, I would have been wrong. Way wrong.
Rockets coast to victory. 99-87. Series once again tied. 2-2.
The Rockets head to Los Angeles with momentum, confidence and a surprising swagger. The Laker had no real answer for the tag-team point guard duo of Brooks and Lowry. With Yao Ming out of the game, the Rockets turned the little guys loose and L.A. never could solve that riddle. On the flip side, the Rockets had an answer for Kobe Bryant every time he tried to take over and get his team back in the game. Battier, Artest and Chuck Hayes led the charge and the help defense on Kobe was phenomenal all game long.
Simply put, these Houston Rockets are the most resilient professional sports team I have ever seen. They may not win the championship, they may not even win this series, but no team faces and responds to adversity better than this group. Every time something negative happens, the team shrugs it off and just goes about winning basketball games.
Battier hurt? No problem. McGrady struggling? Yup, we know how to handle that. Artest messes up his ankle? We got ya covered, Crazy Pills. Rafer Alston gets traded? Party time! Carl Landry gets shot in the leg? Make room for more Chuck Hayes. Now they just move on without Yao. Winning one for the Great Wall.
This is a credit to Daryl Morey, Les Alexander and the entire Rockets' management. Without their collective foresight, the team would not have had the resources to overcome the continuous string of obstacles placed before them. And yet they do it without so much as a complaint or a "why me?" (for complaining to a higher power is *my* job! And I do it well.)
Call it a Mother's Day Miracle if you must, but I've never been so proud to be a fan of the Houston Rockets as I was today. Congratulations, gang.