Younger. Faster. Fearless. That's the slogan for this new age of Houston Rockets basketball, and they are right Houston is faster and fearless. Game 3 showed just how as Houston climbed back from a 26-point lead to come within a Kevin Durant lucky bounce on the rim to winning Game 3 and getting their first win of the series.
Three thoughts on Game 3:
- Coach Kevin McHale finally realized he has more than two players on the bench. Francisco Garcia logged 32 minutes (more on Garcia below) and Terrance Jones pitched in with 17. Carlos Delfino (23 minutes) and Aaron Brooks (9minutes) were the other bench players. The Rockets bench dropped 37 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 4 blocks and the veteran swingman combo of Garcia and Delfino played deep into the fourth quarter hitting shot after shot. It took McHale two losses to finally play his bench extended minutes and one has to think what the outcome would have been had he used them more in Game 1 and 2.
- Fracisco Garcia, a veteran who was brough in here to mentor the younger Rockets stepped up in the second half like veterans tend to do. One of my x-factors heading into this playoff series was the play of the bench, especially Garcia. The 6'7 swingman harrassed Kevin Durant in the second half like no other Rockets had before. He shaded Durant to drive towards the help defense and forced him to take contested shots. Heading into Game 4 McHale may call Garcia's number yet again.
- Watching this series one would think the Rockets struggled shooting from beyond the arc in the regular season. Through three games Houston is 30/108 in 3-pointers (27.8 3-pt fg%) and had they hit even a quarter of those shots the Rockets might be in a 2-1 hole instead of starving off elimination tonight in Game 4. Rockets sharpshooter Delfino finally found his shooting touch late in the second half of Game 3 but the question is, is it too late? After being lights out for most of the season a nagging elbow injury has hampered his release. Before shooting his way out of his slump in Game 3, Delfino was 5/17 in 3-pointers and an un-Delfino-like 29%. While he didn't shoot better in Game 3 he did make shots when they counted.
- Avoid slow starts- While the Game 3 comeback made for great theatrics the Rockets would be better served playing with a lead. At all costs Houston has to avoid the slow start that plagued them in Game 3. The first five minutes of the 1st quarter are going to be a key indicator as to how Game 4 will play out. If the Rockets can weather the storm that is Kevin Durant and find their shooting touch early in the game the Rockets could be heading to Oklahoma for Game 5 Wednesday night.
- Sit Jeremy Lin- It was cleared from watching Lin wincing throughout Game 3 that his shoulder injury is more severe than the Rockets are letting on. When Lin is on the floor and healthy he is a difference maker but Game 3 he was ineffective registering a -23 in the +/- column. The Rockest would be better served going with the following starting lineup: Patrick Beverly, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Garcia and Omer Asik, with Delfino playing the 6th man role he has grown acustomed to playing. Brooks can backup Beverly with Jones and James Anderson getting some minutes as well. Expect McHale to go with a lineup of Harden, Parsons, Garcia Delfino and Asik down the stretch if the game is there for the taking, much like Game 3. One of the better tactical moves McHale has pulled off this series was going with this lineup to finish the game.
- Stay aggresive- No matter the pace of the game or how many runs the Thunder go on, Houston must stay aggresive. If they give in to the pressure of staving off elimination the game could get out of hand. To avoid another Game 1 meltdown Houston must stay aggresive. Keep taking the ball to the hoop, keep shooting and above all else, play with intensity. Show some fight. Use the home crowd at Toyota Center to your advantage and make Oklahoma forget any thoughts they had about sweeping Houston.