NOTE: With tonight's Rockets victory and the Jazz loss to OKC the Houston Rockets are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Jermaine O'Neal's "Hand of God"
The Rockets got lucky tonight. Their ugly play, cold shooting and repeated turnovers were erased on the final play of the game by JO.
The Rockets advanced the ball for the final possession after Luis Scola missed a patented scoop shot from the right side of the floor. There was 9.5 left on the clock and the Rockets had not made a three in the second half.
Houston predictably gave the ball to James Harden who made no attempt to hide his desire to take a game winning three pointer. Despite an ice cold shooting night Harden didn't make a single move to the basket. Instead he rose up from behind the three point line after going between his legs and launched a long distance three.
Clang. The shot was a hard miss that careened skyward as time expired -- still a live ball.
Underneath the basket Jermaine O'Neal boxed out Omer Asik for what seemed like the first time all night. O'Neal then went up with an arm through the net and clearly swatted the still-live ball out of the cylinder.
Game Over. Goaltend. Jermaine O'Neal.
And now on to the rest of the game.
James Harden, Still Really Good At The Basketball:
It's nearly impossible to heap too much praise on James Harden this year. Tonight he continued his 2012 - 2013 campaign to prove his superstar status.
Harden's jumper was ice cold. He went 2 - 8 from three point land tonight -- INCLUDING the game ending goaltend.
Even with the cold hand, Harden put his head down and euro stepped his way to 33 points. The Suns could not keep Harden out of the lane as he worked his way to the basket and the foul line.
I'm a firm believer that NBA's superstars find a way to get layups and free throws when their shot is not falling. Harden's 13 - 14 showing from the line proves his status as a player who is going to get his points no matter what.
Revenge - Dragic & Scola:
Houston had no answers for Luis Scola tonight. He spun, swooped, ducked and darted his way to 28 points against his former team. He took an impressive 20 shots and connected on 12 of them.
Scola logged a classic game using all the moves Rocket fans grew to love during his time in Houston. He repeatedly disarmed Omer Asik and got to the basket for easy scoop shots and layups.
It's everything Rockets fans love to see... only he's wearing a different jersey now.
Goran Dragic decided to put Rockets fans through the same ringer with a 15 point 10 assist performance. He shot 6 - 10 from the field and played a complete game. He took open jumpers, he got to the hole and he found open teammates.
There's a good sized contingent of Rockets fans who believe Daryl Morey wrongly let Dragic leave and tonight they got more ammo.
The Second Quarter:
The second quarter of this game was miserable. The Rockets squandered a 12 point lead and allowed the Suns to take the lead going to half.
The Rockets showed zero fight and showed few signs of why they are a playoff team.
Every game at this point has playoff implications or at least helps build momentum for the post-season and the Rockets showed no fight, desire or fortitude in this quarter. It was a rolling series of unforced turnovers, missed defensive coverages and throw away jump shots.
The screenwriters for the Fast & Furious sequels put in more effort than the Rockets in the second quarter. We were drifting... potentially a drift of the Tokyo variety.
If we can mulligan a quarter. I choose this one where we got outscored 32 - 22.
Patrick Beverley, Greg Smith & Terrence Jones:
These guys are hungry and every minute they get on the court is deserved.
I bemoaned the second quarter, but these guys showed heart and hunger the entire game. We should be very comfortable in having this trio working in tandem.
At least six times this game I said "Holy shit, __________ is everywhere."
Patrick Beverley had a .gif worthy steal on an inbounds play for an easy slam and forced the Suns to make foolish turnovers with his persistence.
- Omer Asik tied a career high with 22 rebounds.
- The goaltend was the only three pointer the Rockets "made" in the second half.
- In the final two possessions McHale swapped Lin and Beverley for offense and defense.
- Francisco Garcia recorded the slowest fast break in history after taking the ball from Luis Scola at midcourt. I honestly think he's still making his way to the basket.
- Donatas Motiejunas logged a meaningless six minutes and looked lost on offense when he was on the court.
- Jermaine O'Neal has been in the NBA for 17 years. Do you even remember him on Portland?