It may well be impossible that the Rocket can manage a comeback down three games to none on Oklahoma City. Winning four games in a row, after losing three in a row, is a lot to ask. The young Rockets have already managed to make the series more than respectable, losing two games narrowly (I'll leave it at that), and winning two more. Anything else they manage is icing on the cake of a great season.
(Anyone who takes the following seriously deserves the mockery they shall receive.)
But even if we can expect the expected and OKC wins, the NBA's Golden Children, the Oklahoma City Thunder may have managed something I would also have said was impossible. Nobody likes them much right now. When the series started I liked them, you liked them. In fact I'd say everyone liked the the OKC Thunder except people in Dallas (who live close by and have their reasons) and Still-Bitter-Seattle-ites.
As for the series, I expected the Rockets would lose, I hoped it would be in six games, and we're getting six games. Between the opening game blowout loss and tonight something stranger than a Rockets comeback has occurred. America has fallen out of love with the OKC Thunder.
Let's look at why.
Sympathy Turns To Malice - When Westbrook went down anyone who likes great basketball, and also occasionally strange basketball (and fashion, and eyewear), mourned a bit. Nobody likes to see a great player injured. But as the days and stories and quotes have piled up, what's emerged is an OKC team, and fanbase, that has no room for get well notes in its mailbox because its too busy sending sympathy cards to itself.
Remember, this isn't the devastating loss of an entire career here, like Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady or even Kobe Bryant (to name a few).Russell Westbrook should be back, he should be fine. It's a tough break, but look at Denver and Galinari, look at GSW and David Lee, Boston with Rondo down. The Clippers have Blake Griffin and Chris Paul ailing. And, by the way, the Rockets starting PG has been out, too.
Injuries are part of the NBA package. OKC is new at all this, having a major pro team and all, and maybe they don't get it. They've been blessed with a remarkably healthy team that has gone from strength to strength. But now, instead of a coronation, there's a setback. Welcome the the real NBA. Now grow up a bit.
It's a Fine Line Between Love and Hate - But its not that fine a line between loving your team and death threats to an opposing player from your ball-boy. OKC fans are lustily booing a kid who started the year playing in Ukraine, a kid who has made it to the NBA against the odds, and who clearly, clearly, wasn't trying to hurt anyone. There was no flying Karl Malone elbow, no Derek Fisherian cheap shot.
There was an unfortunate play that looked exactly like something Russell Westbrook would do to someone else. Ironic isn't it? Live by the annoying red-ass play, die by the annoying red-ass play. But the hate keeps flowing from OKC over an accident, and it makes their ardent fandom look more creepy than inspiring.
KD35 morphs into CP3. Its a sad day when the second best player in the NBA becomes so hyper aware of fouls, possible fouls, personal fouls, impersonal fouls, potential fouls, fouls-in-waiting, fouls-in-being, fouls-in-perpetuity, perceived fouls, fouls-as-a-matter-of-faith, fouls-as-an-expression-of-NBA-love, that his talent is overshadowed by his pursuit of whistles, and advantage outside the course of play.
In the case of Chris Paul, the best PG in the NBA, it takes a lot of whining, complaining, flopping and eyerolling to overwhelm his talent. He's managed it. Paul has now overshadowed his own immense ability with his constant seeking of advantage through the referees. I admire Chris Paul, but I no longer like him. I only want to see him fail, to be disappointed, to get "T'ed" up, and if I'm honest, to get knocked silly. (And then he can file a claim with his brother, who was separated at birth, but still has the last name "Paul" somehow.)
In my mind, in this series, Kevin Durant is in danger of doing the same, of going down the Chris Paul path, ie The Dark Side. Without Westbrook to take the pressure off him, the Rockets are swarming Durant and daring the rest of Thunder to beat them. Durant doesn't like it. Sometimes he responds with otherworldly plays, but as he tires, he's demanding a bailout. Often enough, he's gotten one. But its not enough, and he's basically whining and semi-flopping, or outright flopping, all the time now.
For the first time since I saw him in a Longhorns uniform, I want bad things for Kevin Durant. Not because he's an opponent, but because he's turning into a giant version of the loathsome-in-game Chris Paul.
I wonder if I'm alone in thinking "Maybe he's not what I thought he was?" about Kevin Durant?
Derek Fisher plays for OKC - Derek Fisher is scum. If you don't think so, you're wrong.
Hack-Asik - The team with the second best player in the entire NBA, the #1 seed in the dominant Western Conference, playing at home, in front of its strangely silent crowd, opts to hack the Rockets center in hopes of a comeback. It's really hard to think of a weaker move from a strong team in recent years. I'll let the tweets below speak to this issue.
I used to love you OKC, but now I realize you're just Occupied North Texas, after all.
For fun, here are some tweets, brought on by "Hack-Asik".
C'mon OKC! This ain't ballin! It's BULLSHIT! Lost all respect!— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) May 2, 2013
AsikAsikAsikGet him his own sneakers and dump truck. Whatever it is , he needs commercials.— Metta World Peace (@MettaWorldPeace) May 2, 2013
If they want Asik to miss, hold up a poster of Phoebe Cates #FastTimes— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) May 2, 2013
How many free throws does Asik have to hit before the Thunder abandon this strategy?— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) May 2, 2013