When I started watching Game 6, the plan was to write a breakdown analysis of the game and coming up with a Film Study article. I have written almost exclusively Film Studies since joining The Dream Shake so it seemed like a good idea.
Instead of watching the game with my Zach Lowe filter, I ended up hate-watching the game.
The Rockets almost looked like a basketball team in the first quarter. Dwight seemed to be engaged. They were playing with effort similar to Game 5. Then the Rockets just started to space out (no pun intended). The Clippers were routinely getting layups off Rocket made baskets. Literally, seconds after Houston would score, Blake Griffin would be getting a layup. It seemed the only thing keeping the Rockets in the game was the Clippers lack of concern for playing defense.
Things only got worse when Dwight Howard picked up two fouls in four seconds. Kevin McHale was ready to send in Clint Capela for his star center, but gave in to the pleads of Dwight to stay in. I can’t say I hated this. In a do or die game, you might as well die with your best players on the floor. Dwight played for about another two minutes before McHale took him out to protect him and get him some rest. Less than a minute later, Glenn Rivers took out DeAndre Jordan, matching the Rockets smaller lineup.
I immediately wondered why McHale didn't send Howard right back in? The Rockets best offense has come with Jordan off the court. If McHale trusted Howard to play with two fouls, then why not get him back out there when he wouldn't have to deal with Jordan?
Then, with just under a minute left in the quarter, McHale put Howard back in for another 50 seconds before taking him out again. What was McHale doing? He should have put Howard back in and forced Rivers to put Jordan back in or live with the consequences. Instead McHale wanted to see how many times he could sub Howard in and out in one quarter. The hate was starting to grow strong.
The second quarter was rolling right along as the hate was subsiding when who decides to show up? None other than The Breakfast Defector himself, James Harden. Harden scored 11 straight Houston points during a run where the Rockets were able to take a 6-point lead and the hate was gone!
McHale must have sensed my joy and decided to employ Deck-A-DeAndre. Jordan responded by going 4-4 from the free throw line after two intentional fouls. Not to be outdone, Glenn Rivers decided to intentionally foul Dwight Howard. Howard missed his four free throws as the Clippers rallied to take a 64-62 halftime lead.
The hate was back, and growing strong. It felt like the first team to get a stop would win the game.
The third quarter is where the hate became fully formed. Scott Foster and friends decided it was their turn to take the spotlight. Iffy foul call after iffy foul call slowed the pace of the game to a nigh-unwatchable crawl.
Meanwhile, the teams slapped and pushed each other around. It was like Foster and Friends wanted to be in control but had no idea how to referee a game in which a team was fighting for its playoff life. Jordan and Howard shoved and flailed at each other up and down the court. Harden pushed anyone within arms reach. Chris Paul flopped around like Chris Paul does.
Not only had the game become unwatchable, but the Rockets forgot how to make a shot. At this point my hate-watching was at an all-time high. The Clippers lead ballooned to 19 as the hate turned to sadness. Who would want to watch a basketball game that looked like that third quarter? AGAIN.
Harden couldn't find the range and the Rockets managed to shoot just 5-25 from the field and 1-8 from three. When all was said and done, the Clippers had outscored the Rockets by 11 in the quarter and maintained a 13-point lead heading to the fourth quarter.
With Harden sitting on the bench and the Rockets seemingly content trading baskets with the Clippers, the conclusion seemed inevitable. Then Josh Smith checked back into the game. I swear Smith started the game, came out in the first quarter and didn’t check back in until the fourth. All Hail McHale! Sit Harden, turn the team over to Smith and get the comeback started. Smith hit a couple threes and I started to hate myself for the hope I could feel creeping back in.
I started thinking, there’s no way J-Smoove is going to piss off three cities in one night, is he? Why yes, yes he would. After showing off his range, Smith drove to the bucket for a layup. Point guard Josh Smith? Sure, why not? I don’t hate this idea even though it scares me when he dribbles. But look at that pass to Brewer!!! It’s a tie game!!! Move over CP3 there’s a new Point God in town!!!!!!
There was a timeout after the Brewer dunk to tie the game and I was sure the McHale would come back with Harden. Harden had been on the bench long enough. Let the Bearded One take us home. Oh how wrong I was. How could I question the all-knowing McHale? As the teams came back onto the floor, there sat Harden, full warmups on, watching right along with the rest of us.
And the Rockets continued to surge ahead with Harden looking on. A quick 10-0 run and the Rockets had all but put the game away with just over a minute remaining.
This couldn't be real. It had to be a dream. I mean, who was this team on the floor, that erased a 19-point deficit without the team's best player managing to step on the floor?
How did they shut out Blake Griffin, who was 12-15 for 28 points in the first three quarters, in the final frame?
How did they manage to make more three-pointers in the fourth quarter than they had all game?
I have none of these answers. I have no idea what happened. All I know is my head was spinning when the final buzzer sounded.
Game 7? Back in Houston? I will gladly hate-watch every second of that.