In three of their four of losses, the Rockets competed. This is a team a series earlier I questioned if it had the heart to even be on the same floor as the Clippers' reserves.
The Rockets just lost to the best team in basketball. There is no shame in that. They didn't quit at all in this series. They battled, they scrapped and they just couldn't overcome the injuries that had depleted their depth.
Dwight Howard played his heart out. This was the Dwight Howard from a few years ago that was healthy, one that you could confidently say that you could build around. We'll have posts on the future of the team later though. Right now is a time for reflection on the season.
Howard missed how many games this year (Ed. Note: 41)? The West was probably the most loaded as it has ever been and the Rockets managed to go 56-26 for the year. That was good enough for the third-best record in all of the league.
Combined, Rockets players missed a total of 217 games due to injury. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves missed more games due to injury (225) and they're picking first in the draft a month from now. Cleveland missed a total of 158 and they're going to the Finals.
Howard only played in 41 games. Terrence Jones only played in 33 games. Donatas Motiejunas missed the last ten games and all of the playoffs. Kostas Papanikolaou only played in 43 games! Corey Brewer and Josh Smith played what equated to a bit more than half a season with the team.
Seventeen days ago I thought this team was dead. It was done. It just got rolled bad by Austin Rivers and the Clippers role players.
Whatever happened in the locker room after the game or on the plane on the way home that night changed the team. They were closer, they were more vocal, there was a lot of extra hustle to pick each other up off the court, sticking up for each other more in the little scuffs. It was little things that you hadn't seen before on a consistent basis with the team.
The team was rallying and fighting, who cares if the Clippers were deeper, probably more athletic and had an apparent advantage in coaching. Kevin McHale also flipped a switch. We learned he could coach.
Then the damn Warriors happened.
This was a learning experience. Every team needs one. If Daryl Morey keeps the core together, improves the team at PG and adds front court depth, this is going to be a scary team.
Don't be down right now. The Rockets had an amazing season. The offseason is only 30 days long. The draft is in a month. Free agency is a few days after that. Summer League not long after that. A quick month will pass, training camp will start and we'll be right back here next season talking about unfinished business.
That unfinished business is a championship. The Rockets are definitely on the right path to get there. Nothing is guaranteed, but this is the big lesson for most these guys on how to win the NBA.
Next season. 2016. Rockets. Championship.