Here it is. The moment of truth. Should the Houston Rockets lose tonight, the series won’t technically be over. But the cold, hard reality would be that down 2-0 and heading out to Cali to play two in a row at the Oracle against the Golden State Warriors is pretty much a death sentence. Even with a split, the Rockets would still be down 3-1, and it would take a herculean effort by Houston to overcome.
So no, tonight is not a must-win in any kind of finality sense, but the path out of the West with a loss is murky to say the least.
On the other hand, win tonight, and though they’ll still have lost home court advantage, the Rockets have a real chance to turn this into a series, and not the inevitable four or five-game drubbing many are predicting.
As is no real surprise to anyone, the Rockets have taken a pounding in the NBA social media world since their Game 1 defeat, with plenty of people who can count on one hand (or sometimes even one finger) the number of actual Rockets games they watched this season suddenly transforming into experts on everything that’s wrong with the Houston iso-heavy offense that in reality won them 65 contests this season.
But expect the Rockets to correctly trust in what got them this point. A few missed layups and free throws less for Houston, and Game 1 is a much different story.
But Houston does need to tighten the screws defensively. They gave up their postseason high in points, and though I thought they defended Kevin Durant pretty well for the most part, he proved what an unguardable anomaly he is by nonetheless going for 37 and making it look easy.
KD is going to get his. That’s plain to see. But if the Rockets can concentrate on shutting down some of other options — close out on Klay, keep Curry working hard defensively to limit his offensive effectiveness — they’ll have a chance to take Game 2.
Teams used to employ that strategy against the Hakeem Olajuwon-Rockets in the ‘90s with some level of success. Let Dream get his 40; there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. Do your best to keep the other guys from beating you.
That should be the Rockets’ approach here, because the Dubs have too many weapons to stop them all. KD can’t really be stopped. The others can.
Anyway, I have faith in our boys in red tonight. I expect some better defense, and I expect James Harden and Chris Paul to get a little more help from their teammates tonight. The Rockets have bounced back all year. I believe they can do it again.