Shock and disappointment are two words that can describe the emotions of Rockets fans waking up on September 1st, hours after watching the Rockets drop Game 6 to the Thunder 104-100.
As demoralizing as a loss like this can be, it is not a death sentence, though it may feel like one.
I think a lot of these feelings stem from the fact that the opponent is the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the main catalyst behind the journey to get to Game 7 is a man that wore Rockets red just one season ago.
Chris Paul’s Houston career is unfortunately defined by injuries and failure to show up in the moments when it counts. So, the punch to the gut stings a little more when he’s the one behind the stunt of the Rockets growth in the series. Meanwhile, the person you traded for to replace him, Russell Westbrook, has been the one injured and failing to show up in the moments when it counts.
Despite a 3-3 series tie, the Rockets are outscoring the Thunder in the series by 44 points. That’s definitely an atypical statistic for a team that is facing a must-win Game 7. This proves that the Rockets are the superior team but they have simply been outplayed when the game winds down to crunch time.
However, the Thunder are seizing the moment and playing spoiler just like they have all season long. A team that has no business being anywhere near the playoffs made it to the 5-seed and they have pushed this series to a seventh game despite trailing 0-2 and 2-3. The Thunder deserve the credit.
It’s time to stop treating the Thunder as the younger brother. The Rockets need to treat them as an equal that needs to be taken care of.
Nothing that I’ve seen has lead me to believe that the Rockets cannot do that. This up-and-down roller coaster is the experience of being a Rockets fan. I think that we feel this now more than ever. I can’t recall a team that was so good at its peak and so garbage at its troughs. On the bright side, the peaks in the bubble have lead to wins against the Bucks and Lakers and double-digit playoff wins, while troughs have lead to two-possession losses in the playoffs.
The Rockets do not need to re-invent the wheel for Game 7, they simply need to turn it and make small adjustments.
For a team that’s been surprisingly elite defensively, they need to find that for Chris Paul and prevent him from taking so many midrange jumpers.
And for a team that’s done a tremendous job taking care of the basketball, Game 6 was a total outlier.
Clean up these small miscues and the Rockets will win Wednesday. It’s something they’ve done before and can do again. The last time they lost a game, they won the next game by 34. Let’s remind ourselves that this team is capable of winning this series.
If the Rockets don’t win, it won’t be by design, but execution rather. Maybe Game 7 is what this team needs to either get a sniff of reality for these playoffs or even beyond this season if they were to lose.
It’s time for the Rockets to hold themselves accountable and complete the mission in order to move on to the next.
There’s a reason the series doesn’t end after a team wins three games. You have to win four, and that’s not only a rule for the Rockets but for the Thunder as well.
Game seven are the two most exciting words in sports, except when you have rooting interest in the game. Then it’s an all-out nerve fest.
However, we need to remind ourselves that game seven is not a death sentence, but losing game seven is an execution.