Rockets Are Forced To Win Or Go Home

Rockets Inexplicably Lose In Overtime To The Spurs Without Kawhi

The Rockets blew a golden opportunity to go up on the Spurs 3-2 and finish the series in six like many predicted. Greg Popivich took out Kawhi Leonard with 35 seconds left in the 4th quarter, but the Rockets failed to capitalize.

After the game there was a lot of pessimism about the current predicament that the team is in, needing to go the full seven games advance to the Conference finals. The loss was indeed frustrating but if you look at the situation, things may still be more favorable for the Rockets other than having to play game seven in San Antonio.

Kawhi Leonard is the key cog for the Spurs, and Pop felt that his team would be better off without him on the floor in the final minutes of a must-win game. It was noticeable that Kawhi was in pain when he was jogging around during play before he was eventually pulled out.

You occasionally see players turn their ankle the way Kawhi did but not affect them the way his ankle seemed to be bothering him. Kawhi was also nursing his knee on the opposite leg before he hurt his ankle later in the game.

The Spurs were able to steal game 5 with huge efforts by Mills, Green, Ginobili, and Simmons. However, if Kawhi is playing at around 75% health or less that is going to be a huge blow for the Spurs in every facet. The Spurs wouldn’t be able to do what they did at the end of game 5 over the course of a whole game.

I don’t think Kawhi can get himself healthy enough in two days so the question is can he get himself healthy enough by Sunday in the series deciding game. If the Rockets can’t force game 7, even with a healthy Kawhi that is going to be really disappointing.

The game 5 loss came down to poor execution, unfortunate turnovers, and a little bit of fatigue at the end of both the 4th quarter and in overtime.

Things were looking positive with 2:33 seconds left in regulation when Eric Gordon sank a three-pointer which opened up after Harden drove to the basket. The score was then 99-94 and that should have given the Rockets all the momentum, but mental mistakes kept the Spurs alive.

Patty Mills drilled a three on the next possession, which could have been better defended by Patrick Beverly if he wasn’t concerned with trying to help on Aldridge in the lane. You absolutely cannot allow the Spurs to answer back with a 3-pointer, defending the 3 should have been the the main priority.

The Rockets followed that with a wasted possession when Harden drove to the basket but kicked out a bad pass to Beverly which caused him to step out of bounced.

A few games ago during the broadcast, Doug Collins made a good point about the Rockets’ philosophy of wanting to take only 3s and layups. This team philosophy causes possible good looks from mid-range areas to be passed up on in favor of a forced 3-point attempt or bad shot from inside the paint.

I don’t like seeing difficult last second 3-point attempts that are thrown up with the game in the balance. This happened with 1:22 left and the score 99-99, Harden throws up a 3-pointer with 8 seconds on the clock and Ginobili guarding him.

The referees made some questionable calls in pivotal moments, and a play that baffles me was Ginobili’s layup that tied the game 101-101 with 34.5 seconds left. Capela was switched into guarding Ginobili and as he drove into the lane for the lay up Capela’s path was blatantly impeded by Aldridge’s left arm, who already had Eric Gordon sealed off in the paint.

That was a missed call by the referees because Capela was right there to defend and likely blocks Ginobili, but Aldridge pushed him off his path.

The next play Harden was the one called for an offensive foul because Simmons flopped on a slight push off. There are probably a hundred push offs that go on during the course of a game and somehow the referee fell for a horrible Simmons flop to the ground. On TV it is hard to conlusively say whether or not the whistle was warranted, but Simmons’ multiple gross exaggerations on the night makes think not.

That call was made not by the referee with the better angle of the on the baseline, but by the ref with the worst view standing behind Harden. But whatever, after a rough start in overtime, the Rockets were up twice in final two minutes.

Harden had three turnovers in overtime but two of those were forced on great individual plays by Simmons when he reached around Harden and knocked the ball away twice. Its not that Harden was being over careless with the ball, or that poor decisions were involved, its simply Simmons making the plays. I have to admit that the fact it happened twice inside 5 minutes is redundant. The second of those was deflating because the Rockets were up 104-101 with 1:33 left and the ball.

The 6 points scored in overtime by the Rockets were 3-pointers that were opened up by Harden’s drives to the hoop.

Some of the Rockets players looked tired, and I think seeing K. Leonard exit the game allowed the team to feel as though they could lower their intensity a bit. The Spurs responded every single time late in the game, they were playing were urgency.

The Spurs flat out just played excellent defense on the last possession in OT. Rockets down 3 points with 15.7 seconds left Patty Mills was all over Gordon, and forces him to bounce the ball off his leg. After Ryan Anderson grabs hold of the jump ball with 7 seconds left, he has Ginobili all over him who then goes to block Harden from behind. That was years and years of big time basketball experience by Ginobili, just incredible for him to still be able making game clinching plays like that at his age.

It was embarrassing to have the game end like that for the Rockets, especially for Harden in this social media, meme era that we live in.

The Rockets had the victory in sight, Harden as the leader needs to learn from the loss. He must be conscious of the opposition trying to reach around the back to hit the ball away.

Don’t completely waste possessions by not having an idea of what you want to do with the ball and throw a forced 3-point shot up as the clock is winding down. Don’t take possessions for granted, and don’t lose your sense of urgency. Championship level teams don’t do these things.






Bad Execution



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