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Thoughts on Rockets Game 5 and 6

I watched the massacre that was game 5 from, ironically, downtown Boston, at a place called the Old Tavern. The highlights of the evening included the sheer horror I experienced from simply observing lathered up Celtics fan after a miracle win, talking to a couple of twenty something Irish bartenders who were fresh off the boat, and the best lobster I've ever eaten at a place called Legal Sea Food. When your meal is able to draw blood, you know you've had an exciting evening.

International boogie man.

But back to the game, the Rockets played possibly the most inept half of offensive basketball I've ever seen out an NBA playoff team. Rick Adelman should be awarded coach of the year based on this game alone. Any team with a scoring beta the size of the Rockets should feel lucky to get to .500 much less make the playoffs. The result was obvious going to be the Rockets get run out of the gym, especially when the other squad had Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol. Read that again, the squad opposing the Rockets roll out Bryant, Odom, and Gasol. The Rockets answer with offensive wizard Ron Artest. Think about that for a moment then do like I did and have 6 pints of Guinness and forget about the game.

My gut feeling on game six was to expect more of the same. Interestingly enough, the Rockets have similar issues to those of the 2008-2009 Texas Longhorns. They've got plenty of pieces, shooters, ballhandlers, defensive stoppers, and rebounders, but they don't really have players that a) mesh well together and b) have more than 2 or 3 of the above skills. You put Chucky Hayes in to defend Gasol, and you become even more pedestrian on offense plus Scola's lack of quickness gets exposed by Odom. Go with Scola on Gasol and Pau gets offense whenever he wants so you have to double to him and rotate to Kobe. Not good. Bring in a dynamic scorer like Wafer, and your team now has two black holes on the floor while Aaron Brooks gets the freeze out. There really aren't a lot of combinations that work. No shit, that's what happens when you lose McGrady, Ming, and Mutombo. Enter Carl Landry.

Not the greatest defensive player in the world, but Carl gives the Rockets an element that no other player on the roster gives them. He's an athletic big man that attacks the basket. He makes Gasol and/or Odom do things they aren't comfortable doing, like play defense.

Laker Killer.

The formula for the Game 6 victory was a carbon copy of Game 4. Pick and roll the Lakers to death exposing slow footed guards and big men that think showing on a screen simply means to throw one's arms up in the air and scare the ball handler into giving up the basketball. This has probably worked at some point in Pau Gasol's career as a homely power forward. My kids leave the room when the cameras zoom in to Gasol on the foul line. And that happens way too much if you've been paying attention. Ditto that for all the Lakers.

So Brooks and Scola, the most potent pick and pop combo the Rockets have, dominated the action on offense, while the collective Rocket defense played about as well as you can play against the Lakers collection of all-stars.

In game 7, if the Rockets can get a stalemate on the glass, hold the Lakers to under 40% from deep, and get a fair shake from the zebras, they have a shooter's chance to win. And by a shooter's chance, I mean they'll have to hit as many open looks on Sunday as they did last night. I suspect that Jackson will come up with a way to put the onus on Battier and Artest to hit shots, with the main goal of getting the basketball out of Aaron Brooks' hands. We'll see what happens, but the good news for Rocket fans is that the pressure is squarely on the broad shoulders of Kobe Bryant. I hope he tries to go Jordan on the Rockets, because I know Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant is no Michael Jordan, although Kobe's an assload better than Harold Minor and Roy Marble. That's for sure.

That said, I've lowered my expectations to the point that any outcome to the negative is fine. If H-town gets the win, however, I'll party like a Celtic fan. Now I know how.

Cheers to a Game 7.