The Houston Rockets find themselves in a critical spot after Tuesday’s loss. Two options remain: win at home and force game 7 or lose and go home.
I think we can all agree on which would be the better option for the Houston Rockets.
Do not get me wrong, for three quarters and most of the fourth of last night’s matchup, James Harden and the team played like they were there to win. That was before an overtime collapse led to Manu Ginobili and the San Antonio Spurs stealing the show and game 5 along with it.
James Harden had a stellar night in regard to both the eye test and the stat book, attaining a triple-double. But the reality is his play, balanced with the strong contribution of Patrick Beverley (20 points), Ryan Anderson (19 points off the bench), and the rest of the team, only lasted for about three and a half quarters of the game.
Here are three things the Houston Rockets must fix in order to seal a game 6 victory that will launch them into a game 7.
1. Knock down the three-pointer
It doesn’t even need to be explained at this point how crucial the three-ball is to the Houston Rockets. But, at the end of the day, they have to knock it down to win ball games.
In game 1, Houston shot 44% as a team from behind the arc and obliterated the Spurs at home. In game 4, they shot ever-so-slightly above that mark at 44.2%, also in a blowout in H-town’s favor.
Last night, however, Houston only managed to hit approximately 33% of their long bombs. While not abysmal, this percentage could definitely be argued as low by the Rockets’ standards. This is by no means an excuse for the loss, however knocking down the trey in game 6 is certainly expected if they want a secure shot at winning.
2. Eliminate late-game offensive stagnation
The Rockets move the ball a lot. They do. But the naked eye could clearly pick up a sense of hesitancy and lack of confidence late in the fourth quarter and in overtime in game 5.
During the first half and most of the second, Harden’s ball movement was essentially flawless. He found open shooters when he needed to and attacked at other times to balance it out.
The fourth quarter was a different story. With approximately 2 minutes left, every possession up the floor for Houston became a stand-and-wait show. Fluidity of ball movement turned into James Harden jacking up three pointers. Screen-and-rolls became Harden having to wait until there were five seconds on the shot clock to make a move.
Simply put: this problem must be avoided in game 6.
3. Fear the Beard!
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At the end of the day, something that can always put the Houston Rockets, or any NBA team, in a position to win is their superstar performing. That being said, James Harden has to dominate and the team must play well in order to beat a team like the Spurs.
So Harden grabbed a triple-double in game 5 on the road, which was an excellent boost for Houston. But it was not enough. The Beard will have to score, rebound, pass, and be the alpha dog to help his team pull off a W.
We know James Harden will do everything in his willpower to dominate and make his opponents Fear the Beard (it’s just a matter of whether shots fall and the team delivers).
Game 6 is on ESPN at 7:00 CT on Thursday, May 11th at the Toyota Center. If you’re at the game, Red Nation, be loud!