Lakers/Rockets Game 6 Recap
The underdog bites back and forces a Game 7.
“You got no time for the messenger,
got no regard for the thing that you don’t understand,
you got no fear of the underdog,
that’s why you will not survive!”
Spoon- “The Underdog”
Somebody should post those lyrics on L.A.’s bulletin board. After Game 6, they would probably hold a lot of meaning. Game 6 offered the L.A. Lakers a chance to end the underdog Houston Rockets’ season. Coming off a 40 point victory, you had to think that the Lakers felt they had the advantage. But they forgot that you can’t turn your back on a wounded animal, especially an animal that has fought through injuries all season long. That’s one of the reasons they lost Game 6 and are headed home for a Game 7.
Carl Landry said, “There’s a lot of dogs in this locker room and we’re hungry. We slipped up the other day and lost, and it was an embarrassment. It wasn’t going to happen again.”
The 40 point loss in Game 5 didn’t weigh heavily on the Rockets though, just like the pressure to match the Lakers, who have the upper hand in talent, hasn’t fazed them. This team simply doesn’t know better.
“40 points, 2 points. It doesn’t matter. A loss is a loss,” said Brooks about overcoming the Game 5 blowout.
Before the game, there were a lot of writers issuing proclamations that the Rockets-Lakers series was over. One Houston writer even had an article telling the Rockets’ season to rest in peace.
“They just really don’t know basketball. They’re going off their own gut feeling, I guess. But we’ll see,” Chuck Hayes told me before the game when I asked his opinion on the premature reading of Rockets’ rites. Call me DJ Alliteration.
As I passed through the halls before the game, I heard Jeff Van Gundy joking with Yao about how he broke his foot back in the day and played through it. Ming cracked back by telling him he doesn’t talk to D-III players. Classic. What’s the Chinese symbol for “Oh snap?”
Onto the game. I’m not saying the Lakers have no heart but I heard a rumor that their media guide picture is now on the front cover of the Operation board game. Okay, I made that up. That the Rockets have taken this series to 7 games without their two best scorers speaks volumes about their passion, as well as the character and focus, or lack thereof, from the Lakers’ team. Even if L.A. wins Sunday, as they are expected to, it’s hard to walk away feeling like they were the real winners of this series.
Hands down, this has been one of the worst officiated Playoffs I have ever seen for both teams. Maybe it will win a Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy, if laughing at officials is your thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if Joey Crawford slips on a banana peel in Game 7, and I can almost guarantee you that he or Bennett Salvatore will be in on the Game 7 action. The NBA. Where suspicious ref choices happen.
The Rockets got up on L.A. because they didn’t settle for perimeter shots and played much more aggressive interior defense than in Game 5. The size of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol didn’t hurt Houston like it did in the last game, thanks to Rick Adelman’s adjustments.
Battier played Kobe very well to start. The Rockets repeatedly stepped into the lane and took charges. Is there anything more motivating for a team than that?
Luis Scola played out of his mind in the 1st quarter. 12 points and 7 boards in one quarter? That’s a good entire game for him usually. He has proven to be their most consistent scorer in the Playoffs for the Rockets.
“I tried to play hard. It was a win or go home situation,” said Scola. “We had to give everything we had in the beginning. As the game went on, we knew how to control the game and situation. They came back but we felt we could handle it, and we did.”
Not to get too far off track, but should we nickname Lamar Odom 50 Per-Cent when he goes to the free throw line?
Battier didn’t go off like in Game 4. Kobe was all over him. All game, Bryant played stellar defense. How many scorers in the league can match their offensive production with lock down D? Love him or hate him, you have to respect his skills.
Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant got tangled up again tonight. This time the refs didn’t throw Ron out for talking to Kobe after the play. Maybe they can call a game correctly! No, no they can’t. The technical foul Kobe got right after the Artest foul was weak. Let me get this straight. You miss the push he gives Ron, but you give him a tech when he doesn’t deserve it? Are you just flipping a coin on calls at this point?
Each quarter, the Lakers stayed alive in a different way. Jordan Farmar stepped up again and kept the Lakers in the game with two timely threes in the 1st quarter. Cheap fouls on the Rockets kept them around in the 2nd. The Rockets did a lot of the work for L.A. in the 3rd, blowing up like a Vibe Awards after party. But the Rockets held on.
“We made a game out of it and then they hit some big shots,” Bryant explained.
I asked Pau Gasol what adjustments they made to get back in the game and he said, “The second half, we did a little better executing. Early, they started attacking us and we started settling earlier. They got a big lead. We played well after that. In the 2nd half, we played defense a little better and got points in the paint.”
The 4th quarter was a question of whether the Rockets had the energy to sustain the lead. That’s where Carl Landry and Aaron Brooks came in.
Carl Landry’s 15 point performance filling in for Chuck Hayes was huge, like Oprah huge. This was the energy he brought last season and the Rockets needed it in the worst way.
Landry said, “I didn’t want to go out with a loss. I told myself that if I was going to go out, I was going out fighting.”
He’s our spark plug off the bench,” said Brooks. “He went back to the old Carl we know.”
The series has been a constant shift in momentum, and the Lakers have gone from odds on favorites to win the NBA title to hoping they can just survive the second round at the moment.
“You’ve got to just grind these things out. We could be playing a lot better… but the key now is to win by any means necessary, just win the damn series and get the hell out of this one,” said Bryant.
As well as the Rockets played, they made their share of mistakes, lost the rebound battle and let a 16 point lead almost entirely slip away. That won’t be enough to win in Game 7 at The Staples Center.
“We gotta be better. This has to be the best game of the series. Everything has to be perfect for us to get this win. If not, we have to just find a way,” Landry laughed.
Even without Yao, the Rockets have done just that. Sunday, we’ll find out if they can find a way to win one more time in this series. If so, it would have to go down as one of the most improbable upsets in NBA history given the hole that Houston was in. But dogs, especially underdogs, often find ways to dig themselves out of bad situations. The Rockets did in Game 6 because they refuse to bow to any team.
“They all have the same mentality,” said Bryant. “They all fight for what they get and that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in right now. They don’t quit. So Game 7 is going to be exciting.”
Hell yes, it will be. You have a hungry Houston team that has no clue of what they’re on the brink of achieving versus an extremely gifted Lakers group that seems unhappy to do things the easy way, but are desperate to prove they are the elite team in the Western Conference. It’s a perfect contrast. With any luck, it will make for a classic ending to an already memorable series.