Rockets live to play another day

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Rockets guard James Harden drives past Thunder forward Kevin Durany, left, and guard Thabo Sefolosha during the first quarter of Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Even in the uniforms that make them look like a McDonald’s All American team, the Rockets managed to shut down Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter and pull off an upset in Oklahoma City.

Derek Fisher always seems to find a way to nag Houston in the playoffs, but neither he nor Durant, who dropped a game-high 36 points, could keep up as the Rockets won, 107-100, to force a Game 6 in Houston.

James Harden put up a halftime promotion’s worth of halfcourt shots while Omer Asik was sent to the line on six straight possessions with five minutes left in the game. Harden also scored 31 points on 16 shots. Someone in the Thunder home crowd could have used a new car or a year’s worth of pizza after Harden hit his first seven three point attempts and silenced them early in the game.

Harden’s resurgence is key to the Rocket’s success. With Jeremy Lin still sidelined, Harden has to open up the floor for Houston’s other guards as well. This time around, the shots were falling. Francisco Garcia made 5-of-12 three pointers and Patrick Beverley added a bevy of shots beyond the arc. But Houston has lived by the three all year, ranking in the top 10 in three point field goal percentage during the regular season.

New York showed in its Game 5 at home against Boston that dying by the three is just as easy. The Rockets have a chance to extend their
postseason past the first round for the first time in four seasons. A young, scrappy team showed up to Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City and smacked the Thunder. James Harden made a statement, and the fans in Houston will be happy to welcome him home. 

Aaron Brooks should still be a recent memory to Houstonians and he will receive a fond welcome, too. Good guard play is what makes the Rockets dangerous and when they can knock down shots, even Asik benefits.

If Houston can go the free throw line almost 40 more times in their next game, another win is a reality. I don’t know the rules on reverse or inverted brooms, but I trust someone will have a variation of a broom on hand in the Toyota Center Friday. It’s sports, it doesn’t have to make sense. Houston went on the verge of being swept in the first four games to winning the last two. One more win and the series is tied. Who doesn’t want to see Game 7 in Oklahoma City with Harden making his return to oust the Thunder from the postseason.

It’s so easy to write off the Rockets but rooting for them to win it all brings even more joy. Nothing has been able to cure the pain left by seeing Dikembe Mutombo swat things in a car insurance commercial. So what’s a series win to a team like Houston, can you please remind me?