The greatest Houston Rocket comeback ever

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I don’t know what to say. I really don’t. Like so many of you who stayed up to watch it, I’m still in stunned disbelief.

This was the greatest comeback in a single game I’ve ever seen from the Houston Rockets.

I know what that means. I watched this franchise bounce back from 20 points down to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals twenty years ago, but that was a first-half deficit with several more games guaranteed to follow. For these Rockets, there was no tomorrow.

To understand how great this comeback was, you have to first understand how truly behind they were. In the third quarter, the Rockets had one of those game-killing periods that they’ve coughed up far too many times in this series. They shot 5-25 from the field. They were 1-8 from three-point range. They had James Harden missing 15 of his 20 shots on the night. They were on life support. A two-point deficit at half had ballooned to nineteen with just over two minutes remaining in the quarter and, frankly, it looked iffy that the Rockets could even score nineteen the rest of the way.

This game, this series, this season looked over.

“We never quit,” said Dwight Howard, who scored 20 points and grabbed 21 rebounds. “We kept believing. There were some rough times out there, but as a team, we never gave up on each other.”

It started with Terrence Jones, who was less than 15 minutes away from a team exit interview that would include the word “layups” at least 146 times. Struggling all series, Jones awoke, scoring seven points in the final 2:48 of the third quarter to help the Rockets cut this thing to thirteen.

The Rockets, who have been blasted, belittled and buried by media and NBA fans as a team with no heart, then found their mettle. They outscored the Clippers 40-15 in the fourth quarter… in a road elimination game. Houston was 5-20 from three-point range before connecting on 8 of their final 12 triples. They held the NBA’s top-rated offense to 4-22 shooting.

Kevin McHale deserves a mountain of credit. Houston’s coach sat Harden most of the fourth because he found a lineup that was thriving — and he stuck with it while many were criticizing him for not putting the MVP runner-up back into the game.

“Those guys earned the right to finish that game, one way or the other,” said McHale.

‘Those guys’ included two players who had been mostly absent in the series — Corey Brewer and Josh Smith.

In the fourth quarter alone, Brewer scored 15 of his 19 points and Smith scored 14 of his 19. Heading into that quarter, the two were a combined 4-30 (13.3%) from three-point range in the series, but they connected on 5 of 7 in the final 12 minutes. Blake Griffin was a sizzling 12-15 for 28 points, but Smith and Howard joined forces to hold Griffin scoreless on 0-5 shooting in the fourth.

The Headband of Brothers got help as well. Howard was a beast in the middle. Jason Terry knocked down big shots. Trevor Ariza worked defensive rotations masterfully.

Before Game 5, the Rockets did not properly represent at all in this series the quality of team they were this season. That was the fear, that down 3-1, they would simply fold in a manner that would leave the impression of a massive gap between the two teams, that Houston didn’t belong on the same court with these guys. They refused to do that.

My wife will wake up soon and I’ll have to deliver the bad news — the vacation plans are on hold. There will be a Game 7 in Houston. I don’t know how that game will end, but I know what this victory means to this team, win or lose on Sunday. These Rockets were destroyed all series for being quitters. Forget that. They’ve got fight.

Video of the Comeback

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