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Rockets on Verge of Shocking World

May 15, 2009 – 2:43 AM
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Terrance Harris

Terrance Harris %BloggerTitle%

HOUSTON -- Let's be honest: This wasn't supposed to be this difficult for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Add up talent level, star power and experience and the Western Conference's top team should have taken the Houston Rockets out in five, maybe six games tops. But here we are staring at an upcoming winner-moves-on Game 7 after the Rockets put forth an astounding performance at home Thursday night to prevail 95-80 in Game 6 of their semifinal matchup with the Lakers.

The series unexpectedly moves back to Los Angeles tied 3-3 Sunday with the winner moving on to face the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals.

"For the last two days all I've heard is that we weren't going back to L.A. and guys in our locker room didn't believe that," said Rockets coach Rick Adelman.
Rockets 95, Lakers 80: Recap | Box Score
Rockets' MVP: Rick Adelman
Series Tied 3-3 | Next Game: Sunday @ Los Angeles, 3:30 PM ET


It shouldn't be a surprise the Rockets are thinking upset, despite the sting of a 40-point loss at the Staples Center on Tuesday night. Who could blame them for the illusions of grandeur after another convincing wire-to-wire dismantling of the Lakers at the Toyota Center?

Very reminiscent of Sunday's stunning home win, the Rockets came out and pounced on the Lakers from the start Thursday night. Houston led 17-1 before the Lakers converted their first field goal on a Kobe Bryant drive with 6:19 left in the first quarter.

This time it was Luis Scola scoring at will in the low post early on, while the Lakers couldn't get on track. Scola scored 14 of his playoff career-high 24 points in the first quarter. Later it was Carl Landry coming off the bench and dominating inside after Los Angeles had reduced a one-time 18-point first quarter deficit to just two points late in the third quarter.

So any idea who will be the team playing loose Sunday?

"I think it's fun, we enjoy it," said Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks, who had another impressive outing with 26 points, which included 3 of 4 shooting from 3-point range. "We've got them on their heels, the pressure is on them. We're going back to LA.

"Whatever we did today, we have to bring it to LA. We've got to be aggressive, be smart and play Rockets basketball."

Exactly what that would have entailed after Game 3 of this series would have been anybody's guess. With Yao Ming, the Rockets' only real offensive threat, shelved for the playoffs with a broken foot coming into Game 4, the Rockets fate seemed sealed. The Rockets obviously didn't get the memo.

Since then, Houston has received some big play from some players who are thought of as little more than bit pieces. Shane Battier and Brooks took over in Game 4. Then Thursday it was Scola and Landry in spurts, while Brooks' speed and quickness to the basket continued to give the Lakers fits.

Bryant scored a game-high 32 points, but he had to take 27 shots to get them thanks to some excellent defense by Battier. The problem for Bryant and the Lakers is there wasn't any consistent help from anywhere else on the floor with Gasol missing often from point blank range and Andrew Bynum going scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting.

Curiously, Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked if he was worried. The Zen Master replied no and even tried to play the we've-got-'em-right-where-we-want-'em card.

"It's nothing to worry about, it's just a game and you go out there play," Jackson said. "It's our home court and the last time we were there, we beat them by whatever. We play a different game on our home court, it's obvious."

What he might be overlooking is playing a team that feels it has nothing to lose. Remember no one ever thought this series would be at this point.

"We just have to go out there and play, go out there and leave it all out on the court," Brooks said. "When we don't do that, that's when we get embarrassed.

"We can't allow the Lakers to work harder than we do because their talent is superior than ours right now. I just think when we come out, we have to play hard. We got to scrap, we got to be aggressive. We didn't do that in Game 5, but we did that today and it showed."

Latest NBA Playoff Photos

    ORLANDO - MAY 14: Rafer Alston #1 of the Orlando Magic reacts during a break in play against the Boston Celtics in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 14, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Rafer Alston

    NBAE/Getty Images

    ORLANDO - MAY 14: Hedo Turkoglu #15 and Rashard Lewis #9 of the Orlando Magic celebrate during a break in play against the Boston Celtics in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 14, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Hedo Turkoglu;Rashard Lewis

    NBAE/Getty Images

    Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson (R) and guard Jordan Farmar protest an official's call during their loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of their NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball game in Houston, Texas, May 14, 2009. REUTERS/Donna Carson (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)

    Reuters

    Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola (R) of Argentina and guard Brent Barry celebrate their team's Game 6 win in their NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball against the Los Angeles Lakers in Houston, Texas, May 14, 2009. REUTERS/Donna Carson (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)

    Reuters

    ORLANDO - MAY 14: WWE professional wrestler John Cena watches play between the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 14, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** John Cena

    NBAE/Getty Images

    Los Angeles Lakers forward Trevor Ariza, bottom, and Houston Rockets forward Ron Artest lock arms as a shot goes in during the second half of Game 6 of their NBA Western conference playoff basketball series in Houston, Thursday, May 14, 2009. The Rockets won 95-80. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

    AP

    Houston Rockets guard Ron Artest loses control of the ball as he goes up for a shot against Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom (L) and center Andrew Bynum (R) during the Rockets Game 6 of their NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball game in Houston, Texas, May 14, 2009. REUTERS/Richard Carson (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)

    Reuters

    HOUSTON - MAY 14: Guard Ron Artest #96 of the Houston Rockets takes a shot against Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 14, 2009 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ron Artest;Pau Gasol

    Getty Images

    Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola puts up a shot against Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum during the Rockets win in Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball game in Houston, Texas, May 14, 2009. REUTERS/Richard Carson (UNITED STATES)

    Reuters

    Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts in the fourth quarter of their Game 6 loss to the Houston Rockets during their NBA Western Conference semi-final playoff basketball game in Houston, Texas, May 14, 2009. REUTERS/Richard Carson (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)

    Reuters

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