I was only able to catch the tail end of the fourth quarter of Game 3. Man, what a heart breaker. But I guess it would have been a bad loss for either team, because if Rockets won, then Thunder blew a 26 point lead. But, once again, the game was within reach for the Rockets, but couldn’t come up with the win. Game 3 was especially heart breaking, because Thunder won it down the stretch with luck. They got a lucky bounce on the Durant three and they benefited from multiple unforced turnovers by Rockets down the stretch. So I didn’t feel like Thunder won the game like they did in Game 2. When Garcia hit that three to put the Rockets up, I thought Rockets would come up with the win–especially when Durant’s three bounced like 5 feet in the air. I have no idea how that ball dropped in. That was just so deflating.
I was glad to see Garcia out there in Game 3, even though it was probably due to Lin being out. Like I’ve been saying this in this blog over and over again, Garcia offers the same spacing that Delfino provides, but Garcia is a more reliable player and all around better player than Delfino. I think if McHale had played Garcia instead of Delfino, Rockets would have won Game 2. I liked Delfino before he messed up his elbow, but ever since he got injured, he hasn’t been the same player and is pretty much taking up valuable minutes out there on the court. Garcia is not only more consistent with his shot, he’s more selective with his shot and is a better defender. This is total hindsight, but Delfino should have passed the ball to a wide open Parsons for a potential game-tying three in the last possession, instead of forcing up a highly contested three that had little chance of going in. But I can’t blame Delfino for that. I think the play was probably drawn up for him and the clock was winding down. So he did what he could. That being said, remember that Lakers game (the last game of the season) when Lin had the composure to pass it to a wide open Parsons with the shot clock winding down and Parsons tied the game up to put it into overtime? That’s what I wanted Delfino to do. But the game shouldn’t have even come down to that. Rockets basically handed the game to the thunder by essentially giving them the ball time and time again down the stretch. That was pretty ridiculous (especially the Harden no look intended for Garcia), even though Rockets ended up with low turnover numbers for the game.
Of course, there’s a lot of talk about whether or not Lin should have played. From his performance it looks as if the chest injury is still bothering him significantly and he probably shouldn’t have played. But that’s a tough call. It’s pretty much a lose-lose situation for Lin. Don’t play and people say you’re weak, play and struggle and people blame your for losing the game. I was surprised to see that Lin ended up playing 18+ minutes in Game 3. I figured that he and McHale would be able to gauge his condition after like 5 minutes out on the court or something. I think Lin should have just shut it all out and made the decision to bench himself once he figured he wasn’t going to help the team out on the floor. It also would have prevented him from getting it aggravated by Durant before halftime. Because it didn’t work out very well with Lin playing in Game 3, I don’t expect him to play in Game 4.
Anyway, I think the Rockets have the ability to beat the Thunder–especially if they have a healthy Lin. This series should be 2-1. Tonight, I’m guaranteeing a win for the Rockets and I don’t think it’s going go down to the wire. I think Rockets will take care of business and win without too much drama. It won’t be a cake walk, but I don’t see it being a tight game with constant lead changes going down to the wire, either. I’m expecting Rockets to be leading the majority of the game and end up winning by 7+ points.
I know Lin is a game time decision and most likely won’t play, but I’m still guaranteeing a Rockets win, simply because Rockets will be very focused tonight, because they know they’re better than the way they have been playing. They are going to play hard and get their frustrations out on the court.
Beyond tonight’s game, Rockets’s success will depend on Lin’s health. I think if Lin is healthy and can play in Game 5 the way Lin is supposed to play, then I think Rockets can push this series to 7 games and may even do the impossible and win this series. But without Lin, I think OKC will win this in 5 games. So that’s basically my outlook for the Rockets. It would be quite a story if Lin could come back in Game 5 and pull off some Linsanity and help the Rockets advance to the second round. That would redeem Lin’s first playoff appearance, which has been a very frustrating one for Lin so far. (He looks totally deflated in the interviews.) But as long as Lin stays with the Rockets, there will be many playoff appearances to come.