Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Los Angeles Clippers 100 at Houston Rockets 113 (Western Conference Semifinal, Game 7) - May 17, 2015


When I planned the trip to Houston, I really didn't consider the NBA as an option. The Jays were playing every day and if the Rockets had a game, it would be an expensive playoff affair. When the second round schedule was released, Game 7 was scheduled for Sunday, with the time TBD. As the Jays had an afternoon game that day, I hoped for an evening tilt, though when the Rockets fell behind 3-1 to the Clippers, Game 7 looked like a longshot. Houston won Game 5 easily, but were down 19 points late in the third quarter of Game 6, causing most Rocket boosters to turn off their TVs in disgust. As you probably know, the Rockets mounted an unbelievable comeback, outscoring the Clippers 40-15 in the final frame to force Game 7 after all. I didn't expect tickets to be available at the box office, but I guess Houston fans had fallen asleep because when I checked a few minutes after Game 6 had finished, I found a pair in the upper deck for $89 each. Not cheap, but Game 7s are rare and worth the premium.



After Cleveland dumped Chicago in six games, we needed Memphis and Golden State to go to 7 for the Rockets game to be pushed to the evening, but the Grizzlies were awful in Game 6 and thus the Rockets and Clippers were set at 2:30 Houston time. After seeing the Jays lose three straight, it wasn't too difficult to skip the fourth.



As Sharpy and I walked to the arena, Corey Brewer (above in his work clothes) strolled by on his way to the game. Fans in their cars honked and shouted encouragement, and Brewer smiled and thanked everyone. He even said hi to us, and thanked us when we wished him good luck. The fans were classy, letting him enter the arena without any hassles for autographs. It amazed me that in this day and age, a pro player can walk along the street and not be excessively bothered, especially before such an important game. Impressed with the Houston fans all around.



Gates opened at 1:00 and we entered shortly thereafter, taking our time to tour the facility. I had visited here just two years ago, and not much had changed, but the atmosphere was electric. Red t-shirts sporting Clutch City were laid on every seat and those fans who were too proud to wear one were shamed on the jumbotron until they acquiesced. The mascot, Clutch, had dyed himself red (instead of grey) and was making as much noise as possible to get the crowd ready, including riding in on a motorcycle.



Our seats were in the third row from the top, the best you could hope for at $89. That scoreboard is just as impressive from up there and you do have to be careful to not watch it instead of the action on the floor.



After that Game 6 miracle, there was an air of certainty that the Rockets would complete the comeback from 3-1 down. Early jitters affected both teams as the first quarter finished with 15 combined turnovers, but Houston shot 58% including 3/7 from beyond the arc to take a 28-21 lead.



The second quarter was solid basketball, with only 3 total turnovers and better shooting, with the Rockets winning 28-25 to take a 10 point lead into the break. An early run by LA in the third narrowed the gap to 60-57 but the Rockets finished the quarter on a 25-11 run and the fourth period was mostly a formality, at least until the final couple of minutes when the Clippers got within 8 at 102-94 to send fans into a panic. Two James Harden (bearded below) FTs assuaged the crowd and when Trevor Ariza hit a 3 a few seconds later, the game was sealed.



The final was 113-100 but we didn't stay for the celebration, scurrying out while the confetti fell (a bit early, confetti should be limited to championships), as we had to get to Dallas that night for flights on Monday. A great way to end the trip, and no regrets about missing the Jays game, as they lost yet again.



Notes

The city of Houston had its best sports weekend in a long time. The Astros went 4-0, the Rockets completed an improbable comeback, the Cougars swept UConn in baseball and clinched the Southern Conference championship, and even the Dynamo won. That's a combined 10-0 record, something that Toronto fans can only dream of.

Best,

Sean


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