It's been a while since Rockets fans have experienced something like this. For those of us who have followed the Rockets for 20 or 30 years, we can remember plenty of times they rose up to make big shots against the rival San Antonio Spurs...and quite a few that went the other direction. But, Sunday night, a young, inexperienced bunch of players bested the number one team in the Western Conference, matching them play for play down the stretch in a scintillating victory at Toyota Center.
The Rockets led the Spurs by as much as seven in the fourth quarter before Tony Parker, in just his second game back from injury, scored 10 straight and gave San Antonio the lead. From there, three huge plays from Greg Smith, James Harden and rookie Patrick Beverly made the difference. Our friends over at ClutchFans.net managed to save the video.
First up, Smith's nasty posterize dunk:
Next, Beverly -- a point guard -- blocking Jeff Green and leading to a Chandler Parsons three, essentially saving the game.
Finally, Harden with the jumper to win it.
Watch the little kid jumping up and down in that last video to help remind you what fans who love the Rockets look like.
With the win -- and a Utah loss -- the Rockets are four games up plus a tiebreaker on the ninth spot in the west and a near lock to make the postseason for the first time since 2009. It also makes them 5-1 during this critical, late in the year seven-game homestand, something good teams do. They still have one game left against the very good Indiana Pacers, but even 5-2 in that run is a huge victory. What's made their play all the more exciting is that virtually everyone has been involved. Harden has been the steadying force, but the entire roster of youngsters has pitched in under the tutelage of coach Kevin McHale.
Omer Asik reached double digits in rebounding last night for the 49th time. The last time a Rocket did that was Hakeem Olajuwon in the 1993-94 season and I'm pretty sure I recall that being kind of a big year for the franchise.
From Parsons to Jeremy Lin to Carlos Delfino to Dontas Montejunas to recently acquired Thomas Robinson and back-up center Smith, the kids are alright, as they say. And there can't be enough said about Beverley. He has played defensive stopper to Lin's offensive game manager (there's a Lin-Yang joke in there somewhere, but it escapes me) repeatedly making the signing of Aaron Brooks a relative afterthought.
The Rockets now roll into a tough stretch of games this week against the Pacers, Grizzlies in Memphis and Clippers at home on a back-to-back travel game. But they still have the Magic, Trailblazers, Kings and Suns (both of those last teams twice) in their final 12. Even a .500 record down the stretch should put them in the playoffs, but my bet is they do better than that.