• Brian L. Barefield

It’s Really Simple: “Win or Go Home” Rockets take on the Thunder in Game 7

Photo Credit/ Houston Rockets

For Houston, this is more than just a Game 7. Their future is on the line if their season ends on Wednesday night to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Orlando. So many questions will have to be answered:

Do they sign head coach Mike D’Antoni to a long-term deal?

Does general manager Daryl Morey retain his job?

Did the Rockets make the right decision in trading away Chris Paul last offseason?

All those questions were brought into play when the Rockets lost the opportunity to advance to the second round of the playoffs by losing to the Thunder 104-100 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Playoffs. Houston allowed their former teammate to help OKC stave off elimination by scoring a team-high 28 points (15 in the fourth quarter) including some big three-pointers down the stretch to force a “Winner take all” Game 7.

The biggest factor in the game was not Paul, but the inability by the Rockets to make plays because they kept turning the ball over. They had a playoff-high 22 turnovers which is something that drove Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni insane.

“You can’t have 22 turnovers,” said D’Antoni. We are trying to get less than 10. Twenty-two just sealed our fate.”

For the Rockets to be successful on Wednesday night, they have to cut that number down, but they also will need the help of former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook who will be playing in only his third game of this series. He sat out the first four games due to a right quad injury. Westbrook took full responsibility after the game for his miscues.

“That was my fault, honestly,” Westbrook said. “Last game I had zero (turnovers), tonight I had seven.”

The turnovers have been huge in the three Rockets losses with the average being above double digits at 17.3. In the three wins they have been a mere 8.3. In the Game 5 victory, Houston did not commit their 10th turnover until the game was way out of hand with the reserves in the game.

Houston’s main focus in Game 7 will be to get the ball in the hands of the NBA’s leading scorer, James Harden who is averaging 31.8 points per game in the playoffs. In Game 6 the Thunder found a way to keep it out of his hands on the last three possessions of the game. Coach D’Antoni echoed his previous statement on Tuesday about the reason the ball was not in Harden’s hands.

“We just kept turning it over before he even had a chance to get involved,” said D’Antoni.

Now it comes down to whoever wants it bad enough. Who is willing to put it all on the line to advance to the next round at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando? Rockets forward P.J. Tucker let it be known to the media and the rest of the sports world that he is ready.

“There’s no excuses for some of the losses that we’ve had in this series,” Tucker said Tuesday. “I’m just ready to play, period.”

Photo Credit/ Houston Rockets

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