Beyond the Boxscore
The chorus rings throughout the Toyota Center, with Houston's basketball savvy crowd seizing the moment, determined to wring history out of one of the wildest nights you'll ever see in an NBA arena.
"One More Three! One More Three! ONE MORE THREE!"
On and on it goes, more pure and truly joyful than a million of those forced waves or animated scoreboard races forced on the American sporting public over the years. You can't be in the building and not get at least a little caught up in it. When the game with the Golden State Warriors starts, the Toyota Center is not close to full. It's not packed at this moment either, but everyone there knows they'll remember this once-seemingly-mundane-looking Tuesday night NBA game — one of those matchups that brings out the purists who realize that Golden State and Stephen Curry are actually pretty darn good — for a long, long time.
The Houston Rockets run their Jeremy Lin Offense to perfection. No one associated with the Rockets would ever call it that of course, but that's as good a name for it as any. For when everyone is moving the ball as eagerly as Lin does, when it's not about dribbling in place, these Rockets are the most entertaining team in the NBA.
As his players intentionally foul to prevent even a record attempt, Jackson stands, demonstrably clapping, staring down the baseline at a seated McHale.
It's pass, pass, pass. Attack, attack, attack . . . and Houston has 77 points by halftime, 102 points with more than 13 minutes remaining, 140 points at the final buzzer. That's a total straight out of the Steve Nash Phoenix Suns era, which happens to the last purely joyful team the NBA has seen. It's also an all-time Toyota Center record.
And no one will be talking about it. No one will be laughing at how an NBA All-Star Game score showed up a week and a half early (the team that has 62 points at halftime — the team that hits an off-balance, one-handed, 40-foot triple at the buzzer — is trailing by 15).
Not with Warriors coach Mark Jackson getting driven absolutely batty by the young Rockets' giddily relentless 3-point barrage.
Jackson — the guy whose catchphrase as an ABC announcer used to be "Hand Down, Man Down" — watches as the Rockets hit 16 of their first 20 3-point attempts. And just keep firing. Even as the lead approaches 40 points.
Finally when the crowd starts chanting, recognizing that the Rockets are tied for the all-time NBA record for 3-pointers in a game with 23 (hey, that new giant scoreboard is good for something!), Jackson snaps.
He orders his scrubs (Richard Jefferson, who was last good in about 2008, is logging heavy minutes for the Warriors at this point) to start intentionally fouling the Rockets' second teamers to prevent any chance at Houston breaking the record.
The guy whose catchphrase is "Hand Down, Man Down" watches as the Rockets hit 16 of their first 20 3-point attempts. And just keep firing.
One of the fouls results in two players being ejected — with 34 seconds left in a 30-plus-point rout. And the Rocket tossed out (second-year forward Marcus Morris) gets a standing ovation as he leaves the court.
I've been fortunate to cover a lot of crazy NBA moments in person. I was there when Jeff Van Gundy latched onto Alonzo Mourning's massive leg like a rabid poodle at Madison Square Garden, when Larry Johnson pulled off a four-point play to win a playoff game, when Reggie Miller banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer of an elimination game to force an NBA Finals-bound Nets team into overtime, when a young Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan squared off in an All-Star Game . . .
. . . and I've never seen something quite like what I witness at the Toyota Center as the Rockets go 3 Crazy and a coach visibly seethes as a crowd chants. As his players intentionally foul to prevent even a record attempt, Jackson stands, demonstrably clapping, staring down the baseline at a seated Kevin McHale the whole time.
How compelling is this blowout?
Mayor Annise Parker — who is known for leaving absolutely everything early — is still in her second-row seat in the closing seconds, right through the last intentional foul. Hey, the mayor enjoys a good record too.
"We didn't mean any disrespect," Lin tells the TV cameras afterwards. "We try to play the same way the whole time. The crowd kind of got into it and feed into it a little bit, but none of us were like we need to set up a play or anything to try and break a record."
How compelling is it? Annise Parker — who is known for leaving absolutely everything early — is still in her second-row seat in the closing seconds.
Jackson will call himself an "old school coach" in his own postgame press conference. He's wildly entertaining and a damn good coach. Jackson will change the story of the night from Lin (and those 28 points and nine assists he puts up against one of the teams that cut him), from the the 35 assists overall the Rockets collect on 46 made baskets (news flash: that's a pretty incredible ratio), and shift it into one of what sportsmanship and rubbing it in means these days.
The Warriors coach is missing something though. Sometimes unexpected joy is just unexpected joy.
"One More Three! ONE MORE THREE!"
It's a chorus of pride more than mocking, a reminder of just how good a basketball town this can be. Jackson squashes any record chance like a snarly NBA Grinch. But in many ways, he just makes the night even more memorable for all those Rockets fans.
The joke's on him.
Dander up, sense down.