Kevin Durant Mocks The Rockets
Apparently, Kevin Durant wasn't sure his point had been made loud enough.
He beat the Houston Rockets with a three bounce triple (not to mention a 17-point first quarter). He shared a moment with his teammates on Houston's home court as a once energized throng of white T-shirt clad folks rather silently headed for the exits.
Durant wanted more though. So he stalked over to a corner section of the front row and started screaming into the stands at several fans.
From my vantage point in the Toyota Center, it was hard to determine exactly what the Oklahoma City Thunder's star was yelling. But it's a safe bet he wasn't telling them he appreciates Houston hospitality. This wasn't a short moment either. Durant stood and screamed for more than a minute.
Kevin McHale's team has gotten under Durant's skin. But the Rockets are closing like Greg Norman at the Masters.
Call it one last Saturday night parting gift from the most pissed off man in the NBA.
Durant is clearly enraged that Russell Westbrook is out for the season, putting his NBA Championship visions in serious peril. The former University of Texas star also seems to think he deserves a little more respect in Houston. Early in the game, the ESPN cameras captured him screaming, "This is my city!"
So much for civility. This Rockets-Thunder series is decidedly heated. Unfortunately, it's also decidedly one sided.
Kevin McHale's team has gotten under the Thunder's skin. But the Rockets are closing like Greg Norman at the Masters. No matter what feats they pull off in the midst of the game — and the feat this night included coming back from a 26-point deficit to take the lead in the final minute — they still walk off with their heads bowed at the final buzzer.
Thunder 104, Rockets 101. Thunder 3, Rockets 0.
Well, that was fun . . . while it lasted. And it doesn't figure to last much longer than Game 4 Monday night at Toyota now.
Playoff basketball finally returns to Houston for the first time in four years in all its intense, loud, guttural glory. And it's already all but gone. It's almost like calling off Christmas five minutes into the morning of Dec. 25.
This is a great Houston sports night. Local rap legend Bun B, Texans backup quarterback T.J. Yates, comedian Jenny Johnson and Mayor Annise Parker are all hanging out in the same suite. Super lawyer Rusty Hardin is in his usual front row spot, wearing one of the giveaway white T-shirts put on every seat over his dress shirt. Roger (Clemens) and Andre (Johnson) are there too. Rockets fans are standing and dancing down the stretch.
OK, it's a great half of a Houston sports night.
For at the start of Game 3 there are large swaths of empty white T-shirt backed chairs in the most expensive sections. No matter. The Rockets themselves didn't bother to show up for the first quarter either.
Durant Goes Jordan
In a game they know they absolutely have to win to have any real chance of extending their season, the Rockets give up 39 points and grab all of two rebounds for openers. TWO REBOUNDS. In the entire first quarter. There are book clubs that show more intensity than McHale's team did early in this one.
It's perplexing. The Rockets know the Thunder are fighting mad over Westbrook's injury in Game 2. Yet even when Kendrick Perkins delivers a hard foul to Patrick Beverley, the Rocket who received Twitter death threats from an Oklahoma City ball boy over the Westbrook injury, there is little reaction from the Rockets.
There are book clubs that show more intensity than McHale's team did early in this one.
Instead, they are overwhelmed by Durant's blazing mad intensity. The Thunder seems hell bent on getting 60 points. He ends up settling for 41 and 14 rebounds, becoming one of only five NBA players in the last 25 years who've put up those type of numbers in a road playoff game. And then he screams at those fans.
It's hard to stay mad at Durant though. For there is bringing a young Thunder fan from Texas named David Gomez to the postgame podium with him. "He's sitting in for Russell," Durant will say, giving the kid a moment on NBA TV.
Gomez isn't dressed as crazy as Westbrook no doubt would be. But Durant's blinding leather suit jacket shines enough for two.
Which is what the Thunder star is trying to do now. "Every game is for him," Durant tells the cameras, knowing that the recuperating Westbrook will be watching on TV.
"He just made a lucky shot," James Harden, the Rockets star, says in his own podium live broadcast moment.
Harden is talking about the three bounce triple that wrests the lead away from Houston for good just right after they finally grab it. Technically, Harden is probably correct. But it comes across as sour grapes from a man who is being beaten by a bigger star — and a better closer — this series.
Truth is, the Rockets are just as lucky to have come back from 26 down. They need the game of Francisco Garcia's life (18 points in 32 unexpected minutes), three fourth quarter 3-pointers from Carlos Delfino and 11 for 26 shooting from distance overall after an 1-for-11 start from behind the arc to make Durant sweat late.
Part of the gift of being young — and no one is younger in the NBA than these Rockets — is harboring some healthy self delusion though.
"We feel like we should be up 2-1 instead of down 0-3," Chandler Parsons says in the made-for-TV press conference, the 24-year-old's shirt somehow managing to be even louder than the orange suit Calvin Murphy wears on this night.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey manages to hit the right tone though, tweeting about calling Dave Roberts. Roberts is the bench player who sparked the Red Sox's historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit to the New York Yankees with that pinch-run steal in Game 4, of course.
These Rockets aren't the 2004 Red Sox though. They're a young team finding out what an enraged closer looks like. Kevin Durant is out for blood. Forget LeBron James and all the point forward talk. For a good chunk of this Game 3, Durant appeared to be on a Michael Jordan mission.
His city? Hey, argue with him at your own peril.