Thursday, May 1, 2014


Written by: Craig Shelton
Date posted: 5/1/2014

Three keys for the Rockets in Portland for Game 6 on Friday night:


If Kevin McHale's big lineup is indeed really in Portland's head at this point in the series and the bigs play more intelligent defensively, there's a good possibility of a Rocket success Friday night in Portland.

The refs no doubt  will have the home team whistles in full effect mode Friday night for Game 6. That's just the way the NBA works in the playoffs.  We know what's coming. It came  in '94 when "Clutch City" was born, and it will be felt 20 years later on Friday, May 2, 2014. Therefore, the Rockets bigs must play clean early and not get into early foul trouble.

The Rockets bigs must also avoid foolish fouls late like Omer Asik’s 5th foul in Game 5 Wednesday night in Toyota Center.  

Asik bodied up way out beyond the 3-point line late in the fourth quarter, picking up his 5th foul at a critical time in the ball game. Asik’s 6th foul followed soon and he was done for the game.


Another key for the Rockets in Game 6 in Portland on Friday will be for Kevin McHale's defense to have a dedicated effort focused on perimeter defense and consistent timely rotations.

Portland's spacing on offense has been consistently exceptional in this series, even in spurts where the Blazers have not played well. Portland's perimeter players have been afforded consistent wide open looks at the basket throughout the first five games. This is largely due to their spacing, which is keyed by having dual threat elite scorers at the four and at point guard.

A four who can stretch the floor as LaMarcus Aldridge can, and also beat you with his back to the basket is an almost impossibility to defend with well-spaced quality shooters on the perimeter.


The same can be said for Blazers point guard, Damian Lillard (above) with his ability to shoot the three, as well as collapse the defense by slashing to the basket and finishing strong, or kicking the ball out to well-spaced, quality perimeter shooters.


Kevin, Kevin, Kevin?

Outside of the play of the Rockets' star shooting-guard, James "The Beard" Harden,  fair or unfair, Rockets' head coach Kevin McHale has been the most scrutinized component in the Rocket/Blazers series.

To earn his salary in round one Kevin McHale's job actually plays to his strengths. It's not an X&O basketball assignment by any means. It's actually an assignment McHale has already achieved.

Kevin McHale has accomplished  half the job by coming through as a big man savant,  evidenced by the play of Dwight Howard's play on both sides of the floor. Add to that the admirable play of Omer Asik defensively versus LaMarcus Aldridge in Games 3, 4,  and 5, McHale is halfway home to a remarkable comeback in a series the Rockets were down, 3-1, a couple of days ago.

All Kevin McHale has to achieve now to close the deal is to use his personable and relatable Uncle Kevin like persona to convince James Harden that all he needs from him is "one game." One game. One game is all Uncle Kevin needs from Nephew James to repair any damage done to his Rockets playoff resume stemming from his failure to adjust to LaMarcus Aldridge in Games 1 and 2.

If Kevin McHale can get "one game" from Nephew James in Portland this Friday, the energy levels of the Clutch City fans in Toyota Center for a Sunday NBA Game 7 will be RED!


Craig Shelton

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