HOUSTON — While the Houston Rockets spent seven months preparing for the start of these Western Conference finals, they’ve spent more than five years preparing for the big moment Game 2 brought.

From the day general manager Daryl Morey traded for James Harden, getting a second chance at a superstar after injuries derailed the careers of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, Houston has been building toward a real chance to compete for a championship.

There have been several stumbles along the way. The failed marriage of Harden and Dwight Howard resulted in one conference finals appearance (and just barely), followed by a .500 season and an ugly first-round exit. Last year served as a revival — only to have the Rockets implode in the final two games of their Western Conference semifinal with the San Antonio Spurs, including a 39-point loss in Game 6 here inside Toyota Center, a game in which Harden disappeared.

Wednesday felt like the moment of truth. Despite winning 65 games, despite having the presumptive league MVP, despite having a roster that Houston repeatedly proclaimed was constructed to at least give the Golden State Warriors a real challenge, there wasn’t a lot of optimism it would actually happen after Golden State walked in here Monday night and stole home-court advantage with a Game 1 victory.

In this moment, with all that scar tissue, how would this group respond?

Turns out, Houston did exactly what a team with its profile, résumé and talent should do. It showed up hungry. It showed up desperate. It showed up determined.

And the Rockets emerged victorious.

“We didn’t change anything,” Chris Paul said after Houston’s 127-105 victory. “We just did everything a little bit harder.”

The fact there were so many questions about Houston’s ability to take a punch are proof-positive of the failures this franchise …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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