HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – The Rockets are two wins away from becoming the first team in NBA history to clinch a seven-game series after starting 0-3. After winning two in a row against Oklahoma City, the Rockets kept their playoff hopes alive and forced a Game 6 at home. As the Houston prepares for Friday night’s match-up at Toyota Center, team confidence and momentum are at an all-time high. When did the balance of power shift between the first-seed Thunder and eighth-seed Rockets? For Harden the change happened before the Rockets’ 105-103 victory in Game 4 at home.
“The last game at home, when we got a win. We just came out (to Oklahoma City) and played pressure-free. That was our mindset going into the game. ” Harden said after Wednesday night’s 107-100 win. “Same thing back at home, just go out there and hoop. We are an eight-seed. Nobody was expecting us to win. Just give it what we got. Simple.”
Harden, who was diagnosed with strep throat Thursday, was the picture of good health on the floor in Game 5, playing 42 minutes and scoring 31 pionts, 8 rebounds, and shooting 7-9 from 3-point range.
For Beverley, losing 102-105 in a close-fought Game 2, gave the team the confidence that they could compete and ultimately pull out a win against the Thunder.
“To add to that, I’d say it kind of changed after Game 2 when we were in a game here in the fourth quarter and we had the lead. We lost but we took from that that we can really play with them and that rolled over into the third game. We came up short there but we got the win in the fourth game so there was definitely some confidence building from Game 2.”
The Rockets hope to extend the series Friday night with a win but need to continue to do what has made them successful against the Thunder. Coach McHale is happy to be returning to a home crowd.
“We gotta go play friday night. The Center will be happening, it will be rocking. it will be fun to play. We gotta come out again and execute, do what we do and try to attack the rim as much as we can. Make them collapse, throw out, knock down some threes, and just play our style of basketball.”
The Rockets looked comfortable in Game 5 and Harden feels that a constant, high-shooting style of play is what the Rockets’ game plan needs to be.
“We have to move the ball. We have to be in attack mode and be ready to shoot for 48 minutes. We can’t have spurts where we are stagnant because that’s when they go on their runs. (Wednesday night) we put a 48-minute game together,” Harden said.
Coach Kevin McHale believes the team’s success comes from their mental toughness. “I’ve said it all year long. The beauty of this group of kids/young men are they fight. We’ve had bad games this year but we’ve turned around and had good games behind it. They guys are battlers and that’s, for me, a huge part of this league. ”
If the Rockets win Game 6, they will be only the fourth team in NBA playoffs to force a Game 7 after an 0-3 start. With all the pressure on the Thunder, the Rockets hope to add their third-straight victory Friday night to make history. Game 6 between the Rockets and Thunder tips off at 8:30 CT in the Toyota Center.