Josh Smith just saved the Houston Rockets’ season. Read that again, and then again. And then read it once more still. Josh Smith just saved the Houston Rockets’ season. Facing their second win-or-go-home contest of the second round, the Rockets staved off elimination in Game 6 with a gutsy 119-107 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers. And at the center of it all was Smith, forever a source of unending criticism. There is nothing to criticize now.
The Rockets did not play like a team on the ropes for the entirety of Game 6. After trailing by as many as nine points in the first quarter, they spent much of the first half jockeying for the lead with the Clippers. They even looked like they might pull away in the second quarter. James Harden pumped in 17 points during the second segment, and the Rockets flirted with extending a seven-point lead. They inevitably headed into the locker room trailing by two. At that point, Smith had five points on 1-of-2 shooting from the floor.
The Clippers used a 28-point third quarter to make a potentially irreversible run of their own. Harden went cold for the Rockets, hitting just one of his seven shot attempts, while Chris Paul exploded as he does, dropping 12 points and four assists. Although the Rockets regained some of their composure to end the third, cutting into the Clippers’ 19-point lead, they still entered the fourth quarter trailing by 13, their season hanging in the balance, seemingly speeding toward its conclusion. By this point, Smith remained stuck on five points. But then the fourth quarter actually happened.
A 13-point deficit was cut to single digits. The Rockets were within five. They tied the game. They captured the lead. Suddenly, they were the ones up by double digits—as many as 15 points—streaking toward a victory and forcing a winner-take-all Game 7. And none of it would have been possible without Smith.
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