HOUSTON -- During the middle of the night, Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey was wide awake.
With his team down 3-0 to the Golden State Warriors, what’s a man to do to keep his spirits up and to keep from losing any more sleep than he already has? Go to Twitter and YouTube.
At 1:30 a.m. CT, Morey posted a video from the Fenway Park bleachers of the Boston Red Sox's Dave Roberts stealing second base in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. The Red Sox were down 3-0 to the New York Yankees in the series, and Roberts’ steal was the jumping-off point of one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. Roberts would score the tying run in the ninth, off legendary closer Mariano Rivera, and the Red Sox would later win the game in the 12th on a David Ortiz two-run homer.
The Yankees never recovered and the Red Sox would not only clinch the AL pennant, but win their first World Series championship since 1918. Boston became the first team in baseball history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
Morey, who was not at the Red Sox-Yankees game but was working for the Boston Celtics at the time, posted this video as an example of what the Rockets must do right now: Win four consecutive games, including two in Oakland, to advance to the NBA Finals.
No NBA team has ever rallied to win a series after being down 3-0 -- the all-time record is 0-116. Morey believes if it can happen with the Red Sox, it surely could happen with the Rockets.
The question is: Do the rest of the Rockets believe?
James Harden, coming off a dreadful 3-for-16 performance in Game 3, avoided speaking to reporters after Sunday’s practice, so his thoughts on the subject couldn’t be heard.
Dwight Howard, who produced a 14-point, 14-rebound effort in Game 3, is a believer.
“Is everybody positive? I'm positive,” Howard said. “I'm going to stay positive. That's all I can control is me, but you know, I'm going to make sure that I do whatever I can to keep my mind positive. We're in a tough situation but there's no reason for us to be moping around. I think that's the worst thing you can do whenever you're down and out is just to mope and sulk into the negativity. We've got to stay positive.”
What happened Saturday night at the Toyota Center can’t happen again, especially if the Rockets expect to win not just the series, but a game.
They were outrebounded 60-39, gave up 58 points in the paint, shot a dismal 33.7 percent from the field, and didn’t do the little things necessary to win.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale talked about a lack of effort, getting after loose balls, making the extra pass and staying with your man longer on defense as reasons for the loss outside of the box score.
After losing the first two games of the series by a combined five points, the Rockets were beaten by 35 in Game 3. It reminded McHale of Game 1 of the conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Clippers, in which his team was beaten at home.
“I don't know how much psychology you can do after you've played this much basketball, but you don't have a whole lot of options,” McHale said.
“We've got to come out and we've got to play better. We just have got to play better. We've got to play with more force, we've got to run harder on them.
"We had plenty of opportunities, especially early in that game, where we got stops. We didn't convert on breaks. We got guys stopping early in the break, our spacing was bad. We just did not play very well [Saturday] night, and it started, I thought, from the offensive end. I thought our defense was pretty good for a while, and then they got loose and started making some shots, and we never, ever found an offensive flow.”
Harden had played wonderfully in this series until Game 3, in which he was passive on offense. He needs to avoid the double-teams by passing quicker so the ball moves and the offense can develop a rhythm.
Harden sometimes uses pick-and-rolls to find shots, yet the Warriors kept two players on him, forcing him to make a pass, dribble longer or take a tough shot. Harden is excellent at getting to the rim, but his drives were clogged up by the Warriors' big men.
“Well, you've got to be more aggressive,” McHale said of Harden. “It’s just all earlier decisions. If there's two [defenders] on you, get off it. It's the same thing we've talked about all along. He's just got to go play basketball.”
Blocking out the noise of what’s around them isn’t something new for Houston. When the Rockets were down 3-1 to the Clippers, Los Angeles couldn't stop them from rallying to win the series.
But now? Down 3-0 against the NBA's best team?
“We have to win one game,” said Jason Terry, who has played in two NBA Finals.
“But I will make a guarantee right here before you all today: We will play better than we did last game, I promise that.”