While the Rockets chase history — and the Thunder try to avoid it — Houston can already place its unlikely comeback attempt in rarefied air.
In the league's long history, there have only been 12 teams to dig out of a daunting 3-0 series hole and bring it back to 3-2, including twice last night (Rockets-Thunder and Knicks-Celtics).
Of those 12, only three have ever forced a Game 7 — the 2003 Blazers against the Mavericks, the 1994 Nuggets against the Jazz and the 1951 Knicks against the Rochester Royals — and none of them won the series.
Francisco Garcia and Kevin Martin spent five seasons together with the Sacramento Kings. In those five years, Martin averaged 33.8 minutes and 19.3 points. Garcia averaged 23.4 minutes and 9.0 points.
In the last three games of this series, Garcia has averaged 15.0 points a game and made 12 of 27 3-pointers. Martin has averaged 11.4 points a game and made nine of 27 3-pointers.
In his last year-and-a-half with Sacramento, Garcia averaged 17 minutes a game on a bad team. But the trade to Houston did not rejuvenate Garcia's career.
The Rockets played 27 regular-season games after the trade. Garcia played in 18 of them. He averaged 17.7 minutes per game and 6.4 points per game.
But the last three games, Garcia has averaged 361/2 minutes a game and is playing terrific defense on Kevin Durant.
Scott Brooks' strategy of intentionally fouling Rocket center Omer Asik backfired.
The Thunder crawled within 93-85, and then fouled Asik on six straight possessions. The strategy didn't cause undue harm on the scoreboard — when it was over, the Rockets led 101-92, with 3:53 left — but the Thunder had squandered 1:40 of playing time.
But the math didn't work. Asik was a 56.2 percent foul shooter in the regular season. That means that on the line, Asik is good for 1.1 points per possessions. And indeed, Asik made eight of 12 — after starting three of six. Eight of 12 is 1.25 points per possession.
The Rockets to that point had averaged 1.16 points per possession but were struggling in the fourth quarter — until the Hack-a-Turk, Houston had six points in 13 possessions.
And that was a series-long trend. In the last five minutes of the previous three games combined, Houston had scored 28 points in 28 possessions.
HARDEN GETS HOT
James Harden had been shooting miserably in the series — 4-of-25 on 3-pointers, through four games. But Harden made his first seven 3-point attempts in Game 5.
He finished 7-of-9, with 31 points. The Rockets as a team were 14-of-35.
“We were due for a couple 40 percent shooting nights from the 3-point line,” McHale said. “We've had them on and off all year. I give my guys a lot of freedom to shoot them.”
*Kevin McHale on what OKC misses most with Westbrook out: “They'll miss him everywhere, how could they not? He's one of the top players in the league. They probably miss him in the locker room, miss him in shootaround, miss him on the bus, miss him on the plane, miss him on offense, miss him on defense … did I miss anything? I'm sure they miss him. I'm really sorry and honestly, I say, ‘Sorry Westbrook.' I'm really sorry that he got hurt. I really am. I hate to see that happen to anybody.”