Growing up in Springdale, Ark., back when the town had but one public high school, our most heated rivalry was with Fayetteville High. Regardless of the sport, our games against those guys were always chippy.
We were far better at football, in particular, but it didn’t matter. Every time we played, the games were tight. They always brought something extra, trash-talked, got in our heads, hit a little harder and a little longer than we were expecting. On paper, they never belonged on the same field as us, but paper was irrelevant. It was personal, and it was as if someone forgot to mention that they weren’t supposed to win.
Right now, the Rockets are to the Thunder as Fayetteville was to Springdale.
It’s funny, I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with Russell Westbrook’s intensity, always wished he would just calm down a little. Never again. With Westbrook out, not only is OKC down one of the 10 best players in the world, but the Thunder is without the source of their swagger and emotion.
I made the comment a few days ago that this series was over. As soon as the action resumed in Oklahoma City, the crowd and intensity would overwhelm Houston, I surmised. I surmised wrong. The Thunder were timid, flat and dispassionate. So much so, that the vaunted fans of Chesapeake Energy Arena slipped into a lull of their own, failing to have any noticeable affect on the road squad.
1. So, what now?
I really don’t know. I have little reason to expect an inspired effort from anyone not named Durant, Jackson, Liggins or Fisher, and the Rockets have proven emphatically that what those four have to offer is not enough to beat the youngest team in the NBA.
My double or nothing Vegas wager would, if executed objectively, ride with Harden and his running mates.