You know, critics are funny.
"They'd never do it", they said.
"Lakers in 4", they said.
Well, they can keep on saying that, because after last nights gripping clash between two of the leagues heavyweights, the resilient rockets once again stunned the sporting world in one of this season's signature wins and skillfully executed a walk-away win over the "mighty" Los Angeles Lakers in game one of this potentially historic 2nd round series.
And of course, it is fitting that one of the most talented centers on earth led the charge with a stat sheet stuffed with numbers such as 28 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Yao Ming's offensive prowess was unsurpassed Monday night, except perhaps for a spectacular performance by the ex MVP Kobe Bryant, racking up a game high 32 points in a losing effort.
So who I ask, who foreseen this upset. Surely this was just another mediocre team the Lakers needed to dispatch on their way to another NBA finals appearance. Don't get me wrong, the series is FAR from over, however with the momentum fueling the surging Rick Adelman's Rockets, there seems to be hope for a team who weren't given any two days ago, and here's why.
1. The Man in the Middle
What was once a seriously intriguing match up between Yao and gifted young center Andrew Bynum, has become child's play for the veteran Chinaman. He severely outclassed his opponent as his injured counterpart was relegated to the bench, for the entire game, three minutes into the contest. It looks likely now, that Lakers coach Phil Jackson will attempt to duplicate the somewhat successful Portland strategy of doubling Yao for every second he is in possession.
2. Kobe Who?
Although we was a one man show at Staples Center Monday night, he failed to make any other effective impact, and in a lack lustre Lakers performance he just could'nt provide the noticeably absent offensive spark. Houston's premier defensive duo of Battier and Artest were primarily to blame, that and a dreary and dismal effort from his teammates.
3. "Under Pressure"
Many would say Houston have now inherited the dreaded pressure of fans and critics alike to rid LA from the Playoffs. Not true. Am I crazy. Slightly, but Los Angeles are now burdened with the justifiable surprise of their supporters, and bearing the title "Top Seed in West" makes it soooooooo much harder to exit at the ready hands of a 5th seed, a team who seemingly everyone sentenced to a season of mediocrity before the it even began!
Do the Lakers buckle under the enormity of the pressure (they've been here before) or was this a "beginners luck" event for the supposedly trivially talented Rockets. with one game remaining before the Rockets can bring this game to their own turf in front of the red, rambunctiously rowdy, robustly resilient Rockets fans (the "R" section of the dictionary has never taken such a beating) at Toyota Center and perhaps stun the Lakers once again, this match becomes increasingly tantalising on my sporting tastebuds. So, to the critics who doomed this team to exit the post season in four games......
Eat your words.