Welcome to the NBA Daily Fix for Saturday, May 3, the morning after the Houston Rockets were gut-punched out of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
The Rockets took a 96-94 lead on Chandler Parsons’ reverse layup and were less than a second—0.9 seconds, to be precise—away from playing in what would be an NBA postseason record sixth Game 7 back at the Toyota Center in Houston on Sunday.
And then, just like that, they weren’t.
Damian Lillard canned a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, lifting the Portland Trail Blazers to a 99-98 win and their first series victory since 2000.
For the Rockets, it was their second straight first-round exit. Houston hasn’t won a playoff series since getting out of the first round against the Blazers in 2009, a season that was followed by three straight winning seasons that ended without playoff berths.
So where does that leave the Rockets going forward?
They won the Dwight Howard sweepstakes last summer, put together a 54-win season and couldn’t escape the first round despite having home-court advantage—something of a myth in this year’s playoffs.
Coach Kevin McHale appears to be safe; sources told ESPN.com last week that despite not yet exercising the option for 2014-15 on McHale’s contract, McHale “deserves more than one season with this group.”
McHale is 133-97 in three seasons on Houston’s bench, with a 4-8 mark in the postseason.
A big question going forward for Houston is that the balloon payments for Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, signed before the 2012-13 season, kick in next year, with the twos set to earn nearly $15 million apiece next season.
And after James Harden shot just 37.6 percent in the playoffs and exasperated many with his indifferent (and that’s being polite) approach to playing defense, it could be an interesting offseason in Space City.
Farewell, Bobcats. Hello again, Hornets.
The Daily NBA Fix will do what it did all season long, deliver highlights, game capsules, the top and bottom five players and, yes, we’ll still be handing out the Goose Egg, Clean and Sober and Ironman awards. We’ll also have informational tidbits and a look at the daily lines for those who want to drop a buck or two on a wager.
Check out the highlights below from the night that was, then get into the game capsules (home teams in CAPS).