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Battier Bounces Blazers... Again
Rockets SF hits clutch threes, teams with Hayes to make huge defensive stop
By Clutch

Special props go to Chuck Hayes for stepping in and taking that charge, but the story of the night was Shane Battier: Tough defense, 14 points, 8 boards and 6 assists and two dagger threes late.
Ron had 9 assists and played good defense at times, but he nearly shot the Rockets to a loss in this one. It is simply maddening to see him take shots where he mysteriously fades hard to his left... even if wide open and not trying to avoid a defender. The Rockets won't survive many 5-20 shooting nights from Artest... especially in the playoffs.
If you're a longtime Rockets fan, you probably felt it.

With the Rockets letting their once 11-point lead evaporate in the third and finding themselves trailing by 6 a few minutes into the fourth, fans had that sinking feeling again.

Games 3 and 4 at home against Dallas. Game 7 at home against Utah. Another golden opportunity is on the cusp of being blown by the Houston Rockets.

Not this time.

By tossing in two clutch long balls in the final minutes, Shane Battier showed he had brass ones of his own, then he teamed up with Chuck Hayes on a huge defensive play to seal it as the Rockets pulled out the 89-88 victory, taking a mighty 3-1 series advantage.

The story of the two home games? Battier, Battier, Battier.

Déjà vu: Just as he did in Game 3, Battier hit a 26-foot bomb from the top of the key with 4 and a half minutes to go. It put the Rockets up 82-80 and sent the crowd into an uproar.

Brandon Roy quickly silenced the crowd by tossing in a tough three of his own, but Battier wasn't going to be upstaged. He followed it up by tossing in another with a guy in his face just off baseline. The Toyota Center went ballistic and the Rockets never relinquished the lead again.

He helped make sure of that on the defensive end also.

With just over 10 ticks left and the Rockets clinging to an 87-85 lead, Battier switched off of Travis Outlaw and picked up Roy on a pick and roll. Roy beelined to the hoop and Hayes, in a hiccup, stepped in and took a huge charge, showing why he's Houston's defensive wizard in the post. Battier blocked the shot for good measure.

Generally when a Rocket steps up to the plate with a big shot or defensive stop like this I jump out of my seat and let out some noise ... this was just a feeling of pure respect. I understand that Battier does a lot that doesn't show up in the box score, but when some kind of offense was desperately needed, he stepped up with some real digits.

On top of that, the irony that Battier is doing this against Portland is over-the-top rich.

In 2006, the Rockets, holding the 8th pick of the draft, had a deal in place with Minnesota (#6) to get Roy. Minnesota took Roy and all Houston had to do was select Randy Foye and a swap was taking place.

That's when Portland GM Kevin Pritchard stepped in. He got wind of the deal and cut the Rockets off by trading for the 7th pick and taking Foye, forcing the Timberwolves to deal with them.

Houston "settled" for a trade for Battier.

On top of that, ClutchFans had strong intel that the Blazers and Rockets had talked about a deal centered on Battier this past offseason. The rumor was Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Pritchard discussed a trade that would have sent Battier and the 25th pick of the draft to Portland for Travis Outlaw and the 13th pick -- assuming Portland was unsuccessful in trading up and Kansas guard/forward Brandon Rush was available at 13 for the Rockets.

So again, the whole Battier-Roy-Portland angle is a fascinating one.

Battier stole the headlines, but it was nice to see Yao Ming get some calls and finally get some shots again. Yao finished with 21 points and 12 boards -- he scored 8 points in the first 6 minutes of the fourth quarter to help the Rockets regain the lead.

The MVP of the series so far may be Scola, who is leading the team in scoring in the first four at almost 17 a night. Luis chipped in 17 points and 8 boards.

Von Wafer also was terrific -- he was 3-3 from distance and the Rockets needed every one of those points.

They're doing it with defense and a total team effort on the offensive end. In fact, the balanced attack mirrors exactly what the Rockets did to the Blazers in the regular season -- Six Rockets are averaging double figures in the series: Scola (16.8 ppg), Aaron Brooks (16.5), Yao (15.8), Ron Artest (14.3), Wafer (11.3) and Battier (10.0).

But Artest was abysmal on offense (5-20 shooting) and I was very disappointed with Brooks' poor play... Houston shot just over 39% in this game... 39%, and won! Nate McMillan must be going insane right now wondering what it's going to take to beat this team.

So the Rockets, up 3-1, now find themselves going back to Portland with a firm grip on the Blazers' throats.

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