Smith, C-Brew spark incredible comeback win at Staples

Corey Brewer's energy and enthusiasm helped the Rockets to an epic comeback victory in last night's Game 6 at Staples Center.

Corey Brewer’s energy and enthusiasm helped the Rockets to an epic comeback victory in last night’s Game 6 at Staples Center.

Published on Friday, 5/15/15, at 8:53 a.m. Eastern.

Josh Smith has been one of the NBA’s biggest enigmas for a decade. Since he came into the NBA straight out of high school, he has had as much talent and athleticism as any player in the league.

Too often, however, his poor shot selection and lack of intensity has drawn the ire of his many critics. To his credit, though, he has almost always conducted himself well. Sure, he has had a few one-game suspensions, mostly from Mike Woodson in Atlanta for various things (all of them minor).

Smith has never once been in trouble off the court. He’s never been arrested or had any domestic issues or battles with drugs or alcohol. Nevertheless, the Detroit Pistons dropped him and his high-dollar salary with zero compensation earlier this season.

He was picked up by the Houston Rockets, who were facing elimination last night and staring it right in the face with a 19-point deficit to the Clippers with less than nine minutes remaining at Staples Center. Then Smith, along with Corey Brewer, sparked one of the most improbable and deliciously exciting comebacks in NBA Playoffs history.

Brewer scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, while Smith drained three consecutive treys as Houston narrowed the deficit to five. The run came with MVP runner-up James Harden on the bench. Kevin McHale sent Harden to the scorer’s table to check in with about five minutes left.

Then, on second thought, he called him back. Who the hell was he going to take out? The lineup of Dwight Howard, Smith, Brewer, Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry was on fire. Best decision of McHale’s coaching career.

Behind Smith and Brewer, the Rockets surged into the lead. With the game tied, Blake Griffin went to the rim strong to try and give the Clips the lead back. Smith came out of nowhere and rejected his shot into the third row.

Terry hounded Paul, Howard protected the rim, Brewer’s frenetic energy was infectious and L.A. was collapsing in stunning fashion. Smith inserted the dagger, burying yet another 3-ball to put the game on ice.

With Houston leading 116-104 with 11.1 seconds left, the total (220) was sitting on a push. Terry took care of that with a triple to complete a 36-point turnaround. Paul’s buzzer-beating trey made the final: Houston 119, L.A. 107.

I was nearly one of the (hundreds of…?) thousands that nearly fell asleep with the Clippers ahead by 17-19 early in the fourth quarter. But something kept me from falling asleep while watching…and thank the heavens for that.

I’m glad to say I’m not one of those that woke up to see the startling final score and nearly fall to the floor. But make no mistake, this was more about Houston making it happen than L.A. choking.

It had to be the most satisfying night of Smith’s career, one that he deserved in the spotlight. Perhaps it was fool’s gold? He could go Oh-For from long distance in Sunday’s Game 7, but he’ll always have last night in his pocket. And good for him.

The ‘over’ has now hit in all six games of the series. The Rockets hooked up money-line backers with a return of at least +350 and as high as +375.

Howard finished with 21 points and 20 rebounds, while Brewer tallied 19 points and 10 boards. Despite not playing in the fourth quarter, Harden, who will be well rested for the series decider, had 23 points. Smith had 19.

5Dimes has the Clippers listed as two-point favorites for Sunday’s Game 7 at Houston.

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