The Houston Rockets came crashing down Friday night, after it looked like they might cruise to game 7 versus the Portland Trail Blazers.
The loss was especially painful after what many would consider an up and down season. The team was just starting to pick up momentum in the series after an impressive win earlier in the week. Fueled by great play from catalyst point guard Jeremy Lin in game 5, many fans thought the team might fly all the way to the finals.
After the quick fall from such heights, it didn't take long for the stages of grief to kick in for the team.
According to Portland Tribune, just a few minutes after Damian Lillard blew up the Rockets with an amazing shot and ended their season, several Rockets players gathered around a laptop in the locker room to watch the last play of the game.
The play began with 0.9 seconds remaining in Game 6 of the first round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs. Houston had a 98-96 lead. The Rockets were a breath away taking the series back to Texas for Game 7.
As you can imagine, the men reacted, initially with groans of disbelief and anger, but as they processed it, a depressive tone took over. They realized the season was truly finished.
"He (Lillard) got open, and he took a tough shot and that was the game," Lin said. "He got a clear look. I've watched the play a million times and I can go back and say, 'We should've done this, we should've done this, we should've done this.' But ... I don't know."
Houston guard James Harden added: "He (Lillard) got an open shot, and he's been making shots all night. We let the best shooter on their team get loose. It's tough to end our season like that. We fought so hard and had an opportunity to win the game."
As time passes, this team above most others will benefit from moving from depression over the loss, to acceptance and a sense that things can be gained and learned from a disappointing season.
One thing that can be learned, as the team, which includes many Christians like Lin and Howard, is for them to come to see the potential the they have, no matter the trials and tribulations they face, and no matter the parity the NBA generates. They have a good young base that has potential to function better as a team than many that they will see in this league, therefore they have an advantage. .
For his part, Lin told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to embrace coming of the bench the way Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs has done for many years, in support of that team dynamic.
"I want to look at what he has done," Lin said. "Maybe not so much his game - because we are very different - but his approach in terms of coming off the bench and what that looks like and how to be effective every night and how to maintain a consistent level of aggression."
Lin says he plans to stay on course with the Rockets, no matter that there has been a lot of trade speculation.
"I think another year together would definitely help, some experience," Lin told the Chronicle. "From a personnel standpoint, from a player standpoint, on paper, we have a very talented team. And we have a lot of pieces, so I wouldn't say we definitely need to add this or add that."
"We definitely learned a lot together this year, and I think that is something we can take with us," he added.