The Rockets went all in. This would be the year. They would spend three first-round picks to assemble a win-now roster for a coach in the final year of his contract, a front office boldly wagering on an unconventional style, and stars determined to become partners again.

They just never thought it would be on the line in one win-or-go-home first-round game. And as if to raise the stakes beyond the limits of a believable script, no one could have predicted that so much would be at stake against Chris Paul, the accomplished luminary the Rockets sent away.

Yet they find themselves in that inexplicable, maddening predicament, facing the fearless and overachieving Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 7 on Wednesday with all those public championship aspirations and possibly much about their future hanging in the balance.

That leaves one way to approach a decisive game they never thought they would face in the first round. The Rockets are steering into the skid and embracing it.

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