CHICAGO - A disdain toward officiating. An insane illusion that NBA refs have somehow conspired to collectively swallow their whistles and blow only unfair misery upon Houston.
And then there's James Harden's sleepy eyes. Poked inadvertently by a Green monster named Draymond, it's bleeding and painfully obstructing the vision of a sniper, a sure shot near and far.
These are the stories, misleading narratives, that the Rockets would rather want the world to talk about.
But after two games, two sound beatings, and an 0-2 series deficit against the two-time defending champions Golden State Warriors, the Rockets are running out of excuses.
Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the "death lineup" are the reasons why the Warriors are trampling the Rockets in this Western Conference semifinals.
Definitely not Scott Foster and his referee friends.
I feel bad for Harden and the pain he must have endured. But maybe he should ask Green to stab his eyes again in Game 3 because he actually shot better with the visual injury than without it.
In Houston's 115-109 Game 2 debacle, as he was dramatically squinting and wincing, Harden sank 9-of-19 field goals and 3-of-7 triples. In Game 1, when his eyes were healthy, his vision 20-20, Harden made only 9-of-28 field goals and 4-of-16 threes.
Harden and Durant have each scored 64 points in two games. But unlike Harden, who is making only 38 percent of his field goals, KD is drilling his at a higher rate of 42.5 percent.
The Beard is struggling behind the arc, 7-for-23 or 30 percent. The Slim Reaper is vicious like the Night King in the siege of Winterfell, dropping 4-of-9 from long distance for 44.4 percent.
The Warriors defense have taken away Harden's sweet spots, forcing him to hoist bad shots. Durant, meanwhile, is unstoppable, shooting over shorter defenders and blowing by bigs while serving a smorgasbord of mid-range jumpers.
A superstar outshining another is why Golden State is two games away from eliminating Houston.
Not the referees. Not an NBA conspiracy. Not because California is sunnier than Houston.
Instead of wasting time, energy, and tears crying about the perceived injustices they've been dealt with in this universe, the Rockets would be better off organizing a search party for Chris Paul,
Paul, the 33-year old injury-prone point guard the Rockets inked to a four-year, $160-million deal last July, is grossly underperforming his contract, scoring only 35 points in two games against the Warriors while having 10 assists against nine turnovers.
Look, 17.5 points per in two games is okay if you're paying George Hill, not someone making $40 million a year.
CP3 is harmless as CP03. Terrence Romeo would have done more damage.
The Warriors organization is dispatching scouts to spy on the other ongoing Western Conference semifinals between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets.
The Rockets are free from such burden. They're headed for another early summer vacation, one that doesn't include raising the NBA Finals trophy in mid June.