Rockets guard Iman Shumpert has a secret, one he’s only willing to share with his teammates for now. It’s a golden nugget on what it takes to overcome a multiple-game deficit in the NBA playoffs.
Asked if he shares the cloak-and-dagger data with his fellow Rockets on how the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 hole to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, Shumpert smiled slyly.
“Oh yeah, all the time,” he said. “And I’ll tell you after we come back and win this.”
“This” is the Western Conference semifinals, as the Rockets trail the Warriors 2-1 with Game 4 set for Monday night at Toyota Center. The Rockets needed overtime to earn their first victory of the series on Saturday night in Houston, 126-121, to squeeze their way back into competition against the reigning NBA champs.
Perhaps that’s why Shumpert, who made the most of his 18 minutes against the Warriors on Saturday, was willing to offer at least a sneak preview on Sunday of his valuable odds-beating background with the Cavs.
“Any time you lose a game, people are going to write things, and everybody is going to just seem like the series is over,” Shumpert said. “But until that fourth game is won, it’s anybody’s series at all times. Those finals taught us all that down 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2, none of that matters, you’ve just got to win that fourth game.”
Shumpert did his part Saturday to help the Rockets inch back in the series with 10 points in 18 minutes off the bench, in making 3-of-5 3-pointers.
“‘Shump’ coming in the game was huge – he made some big shots,” Rockets guard Chris Paul said.
Shumpert’s defense was a tad more ignored, but he was as active as anyone on that end in trying to slow down Kevin Durant (a near impossible task of late in the playoffs) and Klay Thompson, in finally helping give Golden State a setback in the series.
“He’s tough and he’s been there – he’s been through the Finals and knows what it takes,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of Shumpert. “Whether he makes his shots or not, I was kind of overlooking some of the other things he was giving us, just toughness and his ability to be able to turn up the burners.
“Then when he did knock some shots down, it put us over the top.”
Shumpert, acquired in a deal with the Sacramento Kings in February that included the Rockets’ first-round draft selection this summer, rebounded from a rugged start to the series in the first two games in Oakland, Calif.
Shumpert made one of his four 3-point attempts in the Rockets’ four-point loss in Game 1, and missed all four of his 3-point attempts in a six-point loss in Game 2. All 13 of his field goal attempts in the series are from beyond the 3-point line.
“They played me for longer stints, and I was able to get into a rhythm,” Shumpert said of his Game 3 ricochet.
Speaking of rhythm, outside of basketball Shumpert, 28, is best known for his musical talents, in dabbling in rap when he’s not running up and down the basketball court.
“I tried all types of ways to suppress it, to keep it in the background, but I just do it,” Shumpert said of writing lyrics. “It’s something some people think takes away from what I do. But those two or three hours people use to watch TV or play video games or whatever they choose to do, I just like making music.”
Shumpert’s multiple melodic offerings are available on iTunes and YouTube, among other outlets.
“I write on my own – I write on my phone,” the occasionally-cadenced Shumpert said. “Some people hear music and want to listen. Some people hear music and want to create a beat. I hear music and I just see words, all of the time. I’d rather write papers than take tests – I was that guy (in school).
“I’d rather write a five-page paper, than take a multiple-choice test.”
Shumpert said he first felt the need to suppress the desire to release music, especially as an NBA player, because of the criticism that comes with a subpar basketball outing.
“If I release music and have a bad game, don’t shoot it up to par and we lose, people will say, ‘That’s why they lost – because you were recording music,'” Shumpert said. “For the sake of my teammates and my organization I’d just not (like to) have that dilemma going on.
“A lot of times it’s something completely detached from (the game), but you can’t really talk about that. Because of the demand the game brings.”