Rockets lost a game they should have won against Denver

For the most part, I felt good about the way Rockets played in terms of how they executed in the half-court and how they defended the paint. Rockets was the better team tonight and even though they ended up losing, I liked the way the Rockets played. So I think they’re back! Rockets stuck to how they played back in December. The things I didn’t like about tonight’s game are the turnovers and missed free throws. Harden, in particular, forced the issue a little too much, committing 6 turnovers and Asik committed 7. Parsons chipped in 4 turnovers.

To me, Rockets lost because of a few unlucky/stupid plays. We had a nice lead going into the fourth after back-to-back steals by Douglas. The momentum was clearly on the Rockets side. Then Douglas committed a very stupid foul against Faried going for a loose ball that he was clearly not going to get after he missed his free throw. That sent Faried to the line. Then immediately after, Parsons, inexplicably was trying to isolate for the last shot of the game at the top of the key. I thought he was going to pass it to Morris for a three, but, instead, Parsons tried to penetrate the lane and just got flustered and turned the ball over, leading to an easy basket by Brewer. Our 7-point lead suddenly shrunk to 3 points in less than 30 seconds. That was a momentum killer. Then the other keys to the loss were two lucky buzzer beaters by Gallinari early in the fourth. The Rockets defended the ball well, but Gallinari just hit two lucky shots. So Rockets lost because of a few unlucky and stupid plays. That’s really what it came down to and that’s how you lose a game even though you played a better game. Sometimes, games just come down to a few stupid and unlucky plays.

So that’s why I feel good about the way the Rockets played. It was a little mind-boggling how Denver still kept it close the entire game, even though the Rockets executed their game plan much better.

Lin had his best game in a while and probably his best ball-handling game ever–even including during the Linsanity period. Lin also played with aggression for the entire game tonight. I think it was a mistake for McHale to sit Lin for too long tonight. Lin was clearly playing very well right from the start. The guy McHale should have sat more was Harden, tonight. Harden was pressing too much, when he should have stuck to making the easy plays. Lin was definitely feeling it tonight. I’m not sure why McHale failed to see that and not play Lin more. Lin ended with only 31:00 minutes, while Harden ended with 41:53 minutes. Even though Lin only had 5 assists, he made all the right plays tonight. He had a lot of missed assists tonight, either because the guy he passed it to missed easy shots or the guy go fouled. So the 5 assists was deceiving. What I loved most about Lin’s play tonight was his ability to keep his dribble alive. Lin ended up with only 1 turnover tonight, even though he played aggressively and constantly penetrated the lane on nearly every possession.  He also contained Lawson. Lawson got most of his points from the free throw line tonight in “garbage” time. So that’s how he ended up with the 16 points. Lin ended up with 22 points tonight. Almost always, when Lin plays well, the Rockets win. And they should have won tonight, if it weren’t for a few dumb/unlucky plays. Lin also had the first foul call in his favor that he didn’t deserve this season. It was one where he was driving in the lane and cocked his head back for no reason (clarification: he cocked his head back to avoid contact) and stopped short. They called a foul on Gallinari. I’ve never seen Lin get ref call in his favor that he didn’t deserve.

As long as the Rockets continue to play this way, they’ll be just fine. So this loss wasn’t like the one Denver handed them in Houston the last time these two teams met.

Three of our starters ended up with 20+ tonight with Lin leading the way: Lin (22); Harden (21) Parsons (21). Asik had 18 boards.

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Rockets hand Jazz Worst Home Court Loss in History (125 – 80)

Wow…just…wow! I think tonight might have been the best game the Rockets have had all season. They were great on both ends of the floor and they played with intensity for an entire 48 minutes. It probably also helped that the Jazz were pretty terrible, missing a couple of their key guys: Gordon Hayward and Mo Williams’. But I don’t think these guys would have made much of a difference.

This 45 point defeat eclipsed Utah’s previously worst home court loss set back in 1980 by 12 points. Whenever you win by 45 points, it’s stunning. What makes this even more stunning is how great Utah is at home. They’ve only lost 4 games at home prior to tonight and they’ve been rolling in January owning the fifth or so best record in January. The Rockets, on the other hand have had an awful January, due primarily to a grueling schedule, that left little practice time and a lot of tired legs. So for the Rockets to win in such dominating fashion was very stunning. And I’m sure for long time Rockets fans, this was probably one of the most satisfying wins as a Rockets fan, because of the bitterness Rockets fans have towards the Jazz that date back to Karl Malone. On the broadcast tonight, they mentioned that the teams that the Jazz have faced the most in the playoffs is Houston. So for the Rockets to hand the Jazz their worst home court defeat is something that I’m sure a lot of Rockets fans are still reveling.

Everything clicked for the Rockets tonight, but I want to start with Jeremy Lin. Jeremy started out playing very aggressive. He was penetrating and making plays for himself and for his teammates. He didn’t get to see the Sundance premier of Linsanity, but he was there to take questions and such at the end and was there for the standing ovation. Maybe taking part in that helped remind him of what Linsanity was all about, because Lin came out with more aggression in the first quarter than I’ve seen him all season with the exception of a couple of games, like the Knicks. He went into passive mode again in the second quarter, when Harden started heating up. Then in the third quarter, Lin started heating up again right when McHale took him out of the game for good. Still, Lin ended up with some solid stats: 12 points (Asik’s offensive goal tending took away 2 of Lin’s points), 7 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers in only 24:43 minutes. He was also a perfect 5 of 5 from the field and had a three pointer off a loose ball with time winding down. What was also very impressive about Lin tonight was his ability to help out and double team the Jazz Bigs without sacrificing his on-man defense. I think that was a big factor in shutting down the Jazz Bigs. Lin forced a great jump ball against Jefferson when he came down to help on defense (and the Rockets took possession after the jump ball). It reminded me of a jump ball that Lin forced against Zach Randolph. Harden had a very efficient game with 25 points (a perfect 8 of 8 from the free throw line) in 27:40 minutes (none of the starters played in the fourth). Almost all of Harden’s points were in the paint. It was like a layup drill for Harden. The Jazz just looked confused on defense all night.

Other notable performances of the night: Asik had 19 rebounds; Morris and Delfino were 4 for 6 from three point each.

Some notable team stats:

  • All but two players had a +/- of 11 or more tonight
  • Only 5 turnovers (also had 12 steals, so we had more steals than turnovers)
  • 26 to 2 fast break points
  • 16 of 34 from three-point (Delfino set the tone from three point)
  • 42 points in the paint

The Rockets really needed this win, since the Jazz are a place ahead of them in the standings. With everything clicking tonight and also with an impressive win against the Nets, I think the Rockets are back. I think we can chalk up the losses in January to a grueling (dare I say unfair) schedule with a ridiculous number of back to backs and consecutive road games (no other team in the NBA had the ridiculous schedule that the Rockets had in January). Now that the schedule going forward is much more reasonable, I’m hoping this allows the Rockets to get some practice in in between games and start playing like they did back in December. The Rockets are a team that definitely need the practice time. Being a young squad, they need to be constantly reminded of how to play their brand of basketball, of where to be on the court. Spacing for this team is perhaps the most important aspect of their game, because it allows Lin and Harden room to maneuver and make plays. Spacing is all about knowing where you should be on the court at all times. Now it’s time to get some revenge on the Nuggets!

 

Here’s a well-written summary of the game from Rockets.com’s Jason Friedman:

“James Harden split the double-team and accelerated on his way into the paint before hurling himself into the air to unleash a ferocious, filthy and positively violent tomahawk dunk amid a crowd of helpless, sagging and slump-shouldered Jazz defenders. They knew. Everyone knew. Harden’s jam was not just thrown down in the mug of Utah’s players; it had been forcefully flushed in the faces of the entire franchise and its fan base. It was, of course, just a single play. But when the final horn sounded and the Rockets had finished dooming Utah to a 125-80 defeat – its worst home loss in franchise history – that one play summed up what took place during those 48 jaw-dropping minutes more than mere words ever could.”

Standing Ovation at Sundance for “Linsanity” the Movie

Remember Linsanity? Now there’s a movie. Before you write this off as someone trying to capitalize on Linsanity, the director of this documentary followed Lin with a camera back when Lin was at Harvard.

The masses have very short memories. Many seem to have already forgotten how Lin made time stand still for a few weeks last year. He mesmerized the entire world. We all felt like we were living inside some really cheesy movie, in which everything unfolded too perfectly and the good guy always came out on top. Every game he played was like some corny sports movie in which the underdog prevailed (Lin vs. Kobe) or the hero came from way behind to hit the last second shot to win the game (Lin vs. Raptors). Except it wasn’t corny or cheesy at all, because it wasn’t scripted by some Hollywood hack. For a couple of weeks, anyone could slip into a beautiful, perfect world, courtesy of Jeremy Lin. And most of us did. Many of us are still there in fact. I guess there will always be haters, but in Lin’s case, I really don’t know why. He’s not someone who is out to grab all the spotlight. If anything, he avoids the attention as much as he possibly can. Lin and those magical weeks of Linsanity is a gift. We should all just be thankful, rather than letting our human failings (envy, prejudice, etc.) get in the way of receiving this gift humbly. I look forward to seeing his story and reliving his magical run last year.
Lin’s story should be an inspiration to all–especially to our kids–regardless of the color of your skin. We should all learn from Lin, rather than degrade him. He’s been discriminated, passed up, and overlooked throughout his life in the basketball arena, but he never complained and continued to work tirelessly on all the things that he does have control over. Anyone in his situation would have given up a long time ago. Anyone would have given up if they had led their high school to a state championship only to be passed up by every legitimate college basketball program. Anyone would have given up if they had great games against top college teams, torching future first round picks only to go un-drafted out of college. Anyone would have given up after being passed from one NBA team to another, only to sit at the very end of the Knick bench. Anyone, but Lin. Through every disappointment, Lin continued to go to the gym and the court to work on his conditioning and his game. To be a better basketball player in every way, even though no one was looking.
Here’s some news report on the documentary premier ad Sundance:

Rockets Finally Got their Mind Right in Easy Defeat of Nets (119 – 106)

The Hornets game on January 2nd is the one that ended the Rockets 5-game winning streak. Lets hope that yesterday’s Hornets game is the one that will start a new winning streak. Before that yesterday’s game, the coaching staff showed the Rockets players tape of how they played when they were rolling back ind December and I think that was a very smart move by the coaching staff. I said so in one of my comments before Friday’s Hornets game. When you’ve done everything wrong, as the Rockets have done in January, it doesn’t make much of an impact to keep focusing on all the mistakes. It gets to be too overwhelming and focusing on the negatives will only tear down an already beaten up group of guys. It’s better to change their state and give them a much needed confidence boost by letting the players see with their own eyes what they’re capable of. So far, that has carried into tonight’s game, where the Rockets looked just as sharp as they did during December. The ball movement and player movement was fantastic today, and I don’t think it’s because the Nets are a horrible defensive team. When the Rockets move the ball and move without the ball, they are a very difficult team to stop, because they have a lot of different offensive weapons.

I didn’t think D-Williams would go for 30 tonight, but he already had 20 in the first quarter, where he went and implausible 9 for 9. By some miracle, he only ended up with 27 points, but that’s basically 30. So I was wrong about D-Williams. He definitely came out for blood. I’m sure revenge on Lin was on his mind, but I think he also wanted to bounce back from their dismal performance against the Grizzlies last night. Fortunately for the Rockets, they didn’t. Even though Lopez ended up with 21, I think he got bailed out a number of times by the refs. Before the refs started bailing him out, Lopez was pretty dismal and completely got owned by Asik, who had a great game after a slump. Asik finally realized that he’s 7 feet and started dunking the ball tonight, rather than laying it up like a 6-footer. Asik even caught a few bounce passes down low tonight. He ended with 20 points and 16 rebounds in one of his best games of the season–especially since he was against a star Center. Smith also had great minutes and had several powerful dunks that I think got Asik going, because it was only after Smith got all those dunks that Asik got going. The team also ended with 50 rebounds, which has to be one of the best rebounding games of the season.

Parsons had a career high 11 assists (he tied his career high 8 assists in the first half). Morris had a career high 10 rebounds. So a couple of career nights for the guys. Harden scored 29 points and is looking like his range is back, as well as his free throw shooting. Harden also committed zero turnovers.

Lin is still being treated unfairly by the refs. It’s very disturbing. He had 6 turnovers, and for sure one of them was because he was called for an offensive foul, even though his man was so not set it wasn’t even funny. The guy just ran right in front of Lin and they call the charge on Lin. So ridiculous. And these refs just get away with it. Lin also didn’t get a foul called when he was hammered in the fourth quarter on a transition reverse lay up. He came out of it with a bunch of scratches on his arm and no whistles from the refs. There needs to be recourse for bad ref calls. It makes no sense why when the league came up with the flop rule, they didn’t come up with a counterpart to keep refs in line. It can’t just be the players that need to be held accountable. If you’re going to hold players accountable, you need to do the same for the refs. It’s very frustrating to watch games where the refs end up deciding. Refs should be a non-factor, yet, for the Houston Rockets–especially–they become a big factor almost every night. The reason is that the Rockets have the the most amount of no-names and young players on their roster, who often get shafted by the refs. This open acceptance of discrimination in a work place is a disgrace.

Anyway, I can go on and on about that stuff. As a Jeremy Lin fan, it’s very frustrating to watch. I don’t know of the Rockets have done anything about it. I don’t know that there’s much they can do.

Lin ended up with a solid game. Once again, he played better in the second half than in the first half. I thought he was pretty ineffective in the first half. So he still needs to work on getting going at tip off. I heard he got off to a good start last night. I really liked the way he kept his dribble alive in the second half. This allows him to wait and find the optimal play. He also had a great move to the basket where he picked up his dribble and was trapped by two players, but pivoted his way to the basket for a lay-in. These are the types of moves Lin needs to do more. There are a lot of other things that I want to see Lin doing, like when he’s down low, rather than just go hard to the basket all the time, he should stop short and fake a shot to get his defender in the air and then jump into the defender to draw a foul. I think Lin can pretty much do this every time, because no one expects this out of Lin, but it seems like such an easy way for him to get himself to the free throw line for easy baskets. Don’t know why he doesn’t do this and don’t know why the coaching staff isn’t all over him about doing this. He can pretty much get a few of these every single game. That’s like 6 easy points right there in my eyes. Overall, Lin needs to learn to draw fouls and he’s got a great teacher in Harden. Knowing Lin, I’m surprised he hasn’t picked this up from Harden quicker. Lin needs to stop avoiding contact. He needs to welcome contact and keep his hand up so the refs can see. I don’t think it’s that hard, but it does take good arm strength and hand strength to hang onto the ball. But too often, Lin avoids contact and puts up a very difficult shot. And because he avoids contact, the refs assume that he didn’t get hit, even though he often still gets hit. But if he goes right as the defender and doesn’t make adjustments and keep his hands up, it makes it easier on the refs. But knowing the discrimination towards Lin, he’ll probably try it in a few games and get called for offensive fouls and then he’ll stop.

Anyway, great team win. Rockets look like they did back in December when they were rolling. Hope this is the start of another winning streak. They just need to keep visualizing how they play when they play their game so they can get it into their being and not forget. Because the problem with these young guys is that they keep forgetting how to play. The need constant reminding, but instead of relying on the refs, they should do some visualization exercises themselves. Rockets also did a great job of taking care of the ball tonight. Only 11 turnovers (Lin had 6 of them, justly or unjustly).

 

One Simple Solution to Help Refs Keep NBA Games Fair

This season, the NBA added new rules that penalize players for flopping in order to hold players accountable for keeping games fair, but there’s nothing in place that holds referees accountable for blatantly terrible calls. Don’t get me wrong, I think refs have a very difficult job and a thankless one. It’s also difficult to keep up with the pace of the game and sometimes they don’t have the angles that the players, coaches or even the fans get. So they make bad calls or miss calls that should have been made. Those bad calls are understandable. However, there is a whole set of calls that refs make that are less forgiving.

At the end of the day, refs are human beings. They can’t help the biases that they have and are often unconscious of these biases. It is commonly accepted that refs treat superstars, such as Kobe Bryant and Lebron James differently than other NBA players. These superstars get what are called “superstar calls” and on average they get a disproportionate volume of favorable calls. Refs also discriminate against non-elite rookies/young players and no-name players. So if you have a large number of these players on your team, such as the Houston Rockets do, you suffer a large volume of unfavorable calls throughout the season. No names like Toney Douglas and non-elite youngsters like Greg Smith often get called for fouls they didn’t commit and fouls against them have to be blatantly obvious for it to be called. Lin, despite being a mega star, also gets treated unfairly by the refs. In fact, it’s really disturbing how many times Lin has been hammered or banged up without any whistles from the refs. I mean, if this happens just a few times, that’s bad enough, but for Lin it happens far too many times. Lin also gets called for offensive fouls that he didn’t commit. The most recent example was in the Celtics game (on 1/11/13) where Rondo just missed a layup and Lin was called for a foul, even though Lin didn’t touch Rondo. Lin also never gets the benefit of the doubt when he’s trying to draw an offensive foul, yet, is whistled for offensive fouls–even when his man is in the restricted area as in the New Orleans Hornets game (on 1/9/13). I’d be fine with all of this if Lin also gets calls in his favor that he doesn’t deserve. Then there would be a balance, since on average, you figure players should get the same amount of favorable and unfavorable calls that they didn’t deserve. But for Lin, I can’t think of a favorable call he got that he didn’t deserve. I have actively sought this out when watching Lin play, but don’t even have one example to give.

Regardless of whether or not we’re talking about Lin, referee discrimination in the NBA is widely known and accepted. In fact, commentators often make references to the fact that rookies need to pay their dues (i.e., suffer their share of bad calls). But this discrimination in the workplace shouldn’t be tolerated! Teams that don’t have a lot of superstars on their roster have to battle not just the other team, but also the refs on a nightly basis. Unfair calls by refs don’t just penalize a team for that one specific possession, it sometimes has psychological repercussions that affect the entire game and sometimes an entire season. When players continue to get unfairly treated by the refs, it hurts player morale and players sometimes just throw up their hands in surrender.

I have one simple solution that will diminish the factor that human-error/discriminatory refereeing play in the NBA and make games more fair: give teams one or two (haven’t thought about the optimal number) referee challenges per game. These Challenges would work similarly to the way Player Challenges work do in Wimbledon (professional tennis tournament).  Each team has the option to challenge a referee’s call anytime during the game. Once a challenge has been made by a team, the referees would be forced to watch replays and re-convene to uphold or withdraw their call. Teams may also challenge non-calls (this one will be more difficult to figure out exactly which type of non-calls, since play is generally not stopped during non-calls). If the team wins a Challenge (i.e., they were right and the refs made the wrong call), then they don’t lose their challenge, however if the team loses a Challenge (i.e., they were wrong and the refs made the right call) then they lose their challenge. So lets say that teams are given two Challenges per game, if they use one of the Challenges and are wrong, they are left with only one remaining Challenge. However, if they challenge a call and turn out to be right, then they still have two Challenges. Simple enough?

The obvious criticism is that this will slow the game down. But if you think about this beyond just a knee-jerk reaction, you will discover that it actually probably doesn’t add that much time to the game. I mean, think about time outs, teams don’t use time outs when they don’t need to and I think teams will be even more judicious in their use of Challenges–most likely saving them for the final few critical minutes. Also, some challenges may actually speed up the game. For example, if a team challenges a foul call in which the player on the other team is in the act of shooting and the team that Challenges the call turns out to be right, then the game doesn’t have to be held up for foul shooting.

After I thought of this idea, I don’t know why this hasn’t already been in place. It seems something that is much needed in the NBA, because everything is moving so quickly and human error in officiating becomes a huge liability. This will also cut down on the number of Technicals and upholds the entire purpose of having referees in the first place, which is to keep the game fair.

Rockets Lose 6 in a Row

So after winning five in a row, Rockets give back six in a row and are now just out of the 8th spot. I think their losing streak as a lot to do with guys being fatigued from playing way too many minutes–especially Harden and Parsons. The other MAJOR factor is the grueling schedule. During this six-game losing streak, they had 3 back-to-backs, and five away games. Obviously, this is the worst-case-scenario, but it’s also not THAT surprising. I know I’ve been away for a little while during this losing streak. It’s because I didn’t find that there was much to say. I would have said pretty much the same thing during every game write up. Guys are just tired and the schedule is grueling. Of course, there’s always things to say about specific games, but for the most part, I think this is what’s happening. I know it’s a very simple explanation (and I’ll get more specific later in this post about other concerns), but often the simplest explanation is the correct one.

During this 6-game losing streak, the teams that played the best against them were the Pacers and the Clippers. Rockets would have lost to these teams even when they were rolling. They just got too many good players and Rockets are simply over-matched. My big bold prediction is that the Pacers will beat the Heat (Heat has a very weak bench) in the Eastern finals and lose to the Thunder in the finals. There’s also a chance that the Clippers can be title contenders. Of course, the problem with this prediction is that the Heat step up their game to a whole other level during the playoffs. This is what happens when you have what some are calling THE GOAT (Greatest of all Time). This is why it’s a big bold prediction on my part. Anyway, all this is to say that the Pacers are really good, so the loss to them last night wasn’t too hard to take.

The Hornets game was also a game I expected to lose, as well as the Dallas game, both games came on the back end of back-to-backs and also because I thought both teams are much better than their record. The only game I saw us winning was against the Sixers, since they’re not very good. So the likely scenario for me was that the Rockets would have won 1 of 6 games during this stretch. The Celtics game could have gone either way for me. So the best case scenario for me during these grueling six games was for the Rockets to win 2 of 6.

So it’s not too surprising to me that the Rockets lost six in a row. I know it looks really bad, but I think a lot of it has to do with the schedule and guys being tired. They got another back-to-back tonight and should end their losing streak. They have a much easier schedule coming up in the next five games. So these next five games will be critical in determining whether or not this six-game losing streak is anything to panic over. If the Rockets string together a five-game winning streak, which I think is likely (the only game I see them dropping is the Nets game, since that’s a back-to-back and they’ve never played the Nets so I have no idea how they’ll match up against the Nets), then we can just chalk up this six-game losing streak to a very grueling schedule.

Some indications that the guys are fatigued: missed free throws, missed shots at the rim, and missed threes. Also, guys just aren’t running anymore. The one who looks the most tired to me, lately, is Harden, not surprisingly. This is why Harden has struggled so much in the last few games after being so ridiculously consistent for so long. I think Harden just hit a wall. A good indication of his fatigue is that he’s not strong enough to draw fouls. He’s also missing free throws, missing shots at the rim and missing threes. It’s more apparent with Harden, because he’s been so consistently good. I think it’s time to give James Anderson a try. I was proud of McHale for trusting Beverly so quickly. Beverly played only two minutes in garbage time against the Clippers, but it was enough for everyone to see how good he is. In fact, I was surprised that his D-League average was so mediocre, considering how good he is. He should be blowing it up like Lin did during Lin’s stint in the D-League. I think he averaged something like 13 points and 7 assists or something during his brief stint in the D-League. Now, I’m not sure if Beverly is this good, because he’s just playing on adrenalin or something. But he looks pretty much unstoppable on the offensive end and he’s a GREAT on-ball defender (a lot of people hesitate to use a word like “great” to describe a player with Beverly’s background, but I don’t really care about where a player comes from, I just call it like I see it). He makes guys so uncomfortable when he defends them and he’s got amazing lateral quickness and just overall quickness. He has an incredible ability to stay with his man. Again, I don’t know if it’s because he knows he’ll just be playing for 10 or so minutes and is giving it his all out there, or if he is THIS good. He actually looks a lot like Douglas on defense, but I’m less nervous that he’ll pick up a foul, although he did pick up quick fouls against the Mavs. Beverly has more length than Douglas, so that’s why I’m less nervous about his aggressiveness on defense. I think we have a great back up to Lin and if Lin is not careful, there’s a chance that Beverly could go Linsane on Lin. The only question I have about Beverly is whether or not he’s playing so well, because he knows he’ll only be out there for 10 or so minutes and is just giving it his all, or if he’s THIS good, because he didn’t light it up in the D-League. If he’s as good as what I’ve seen out of him so far, then I would have expected him to go Linsane in the D-League–granted he was only there a short period of time. But he also wasn’t lighting it up overseas. So that’s confusing to me, also. So is this all adrenalin or is Beverly THIS good. If it’s just adrenalin, then Beverly will make a great back-up to Lin, but if he’s THIS good, then he may even take Lin’s job.

What concerns me is not the losing streak, it’s how the Rockets have been playing. And what I want to know is whether or not it’s simply due to fatigue or if there’s something more fundamentally wrong. I’m sure fatigue is a big factor, but they’ve looked so bad out there lately that I’m starting to question our offense (our defense has always been an issue, so that’s nothing new and you need a lot of energy on defense, so fatigue is an even bigger factor on defense). There’s a lot of missed cues or lack of communication going on out there and very little ball movement or player movement in the half-court. Granted, McHale has never had much of a half-court offense, but I still saw screens off the ball and guys cutting and moving without the ball back in December. We’re just not getting any of that and I think it’s a lot to do with fatigue. But is it merely physical fatigue or also the fact that guys just don’t know what to do out there, because McHale doesn’t run very many plays, so guys don’t really know where to move on the court. This is what I’m concerned about. During December, the Rockets were playing with such pace and getting a lot of transition baskets due to effort that it masked a lot of McHale’s and the young player’s deficiencies in the half-court. So now that the Rockets have slowed down considerably due to fatigue, the lack of half-court sets is really apparent. Again, what I don’t know is if it’s because the players are just too tired to move around or if they just don’t know where to move to on the court, because of lack of direction by McHale. If it’s the latter, than I”m very concerned. If it’s the former, then I think the Rockets can bounce back once they get their legs back and McHale expands his rotation. Remember Terrance Jones? I’m still disappointed that McHale has relegated him to the D-League. I think he has great potential and now that 2Pat and Morris are struggling, it’s time to test Terrance Jones and D-Mo out. I thin both Jones and D-Mo have more potential and can probably pair up better with Lin and Harden, because I think these guys are better PnR players. I mean pretty much anybody is better at the PnR tan 2Pat or Morris. Right now, our best PnR big is Greg Smith. The problem with D-Mo is that he’ll get overpowered on the defensive end, so that’s why I favor Jones over D-Mo.

The other big concern is that the Rockets are no longer running after made baskets. I think the only guy I see that’s still making a concerted effort to run after made baskets is Lin. Maybe it’s because I’m most focused on Lin, but it seems like he’s the only one that’s still following that concept. But it does no good if only a few guys are running. What made the Rockets so devastating in December is that the entire team would run after made baskets and they would get easy points that they had no business of getting. During this six-game winning streak, the Rockets have gone away from that completely. Again, fatigue is a big factor. What I want to know is if it’s just physical fatigue or is it also mental fatigue. Are the players getting mentally tired of having to run after every made basket and are just slacking off because they don’t see the point of having to do it EVERY time, since it only pays off a few times. I think what’s happened is that the guys are getting really tired so they’re being more selective about when to run after made baskets and as they keep doing this, they see very little point in doing it at all. This is a little hard to explain, but the whole concept of running after made baskets is a numbers game, so you have to essentially run after EVER made basket, otherwise it won’t really work. The idea is that you, of course, won’t be successful every time or even most times you run after made baskets. In fact, you’ll only be successful like 10% of the time or something. But the key is to do it EVERY time, because you don’t really know which times it will work. Now, of course there will be obvious times when it will work and when it will not work and there’s something to be said about mixing things up and not running EVERY time so you can catch the defense off guard. But my point is that due to fatigue, I think some of the players are trying to save their energy by being a lot more selective about when they run after made baskets and in doing so they find less and less success and, as a result, they’ve stopped doing it altogether reasoning that it’s too much work for the amount of success. But the thing is, that’s the Rockets competitive advantage. So if they stop doing that, they lose a huge edge over the competition. So my concern is if they’ve stopped running after made and (and also missed) baskets because their legs are just not physically capable, or if it’s because they’ve stopped buying into the concept.

My third concern, and this has been a concern all season, is the lack of screens. Our Bigs have never been good at setting picks, but it was even worse during the six-game losing streak. I hardly saw screens during many of these games. I think last night’s game is where I saw the Bigs make a concerted effort to set screens consistently. I think Smith should be doing a lot of PnRs when he’s in there, since he’s really the only Big on the team who’s capable of doing it. So McHale should make a concerted effort to tell Smith to do PnRs with Lin and Harden pretty much every time he’s out there. I don’t know why this is not obvious to the Rockets coaching staff. There was one game back in December where Lin and Smith were just toying with the defense and basically had consecutive practice PnR drills. I think this could happen a lot more if the Rockets coaching staff tells Smith to set screens for Lin and Harden when he’s out there. Anyway, it was good to see that they did make a concerted effort to set screens last night. I think McHale had a talk with the Bigs.

So to sum up, my concerns about this losing streak is not the losing streak per se. I’m more concerned about whether or not players have a rough idea of where they can move to on the court in the half-court set so we can get some movement without the ball, whether or not the players have stopped buying into the concept of running in transition after EVERY made and missed basket, and whether or not the coaching staff will be successful in forcing the Bigs to consistently set screens for Lin and Harden.

One note/big bold prediction: James Anderson will see some non-garbage time minutes tonight and in the coming games. Hopefully, he can prove himself like Beverly has. At the very least, he’ll probably be better for the Rockets on the defensive end than Harden. Also, I mentioned this earlier in the long, rambling post: I predict that the Rockets end their losing streak tonight.

Rockets vs. Hornets Game Thread

The Hornets may have a poor record, but they’re a much better team than their record–especially now that they have Eric Gordon back. This is the Hornets team that just came off of a win against the Spurs. It’s going to be  a very tough match up for the Rockets after their starters (Parsons and Harden) played a bunch of minutes last night. Hopefully, the Rockets won’t come out sluggish like they have recently. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hornets blow us out and Rockets have an off night that their fourth quarter heroics can’t pull them out of. Lin did a great job of containing Vasquez last time, so Vasquez will be out for revenge. Lin will need to play aggressively from the opening tip. We’ll see if Lin can do this. I’ll be watching and commenting below on this post. Feel free to join in on the comments.