Rockets Success Against Clippers Should Put McHale’s Usage of Players into Question

I missed both the Grizzlies game and the Clippers game, so don’t have too many specific thoughts on those games. But there is one important thing I wanted to bring up. I just had a chance to read some post game summaries for the Clippers game and McHale was given a lot of credit for being creative with testing out new line ups in the absence of Harden. Well, I think he deserves credit for that, but the Clippers game should also call into question McHale’s usage of his players throughout the season. McHale has a fixation on certain players–either seeing only their faults or only their what they do well. He has an unhealthy over-reliance on Delfino, for example, because from the very beginning of the season, Delfino was the only true veteran that the Rockets had. Because of that, Delfino earned McHale’s unconditional trust and he plays Delfino like a starter. I know all the stats about the Rockets being a high scoring team with the lineup that includes Delfino. I’m not oblivious to that, but I think Delfino should be used more as an offensive spark off the bench. I think McHale’s unhealthy trust in Delfino takes away minutes from other deserving guys. Ever since Garcia came to the Rockets, I’ve been screaming on this blog for McHale to play Garcia more, because I felt that Garcia is a better all-around player than Delfino and isn’t as turnover prone. Delfino tries too much to be a play maker out there and doing things that he has no business of doing. Garcia plays more within himself and is a better defender. Garcia also brings more energy–he even does this when he’s on the bench.

Another guy I’ve been screaming for McHale to play more is Anderson. Because McHale doesn’t trust anyone but Harden in the 2-Guard position, he hasn’t given Anderson a chance. But in the limited minutes that I’ve seen Anderson, I’ve been very impressed. I just have no idea how McHale is unable to see Anderson’s abilities. I think, again, it’s because McHale has the fixation that ONLY Harden can play the 2-guard on the team, so he runs Harden to the ground–even when Harden has been playing hurt for long stretches. I think Anderson is just as capable of spelling Harden as Beverly has been as spelling Lin. But because of McHale’s distrust of Lin and his distrust of anyone but Harden in the 2-guard, he over-plays Beverly and way under-plays Anderson to the point of being ridiculous.

McHale’s crazy fixation is a really dangerous thing, as the team could be without Harden in the post season and that would be devastating. It would be ALL McHale’s fault if that were to happen. A great example of McHale’s crazy fixation is in the Pacers game in which Harden was clearly struggling and playing hurt (he’s been playing hurt for weeks now), yet McHale played Harden the ENTIRE second half. How ridiculous, reckless and irresponsible is that? And now Harden is injured. It’s infuriating for me to watch as McHale’s crazy fixation has hurt the team by his over-usage of a few players and under-usage of the rest. Parsons is another guy that McHale has been running to the ground since the beginning of the season. I get that we don’t have a true Small Forward, so that’s a little more understandable, but how about getting a little creative with the rotation? I know I’m alone in this, but I really think D-Mo is more suitable as a Small Forward than a Power Forward. But even without getting that creative, Delfino and Garcia are more than capable of spelling Parsons. Instead, McHale runs Parsons to the ground and then over-uses the lineup that includes both Parsons and Delfino and completely neglects Garcia (Garcia hadn’t seen any playing time the last four games).

Anyway, I have more to say on this subject, but I’ll leave wit this thought. Rather than praising McHale for completely changing his player usage in this ONE game against the Clippers, because he was more or less FORCED to, I think this game is a great example of how McHale has FAILED in his usage of his players throughout the season, because of his crazy fixations. The biggest way a coach can influence the game is how he uses his players and I see no balance and clear rationality in the way McHale uses his players. And I think this is one of the MAJOR ways McHale has hut this team. It’s really hard to prove a “what if”, but I think Rockets could be an even better team if the players were used more optimally. I just hope Morey/Les recognizes this. Not sure if there’s much they can do about it, except to fire McHale, but I don’t see that happening, since McHale will be given most of the credit for getting the youngest team in the NBA to the playoffs.

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Rockets Lose to Pacers Due to Poor Management of Player Minutes by McHale

I don’t have time to write much, but I was so pissed by McHale’s mismanagement of players minutes tonight to not say anything. You can call me a delusional Lin fan, I don’t care. Lin did play terribly in the first few minutes of the game and deserved to be taken out. And I was also okay with McHale benching Lin in the second quarter, but when Lin came back from half-time and did very well, helping the Rockets come to within 4 points, I thought it was a big mistake by McHale to sit Lin so early (with 4 minutes left to go in the third quarter) in the third and not bring back Lin until under 5 minutes to go in the game. McHale also benched Asik and D-Mo, just mentioning it so people don’t think I’m just fixated on Lin. Greg Smith was playing phenomenally, so I don’t blame him for benching Asik and T-Rob also provided a lot of energy. But Beverly wasn’t playing incredibly. But, again, I was fine with the second quarter benching of Lin, my problem is that when Lin came back and played really well McHale should have gone with Lin for the majority of the second half. You can call me a delusional Lin fan, but I think if McHale hadn’t benched Lin in the second half, Rockets would have won the game. They had a lot of momentum and when Lin was out, the Rockets offense looked so sluggish. It was entirely dependent on Harden and Harden wasn’t hitting anything.

Aside from McHale’s benching of Lin, he played Harden for the entire second half. That’s a huge mistake–especially on a night in which Harden struggled massively. What I would have done is Let Lin play until like the 3 or 2 minute mark of the third quarter and sit Lin then bring Lin back with 10 minutes left to go in the game. Or if I was going to sit Lin early, then I would have brought Lin back to play the entire fourth quarter and give Harden like a 4 minute rest or something in between the third and fourth quarter. I don’t know what McHale was thinking. I kept staring at the sidelines to see if Lin was getting ready to check back in in the fourth quarter and nothing. What McHale doesn’t realize is that managing Lin’s minutes that way hurts Lin’s confidence, as well. I can see Lin totally deflated on the bench and during time outs. Lin did well in the third quarter and deserved to get his minutes back. Beverly barely did anything in the second half. Ideally, I think McHale should have substituted Lin back in in the second quarter with 4 minutes left to go or something, because the bench had played the entire quarter. I think they ran out of gas. McHale doesn’t seem to understand the concept of using the bench to give you a run and letting your starters finish. I can see benching D-Mo, because he’s still not a legitimate starter, but McHale treats Lin just like a D-Mo. This is what I mean by McHale not showing Lin the respect that Lin deserves. I think a player of Lin’s caliber deserves the opportunity to play through mistakes. Lin should be treated like Parsons, at the very least, but McHale treats Lin like a scrub. As you can tell, I’m pissed at McHale at the moment. I really think Rockets would have won the game if McHale didn’t bench Lin in the fourth quarter. The offense was running smoothly when Lin was on the court and then completely disappeared when Lin wasn’t on the court and by the time McHale brought Lin back, Lin’s confidence was completely gone and all the momentum that he built up in the third quarter completely drained out of him. McHale waited ridiculously long to bring Lin back and the thing is Beverly wasn’t doing anything out there. McHale messed up tonight big time and cost the Rockets what would have been a great come from behind win. Rockets were well on their way to a come from behind win. Had Lin played in the fourth quarter, they would have won. So much more to say, but I’ll stop here. So I guess McHale is still a Lin Doubter through and through. He fixates on Lin’s mistakes so much. I don’t know why Lin’s inspired play in the third quarter wasn’t enough for McHale to trust Lin to finish the game. Lin had fresh legs in the second half, because he hardly played in the first half. If McHale wanted Beverly out there so much, then he could have brought Harden out for Lin and then sub Beverly out for Harden. That’s what I would have done. Instead, McHale decided to run Harden to the ground on a night in which Harden shot poorly from the floor. Man, so pissed at McHale right now.

Prediction Update: Rockets Take Care of Business Against Spurs Tonight

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to watch the game tonight, but I just wanted to update the prediction I made in my previous post.  I had predicted a win for the Rockets against Spurs (probably even in a blowout) if Spurs didn’t have Parker. Well, Parker is back and he did well against the Jazz, after being hesitant for the first half of the game. I didn’t watch the game, but just read the post game summary. Even though Parker turned it on in the second half and helped Spurs beat Jazz in overtime against a Jazz team that played better than they have in a while, I’m still sticking to my prediction that Rockets will take care of business against the Spurs. I don’t even think it’ll be a nail biter in which Rockets will have to pull out a win. I think Rockets will just take care of business, meaning not a blow out but an easy win, in which the game will be relatively close (with a few lead changes), but Rockets will have a 7+ point lead for the majority of the game and win by like 12 points or so.

Here are some of my reasons for predicting a win against the number 1 team in the West:

  • Rockets have come close to beating Spurs a couple of time. One was that game in which Lin went Linsane and Rockets almost beat Spurs in San Antonio back on December 28th. The biggest reason they lost that game was because of McHale’s boneheaded in-game mistake. If you’re curious, you can go back and read the post I wrote on it.
  • Rockets do pretty well against good teams in the Toyota Center. I don’t have time to look up stats on this, but from my flawed memory I think this has been the case. Rockets are a bunch of young guys who love to impress when they’re at home. I think that’s the psychological reason for it. So they step it up against good teams in front of their home crowd.
  • Lin seems to do better against the Spurs and against Parker. I don’t know much about Parker’s defense, but Mo Willams, who Lin shut down completely, dropped 23 against Parker Friday night.
  • Parker is a wildcard tonight. I expect him to still have some rust from being gone for five games, but he was back in form against the Jazz after the second half. He did say that he got winded (the game went into overtime). So I don’t expect the same Parker that has been a Rockets killer all season. I predict Parker won’t score over 23 tonight. This is a very bold prediction, since he has gone off against the Rockets in their previous meetings.
  • The only thing that I’m concerned about with the Rockets is, of course, the fact that Rockets are still trying to figure things out after the mini shakeup. So our PFs are going to have a very tough time against whoever is going to play PF for the Spurs and also Asik always has a tough time against Duncan (although Duncan sometimes plays PF for their team). I expect T-Rob to get more playing time tonight and maybe he’ll be a a positive x-factor for the Rockets. But, other than these things, I think overall, Rockets are in good shape to take this win at home against the much slower Spurs team.

We’ll see what happens. In either case, it’s gonna be a fun game, that’s for damn sure.

Rockets Better Destroy the Jazz (and other Short-Term Expectations)

I missed most of the first half of the Warriors game, but did get to see the interview with Sampson before half-time. He said that they got good looks, but the shots just didn’t fall. If that’s the case, then I guess it was just one of those days when your shots don’t fall. The only player who was reliable was Lin. It’s really tough to beat a team four times in a row, so  it’s not so surprising that the Warriors won. If they were playing in Golden State, then I would have expected the Warriors to win that game. But I thought the home court advantage would give Rockets the edge, although I have to say the Rockets crowd is one of the worst I’ve seen. It really takes a lot for them to stand up and cheer for the home team, it seems. Or at least that’s what it looks like on TV. They’re a very quiet bunch, from what I can tell. But I don’t live in Houston and haven’t been to Toyota Center, so I’m just basing my read from the broadcast.

I was shocked that the Rockets managed to put together a run to get within 5 points early in the third quarter. That really got the crowd going, then McHale goes and calls a time out. I think he was trying to calm his guys down a little, since he was worried that they would get a little out of control from all the adrenaline, I suppose. But I thought that was a bad time to call timeout. Those are times when the other team would call timeout to stop the momentum. In any case, the timeout wasn’t a game changer or anything, because Marc Jackson would have called a timeout if McHale didn’t. But, still, I thought that was a very odd move by McHale. When the guys came back from the timeout, they looked like a different team. They didn’t have the same level of intensity and then Clay Thompson shot the lights out kept killing the Rockets momentum with every drained trey. He and Curry were the Rockets killer. But I guess that was pay back. Bad loss, but not completely surprising.

In the beginning of this month, I said that these games will be a test to see where the Rockets are at in terms of the growing pains that come with a mini shakeup in the rotation. I said that if they lose no more than 2 games during this stretch before they face the Spurs, then the Rockets are back. Well, Rockets have already lost 3 games. I do expect theme to demolish the Jazz tomorrow and take care of business against the Cavs. So they should end the stretch with three losses. If they do, then they’re borderline in terms of being back in form. I expect them to destroy the Jazz, because the Jazz have been on some sort of crazy spiral as of late. The other night they lost to a very weak Knicks team that basically didn’t have any of their regular starters in the lineup. And Jazz lost on their home court. So if Rockets don’t blow out the Jazz tomorrow, then I’d be very disappointed and concerned about the short-term state of this team. I haven’t payed attention to the Cavs, so have no idea what they’re about, but if Rockets are “back”, then they should be able to take care of business against the Cavs of the league. If Rockets destroy the Jazz and take care of business against the Cavs, then I expect them to beat the Spurs, as well. That is, if the Spurs are still without Tony Parker on Sunday. Spurs are a well-coached team, but I think Rockets are a better team than a Spurs sans Parker. So if things go as I expect them to (Rockets blow out Jazz, take care of business against Cavs and beat the Spurs (possibly even blowing out the Spurs)), then the Warriors loss will essentially be canceled out by the Spurs win. At least that’s how it works out in my crazy mind. After the Spurs, we got three very tough games in a row: Pacers, Grizzlies and Clippers. If we don’t put together a three game winning streak (by beating the Jazz, Cavs and Spurs), then I think we’ll end up losing all three of these games. However, if we do put together a three game winning streak, then I think we’ll win at least one of these three tough match ups. The one I think we have the best shot of winning is the Pacers. I also think we have a shot at beating the Clippers. The game I’m putting down as a loss is the one against the Grizzlies. Grizzlies seem to be a much better team without Rudy Gay. This is the game I’m most looking forward to, because Rockets blew them out back in December and it looks as if Rockets are a match up problem for the Grizzlies, because of our up-tempo style. So I’m curious to see if that’s still the case. Grizzlies seem to be on a roll after dealing Rudy Gay, so I’m curious to see how we match up against them now, because they could be the team Rockets face in the first round if Rockets make it to the sixth seed. But the sixth seed is looking less and less likely with the loss against the Warriors. Warriors look like they may be out of the funk they’ve been in and they have a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way, so they’ll probably end up securing that sixth spot.

Anyway, just wanted to share some of my very short-term expectations. Of course, you never know what will happen–that’s why they play the games.

Rockets Do what They’re Supposed to: Blow Out a Weak Team at Home (Rockets 111 – Suns 81)

I expected a blow out tonight and I got a blow out, so I’m happy. Rockets getting back to doing what they’re supposed to do. It was close up until the second half of the second quarter, when the starters came back into the game and went on 15-0 or 18-0 run to end the first half up 13 and it was all over after that for the Suns. Rockets played great team ball tonight and clamped down on D hard in the second half of second quarter and Jeremy Lin was a big part of the defense.

Lin had a great game tonight. Lin is a nice guy off the court, but on the court, he’s very competitive and it was in full force tonight. I didn’t see the last Suns game, but in tonight’s game I can tell that Lin really wanted to play well against Dragic, because he’s well aware of the comparisons. In fact, Lin has made the comparison himself when the Rockets met with him in the off season. Lin looked completely focused on both ends of the court. He ran even harder than usual (which is crazy hard by the way) and he wanted to shut down Dragic on the defensive end. I can always tell when Lin’s focused on the defensive end. Lin’s stats were pretty good tonight, but he played better than his stats. He ran the show and was in full control of the game, as a result, the Rockets looked great. The ball was zipping around, everyone was getting shots. D-Mo had a career high 19 points. That was good to see, since he has been struggling some since his fantastic debut as a starter. T-Rob also looked good tonight. I didn’t know he could put it on the floor like that! Man, that one possession in transition when he was putting it behind his back and made a great bounce pass to Smith–he looked like a Point Forward! Greg smith also grabbed down 12 boards (I wonder if that’s a career high). Pretty much everyone played well, tonight and, of course, Aaron Brooks made his debut  and got a standing ovation after hitting a three. I heard he has been doing well at practice, so I’m sure we’ll see more of the crowd favorite in coming games. We also got to see James Anderson. Man, that kid can play. Wish he got more minutes.

Tonight’s game was a good start to a very favorable upcoming schedule. If the Rockets didn’t win by at least 20, I would have been concerned. In prior posts, I said that Rockets should come out of this stretch before the meet the Spurs losing no more than 2 games. Well, they’ve already lost two games, so that means they better not lose anymore games until they meet the Spurs, which is very doable, as long as they continue to do what they’re supposed to do. So if they go on a winning streak, then the Phoenix loss on Sunday won’t be an issue at all. They’ll just have ended up losing the wrong game, but still the same number of games. In this case, it’s the ends that matter, not the means. So Rockets can essentially wipe away the awful loss to the Suns if they don’t lose any games until they meet up with the Spurs.

Aaron Brooks, in his post game interview summed up Lin’s performance very well: “He set the tone in that third quarter. You couldn’t even tell James Harden was on the floor in the beginning of the first five minutes (of the third quarter), because Jeremy was taking over and helping us get the lead.”

Just saw this on Ultimate Rockets. It confirms my feelings that Lin was even more focused than usual tonight and really controlled the game on both ends of the floor (http://blog.chron.com/ultimaterockets/2013/03/rockets-launch-past-suns-in-second-quarter/):

The Rockets went from that timeout to 18 dominant minutes and from Saturday’s loss in Phoenix to a 111-81 blowout of the Suns on Wednesday night to open a seven-game homestand with their biggest rout of the Suns in franchise history.

It all began with those few minutes recharging their batteries on the bench.

“It was J. Lin,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said of the message Jeremy Lin led during the timeout. “We said something like, ‘C’mon, this game is way bigger for us than it is for them. We have to win this game with defense.’

“I think all five guys bought in and really played hard. Guys were all over the place. Guys were really physical defensively. We were getting on the floor. We were taking charges. We were doing all those tough, nitty-gritty things that we didn’t do when we played them in Phoenix.”

Rockets Hang in to Win a Huge Playoff-Atmosphere Game on the Road Against Golden State

I didn’t see the Dallas game, but from looking through forums like Dreamshake, it sounds like fans overwhelmingly disagreed with McHale’s decision to bench Lin. So looks like, unlike in the Orlando game, McHale made a mistake in benching Lin in the last game. I’m pretty sure Morey and Les weren’t happy with McHale’s decision either. Hopefully, learns from it.

Lin started off slow in tonight’s game. It’s probably the worst he’s played in a while, in terms of being too passive. I’ve been very happy with Lin’s play as of late, but in tonight’s game, he played passively in the first half. The thing that I’ve noticed about Lin, lately, is that he’s had a lot of really strong starts. He’s been playing better in the first half than in the second. Well, partly it’s because he’s been absent in the fourth quarter in the past three games. But he has been uncharacteristically strong at the beginning of games and then he slows down in the third quarter. Tonight, he started weak and turned things up in the third quarter. I have a feeling Lin’s ankle or something is bothering him, because Lin looked slow and he looked like he was recovering from an injury or something. He fell down a lot and didn’t have enough lift. That’s concerning. Hope he’s not injured or something.

Rockets have now taken three games from the Warriors. It was a huge game tonight and Rockets pulled it out. Rockets had a horrible second quarter (late in the first and into the second quarter)–one of the worst they’ve played in a while. There was no ball movement. Things did not look good in the second quarter and it looked like the Warriors wanted the game more and would be able to get the home win. But Rockets pulled it together in the second half with a spark from Lin in the beginning of the third quarter. He was scoring and making plays and put the Rockets ahead by 6 points. I missed a lot of the third quarter after that, so not sure what happened, but Warriors came back to take the lead. Then it stayed a tight game after that with both teams picking up the intensity. Of course, tonight, McHale didn’t dare bench Lin, so Lin got to play in the fourth quarter.

Parsons, once again, had a hot shooting game. He’s been on the last five or so games. I think he’s scored 20+ points 5 or so games in a row. He was a huge factor in keeping us in the game. Once again, McHale relies too much on Delfino. I actually like Garcia’s game more than Delfino and was happy to see Garcia in the game in the fourth quarter. But then McHale took Garcia out and replaced him with Delfino, which I thought was a mistake. Garcia is very aggressive defensively and he goes after loose balls. He also has range. I think he provides more than Delfino and he doesn’t have a bum elbow. Garcia is a guy I’d like to see play more and Anderson, too, of course. But with Garcia, Anderson has no hope of getting minutes. McHale really needs to reduce Delfino’s minutes drastically. We have too many players on the bench to deserve more minutes. Every time Garcia is in there, he works his tail off. And when Garcia is on the bench, he’s constantly standing up and cheering or coaching. I’m not sure what he’s doing, but he’s always so vocal on the bench. I think he’s a better veteran presence than Delfino. But McHale has some sort of blind love affair with Delfino, in which Delfino can do no wrong. It’s probably because Delfino was essentially the only veteran, but now that McHale has Garcia, I’m hoping he gains a more realistic perspective on Delfino’s game.

Harden has been off the mark ever since his ridiculous OKC performance. Looks like his knee is really bothering him. Doesn’t have the same explosiveness and he’s not finishing like he used to. In fact, the entire Rockets team missed a bunch of baskets at the rim tonight. It’s not the only time they’ve done that. Rockets will have games where they’ll do that in bunches. Tonight was one of those nights.

Tonight’s game was vital for playoff standings. I think Warriors needed this game more than the Rockets, because now the Rockets own the tie-breaker. Rockets showed a lot of grit by not folding after their horrible second quarter performance on the road. They kept hanging in there and did whatever they needed to pull out a win. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but a win’s a win. Our guys look banged up, though. So that’s a concern. Lin and Harden look like they’re playing hurt. Good thing they have an “easy” opponent tomorrow. But I have a feeling it won’t be an easy win. Phoenix have a lot of former Rockets who will be gearing up to get some revenge on their old team. Still, I expect a win. Would be psychologically damaging if we lost tomorrow after this big win. It would be like giving up this big win. Rockets still haven’t figured out their rotations, as to be expected. So that’s going to be an ongoing concern. Good thing they have a favorable schedule pretty much the rest of the way to the post-season, which includes a long home stretch, where they’ll have lots of much-needed practice time. I’ll be looking to see if McHale starts favoring Garcia over Delfino. I really hope so, because I really like what I’ve seen from Garcia’s limited minutes.

Kevin McHale is Just a Jeremy Lin Doubter. Nothing More. Nothing Less.

I just posted a video on my Jeremy Lin Channel. It’s a very long discussion about the whole McFale/Lin dynamic. Some of the things I say in the video, you’ll be familiar with if you’re a regular reader of this blog. There are some new insights, as well. Overall, though, I think it’s much more compelling when I’m able to actually play clips that I reference and that’s the luxury of making a video. If you enjoy the video, please feel free to spread the word. I’m hoping that, by putting my discussion of the McFale/Lin dynamic on YouTube, I am able to expose the message to a wider audience. So would appreciate any help I can get in this effort. I’m posting the video here for your convenience, but you can also go to the JeremyLintel Channel to view it: