- If Patrick Beverley has been lost, you can kiss the Houston Rockets’ title hopes this year goodbye. You can stick a fork in them. They don’t have a chance in hell without Beverley. I guess we will find out in a few hours. When Red94 went to press, it was believed that Beverley had suffered a sprained knee with the fear being that the injury was serious. He limped to the lockerroom at the close of things last night and it didn’t look good, but we will just have to wait a few more hours and see. But I’m bracing for the worst. The Rockets can still win this series without Beverley, but it will be tough doing anything else of significance.
- Isn’t it funny how your whole world can change just at the drop of a hat? One minute, the Rockets were coasting to a Game 1 victory, nursing a double digit lead with less than five minutes remaining, having absorbed a historic night from the Blazers’ best player while their own two stars didn’t have their best games…and the next, they are down 0-1, having coughed up the home court advantage and possibly facing the impending news that they have lost their starting point guard.
- Dwight Howard might have had the most unimpressive game of anyone in the history of anyone who has ever scored 27 points and pulled down 15 boards. The Rockets completely crumbled offensively down the stretch, as they have been prone to do, also making critical errors defensively…but make no mistake, that game completely turned when the Blazers went to the Hack-a-Howard, killing Houston’s momentum and obviously stopping the clock while the Blazers clawed their way back in. There should be no question left: the next time Portland employs the strategy, Howard should be yanked immediately, unless he’s demonstrated a consistent stroke already at the line on the night. Now is not the time to worry about hurt feelings. If you can’t hit your freebies, you sit, because otherwise, you are hurting the team. The problem for McHale is that, for his part, Howard was otherwise dominant protecting the paint. With the big man out of the game, the lane looked like the Red Sea upon Moses’ arrival and the Blazers wasted no time taking the ball straight to the rim.
The main thing you don’t want to do at the start of a playoff series is to lose game one. You also want to avoid having a key player suffer an injury, try to prevent the opposing star players from absolutely detonating and most of all don’t let double digit leads evaporate in record time. Unfortunately, the Houston Rockets went ahead and did all the things they shouldn’t have done, coughing up a huge loss in overtime and dropping home court advantage. The good news, if there is any, is that home court advantage seems to be meaningless so far, with road teams winning 5 of the 8 games this weekend.
The Rockets and NBA fans in general have a lot to be sore about in that game, mostly focusing on the confusing, inconsistent, frustrating officiating that seems to have taken over half of the playoff games so far. In the end, it was likely a wash for the Rockets, but the calls were seemingly random in frequency, legitimacy and direction. The NBA admitted to badly blowing a call at the end of the Clippers vs Warriors game on the 19th of April, and this game has a flagship call as well. Dwight Howard was called for his sixth foul late in overtime and the decision was questionable, to put it mildly. Replay showed Meyers Leonard outright hugging Dwight, and a public admission of error is likely tomorrow. Whether that call would have helped or hurt the Rockets is frankly immaterial. The refereeing is obtrusive, distracting and disruptive, three things that are absolutely critical to avoid as a league.
Game one of the most important playoff series of the year tips off tonight, and to celebrate we at Red94 put together our own little roundtable to discuss what we think about the Houston Rockets and the playoffs this season. Mitchell Felker, Paul McGuire, Richard Li and myself answer five burning questions below.
- The Houston Rockets won three out of four games in the season-series against the Portland Trail Blazers this season, winning games one, three and four by 15, 13 and 5 points respectively, and losing game two by 7.
- Both teams had very good health for all four games, as Terrence Jones was the only player to miss a game for either team (game 3).
- Dwight Howard and James Harden were excellent against the Blazers all season, averaging roughly 56 ppg, 21 rpg and 7 apg combined.
- Speaking of Harden, he shot more threes against Portland than he did against any other team this year, averaging 8.3 per contest, and he still managed to hit them at high rate (45.5%). San Antonio (50%) and Minnesota (61.9%) were the only W.C. teams to suffer worse at Harden’s hands from deep.
- LaMarcus Aldridge has been a monster on the glass against Houston, averaging 15.5 per, with 4.8 of those being offensive rebounds.
- Neither team is especially good at forcing turnovers, and both are in the bottom-5 in TO ratio. The Rockets were 23rd (13.4 per) in the league at causing turnovers, while the Blazers were dead last (11.6). Portland, however, is much better at protecting the ball, finishing 6th (13.3 per) to Houston’s t-29th ranking (15.4).
- Neither team has any injuries heading into the series, but Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley and to a lesser extent Chandler Parsons are all still nursing ailments for the Rockets. And for the Blazers, Joel Freeland has only played in one game since spraining his right MCL in mid-January.
Insider’s View – Q&A with Joe Swide of Portland Roundball Society.
Five years is an eternity in the NBA.
Five years ago, the Houston Rockets were supposed to be championship contenders. Their goal was not to just get to the second round or to the Conference Finals, but to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy up in June. The trio of Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, and new arrival Ron Artest was supposed to be Houston’s answer to the Garnett-Pierce-Allen trio that had just won the championship for Boston. It had defense in Artest and Shane Battier, it had offense in Yao Ming, McGrady, and Coach Rick Adelman. And after the Yao-McGrady Rockets had suffered for years with the lack of impact role players, Luis Scola, Carl Landry, Aaron Brooks, and others were supposed to be capable of finally supporting the trio of stars.
So much has changed since then. McGrady, Yao and the renamed Metta World Peace are no longer in the NBA. Scola, Landry, and Battier are barely hanging around, and not a single member of that 2008-09 team is still on the Rockets today. But just like this year’s Rockets seek to eliminate the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, so did the Rockets five years ago. They would defeat the Blazers in six games, in what has been Houston’s only playoff series win since 1997.