Charlotte Bobcats @ Houston Rockets on 10/30/13

Rejoice, rejoice, for the new NBA season is upon us! Stretching off into the distance is the long and winding road of the regular season, with games coming thick and fast from now all the way through to April. 82 games of exhilarating, absorbing and at times exhausting basketball, with trade rumours and injury scares; with sweet victory and bitter defeat. So strap yourselves in and prepare for one hell of a ride (and if like me you don’t live in the right time-zone, 6 months of sleep deprivation!).

Form:

The Rockets come in on the back of a commanding 7-1 pre-season performance. Early signs look good for the integration of Dwight Howard and with the return of Terrence Jones the Rocket’s freshly-trimmed roster has a clean bill of health. In an interesting development, news has leaked that McHale will start Beverley and Lin will come off the bench.

The Bobcats have a point to prove as they take their first steps on the long journey out of the NBA’s basement. A 5-3 return on their pre-season outings is a welcoming sign for them, and they’ll be looking to build on it to start the regular season. Star signing Al Jefferson has been out with ankle injury but should be back ready to play in the opener, though possibly with limited minutes.

Rotation Spotlight: (in this section I’ll pick out one of the lesser known names on the opposing roster who I think is worth paying attention to)

Jeff Taylor (6’7″ SG/SF, Vanderbilt)

Taylor’s rookie season was a bright spot in an otherwise dour year last year for the Bobcats. He reminds me a bit of a young Chandler Parsons in some ways – a high second round pick who was able to crack the rotation early in his rookie year due to his tenacious defence, the ability to knock down the occasional outside shot (41% from the corners) and decent hops. Here’s a clip that sums up his game nicely.

On Offence:

When Jefferson is in the game, the Rockets should look to attack through the pick and roll. Big Al does not have the lateral quickness to defend the play properly, and given the quality involved in the Harden/Howard combination it should be a no-brainer. In pre-season, the Rockets looked to set up Howard on the block more than having him set screens, but the latter always looked more potent. It will be interesting to see if that was just pre-season experimentation or if it is here to stay.

The Bobcats are probably going to be playing small for large stretches of the game. I’d imagine McHale will look to match them, so we should be seeing healthy doses of Casspi at the 4 tonight, with all the juicy spacing and three point shooting that brings. We can’t reasonably expect Garcia and Casspi’s red hot outside shooting to last all year, but it would be nice if they could keep it up a while longer.

In Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor the Bobcats have a pair of defence-first guards to throw at James Harden. Both have shown they have the ability to stay in front of the league’s better players, but defending against Harden’s ‘old-man game’  requires some guile and positional nous that these two younger players may not quite have in their tool-kit yet. Combine that with the lack of a dependable defensive interior presence and you have a recipe for what should be a good night for the bearded one.

On Defence:

Getting Jefferson back will help, but because he’s probably not up to full strength the majority of the scoring load for the Bobcats will fall on the shoulders of young point guard Kemba Walker and his back-court mate Gerald Henderson. Last season Walker had a field day in his two bouts with the Rockets, putting up impressive stat-lines of 35/5 points/assists and 24/3/4 points/assists/steals in the two games. Walker is the type of point guard who Lin struggles to guard – his electric speed makes him a tough cover. This may be why Beverley has been inserted into the starting line-up (although it could also just be fit).

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will man the starting SF spot for Charlotte. His knock as an offensive player is his complete lack of an outside shot – beyond the restricted area he was limited to an abysmal 27% shooting last season. I think he might be a good candidate for cross-matching – Harden tends to struggle to keep track of outside shooters and doesn’t work hard to get through screens, but he may do better against someone he knows is trying to get to the basket.

Summary:

This should be an easy win to start the season for the Rockets. Though the Bobcats project to be better this year, they are nowhere near the same calibre of team and the quality of the Houston players all the way down the roster should prove to be too much for them.

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Total comments: 33
  • feelingsupersonic says 8 months ago

    There's an awesome breakdown of one of the Rockets' out of bounds plays here: http://rockets.clutchfans.net/5204/rockets-playbook-baseline-out-of-bounds-set/

    I saw them run this in the Charlotte game last night...and they scored! It was like clockwork. So don't go around saying the Rockets don't have any plays.

    ST

    I agree with Sir Thursday, rocketrick and 2016. Let's leave the flimsy complaints at the door before you walk in here. If you come in complaining about something like lack of play calling then back it up.

    As the roles become better defined and chemistry builds McHale should build a playbook (hopefully not a Kubiak type playbook) as the season goes on. It's very early right now and probably just the best time of the year to sit back and enjoy the team before matters began to get more and more complicated, that's just my opinion.

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    ..........................and the criticism of Coach McHale begins again..................I believe the best example of "too much structure" is exactly what is wrong with the Tampa Bay football team and Schiano. The guy is like a drill sergeant, no wonder the players won't play for him. I doubt he'll be back next season and he may not even finish out this season.

    My thoughts exactly. Too much structure can be suffocating to a player's game, and I think Casspi is a good example of this. Devin Harris is an example of this.

    I love our free flowing read and react offense, if we had too much structure in our offense I doubt we would have even made the playoffs last season. McHale should be getting credit, not criticism, because in our case I'm pretty sure simple was better.

  • Richards says 8 months ago

    Did anyone else feel like Parsons was forcing it a little too much on the offensive end? I don't mind that his shot wasn't falling from outside--it was the drives to the basket through traffic that left me scratching my head a little bit.

    We want them to play aggressive. Not in a reckless way though. Harden forces too much and too many turnovers. I don't want Parsons to do the same way.

  • Sir Thursday says 8 months ago

    There's an awesome breakdown of one of the Rockets' out of bounds plays here: http://rockets.clutchfans.net/5204/rockets-playbook-baseline-out-of-bounds-set/

    I saw them run this in the Charlotte game last night...and they scored! It was like clockwork. So don't go around saying the Rockets don't have any plays.

    ST

  • rocketrick says 8 months ago ..........................and the criticism of Coach McHale begins again..................I believe the best example of "too much structure" is exactly what is wrong with the Tampa Bay football team and Schiano. The guy is like a drill sergeant, no wonder the players won't play for him. I doubt he'll be back next season and he may not even finish out this season.
  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    1 is better than 0...

    very true................I don't mind the team freelancing sometimes, but having the structure of plays helps lead to identity. if we are going to simply allow the team to freelance all the time then why do we need a coach?

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    Yeah it definitely helps to have a few set plays we can run out of time out situations with seconds on the clock

  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago 1 is better than 0...
  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    Looks like McHale made good use of his first off-season with the Rockets, we have some new plays added to the playbook :)

  • rocketrick says 8 months ago

    howard looked like he ate too many butterfingers before the game


    Yeah, must have been a trick of the Bobcats fooling D12 who thought those butterfingers were supposed to be a Halloween treat from MJ.
  • BrentYen says 8 months ago

    Did anyone else feel like Parsons was forcing it a little too much on the offensive end? I don't mind that his shot wasn't falling from outside--it was the drives to the basket through traffic that left me scratching my head a little bit.

    I liked this play a lot

    He was clearly forcing too much. Like he is trying to prove something. That Play was great tho.

  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    Did anyone else feel like Parsons was forcing it a little too much on the offensive end? I don't mind that his shot wasn't falling from outside--it was the drives to the basket through traffic that left me scratching my head a little bit.

    I liked this play a lot

  • feelingsupersonic says 8 months ago I was at the game and the team just seemed off with a distinct lack of intensity, except for Howard. I would like to see this team be a little more physical than what I saw last night. I like what I saw from the defensive presence of both bigs which could lead to offense once roles get defined and focus improves.
  • sircharles says 8 months ago

    howard looked like he ate too many butterfingers before the game

  • Johnny Rocket says 8 months ago

    I totally agree that the offense looked off last night, and it got a lot better in the 4th when we went with a smaller lineup. We should be patient, though, and give the twin tower experiment time to work and jell. It definitely has upsides when it comes to rebounding and defense.

    There is a tendency to treat an ugly 13-point win as a "bad" game. Keep in mind that some elite teams--the Heat, Clippers, and Nets, among others--have already lost against decidedly inferior teams. The Thunder barely squeezed out a win against the Jazz (who are allegedly tanking this year), Minnesota barely beat Orlando (at home, with Orlando playing the second of a back-to-back), and Portland (a playoff contender) lost to what is widely expected to be the last place team in the West. The Rox will need to play better, but a win should never be taken for granted in today's NBA.

  • RollingWave says 8 months ago

    it's hard to say after 1 game, we should note that the Bobcat's game plan was to drag it down like that and Harden was simply not right almost all game long (he had a bucket because he wasn't able to even get past half court after the previous play and Howard threw it down to him after a Bobcat miss.) if it's like that for a few more game we should be more worried, but I doubt it.

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    Harden definitely had trouble attacking the basket when Asik was sharing the floor with Dwight, and just think this is the Charlotte Bobcats defense, it would be 10x harder in the playoffs against elite defenses at max intensity.

  • rocketrick says 8 months ago It's only the first game of the season and after being spoiled with destroying other teams in the pre-season, it's easy to understand that the expectation level has risen to unrealistic levels.

    No doubt the Rockets and Coach McHale will have many challenges and likely a few lineup changes (some expected, some not expected) during the year to contend with.

    This is the process of building a Championship Team, how everyone deals with both the highs and lows of the regular season.
  • NorEastern says 8 months ago

    I much prefer the Ferrari offense of last season to the garbage truck defense we saw last night.

  • BrentYen says 8 months ago

    I don think it was the spacing issue (maybe part of it was.). Players were just too passive, no weak side movement. Everyone seems just trying to do ISO when getting the ball.

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    I watched this game and was not impressed. I like the fact that D-12/Asik combo got 40 rebounds, but there were91 rebounds in this game. the large number of offensive rebounds we got was partly due to the poor shots we were getting which was being cause by bad spacing.the Asik/D-12 combo was pretty good defensively, but offensively they looked confused. the Bobcats clogged the paint forcing us to shoot from outside. until Garcia started knocking some of those shots down our offense sputtered. if we can not figure out a way to get better spacing on offense the D-12/Asik combo will have to be shelved for use in special situations. right now it's bogging down the offense

  • Red94 says 8 months ago New post: Houston Rockets 96, Charlotte Bobcats 83: The real Dwight Howard is really a Rocket
    By: Forrest Walker

    It's finally real. Really real. Not preseason real, not signed contract real, not Official Twitter Announcement real. This is actually happening, and it's happening in Houston. Dwight Howard played the first game that really counts with the Houston Rockets, and this is the real Dwight Howard we're talking about. The Rockets looked shaky in the first half, James Harden's back tightened on him and Patrick Beverley suffered an injury to the ribs.  The Bobcats were tenacious and more talented than they've been in years, but it wasn't enough to hold back Houston. The Harden and Howard era has finally, really begun.

    So what did Dwight Howard do exactly? He matched his career high in rebounds, pulling down 26 in 35 minutes, which is the kind of thing typically reserved for video games. Not only did he play for less than 36 minutes, something that will pay huge dividends if it continues, but he made every minute count, scoring 17 points on 14 shots and throwing in a couple assists and blocks to go with it. His presence inside made players change their shots and change their game, which was a large part of why Houston was able to hang onto their tenuous lead, even when nobody could score. Last season, James Harden made an early statement. This season, it looks like Dwight's turn.

    James Harden's still with the team, by the way. He didn't look like it in the first half, missing all of his three pointers, most of his two pointers, and turning the ball over repeatedly. He woke up in the second half, sinking shots and making plays. Most notably, Harden and Howard became inseparable as the game progressed, working a vicious two-man pick and roll game that resulted in a pair of Dwight dunks. Harden's three point line lob to an aerial Howard was the highlight of the game, and a promise of this pair's potential. Harden managed to make it to 21 points on 16 shots, amazing given that at one point he was 2-12 with 10 points.

    It wasn't all good news, however. Patrick Beverley went down with an injury to the ribs of as yet unknown severity, which could potentially bode very ill. Jeremy Lin is perfectly capable of picking up the slack, but Aaron Brooks doesn't look ready for much playing time at all. He didn't ruin things in his 10 minutes on the court, but he also didn't shoot, rebound or score. He had only an assist and a steal to offset two turnovers and three fouls, which isn't a good look for a backup point guard.

    Jeremy Lin took advantage of his 31 minutes, though, scoring 16 points on 5-7 shooting, including a 2-2 performance from three point land. He only had two assists and offset those with two turnovers, but he wasn't alone on the turnover train. (In fact, the team had a mind-blowing 18 turnovers compared to the Bobcats' 7.) Like in the preseason, Lin is more aggressive when getting to the rack, even though he tends to get jostled a bit for it. As the team gels, expect Lin to feast on second string players more and more.

    Nobody could hit a three for Houston for long stretches, with one exception. Francisco Garcia makes his living by shooting corner threes, and he made quite a living tonight. He shot 5-9 from deep, and racked up 19 total points. Garcia's a seasoned vet who knows his role, and he's happy to stick to it. His drives and risks taken were sparing, and that helped hold off a very stubborn Cats team.

    Ömer Aşık also used his primary skill to great effect, grabbing 14 rebounds in his 26 minutes and effectively patrolling the paint. Al Jefferson was still able to have his way from time to time, but you can live with a 6-19 shooting night from the opposing team's best player. Where Aşık failed to deliver was on the offensive end, hitting only 1 of 5 shots, and missing a couple easy dunks and tip ins. The overall dynamic of the Howard-Aşık frontcourt is still bizarre, with an offensively gifted team finding much of its force blunted. On the other hand, the Bobcats struggled to score against the twin towers, except for Josh McRoberts, their resident stretch four. This experiment will continue, but it seems poorly suited against the 1 in 4 out offense much of the league is running. It also seems to result in sloppy, low-scoring games, which I'm pretty sure is the most-liked form of basketball.

    Omri Casspi and Chandler Parsons also participated. Parsons participated a lot, to the tune of a game-high 39 minutes. Unfortunately, except for a couple highlight dunks and layins, he had a quiet night. He wasn't exactly bad, just largely invisible, in a way we're increasingly used to. he had 10 points on 11 shots, largely due to missing all 3 three pointers he tried. His 5 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block to go with no turnovers make for an acceptable if not exactly desirable evening. Casspi turned in the small size of that line, going for 4 points on 6 shots (missing both three pointers), picking up 4 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. The forward position has a lot of question marks, and tonight very few were answered.

    This game wasn't pretty. It wasn't a convincing win, despite the thirteen point margin to finish. The Rockets looked shaky and sloppy to start and they lost a key player in Patrick Beverley. But they played more defense than last year, even noted matador James Harden. They improved over the course of the game, giving hope that they might improve over the course of the season. Most importantly? Dwight Howard showed up. The real Dwight Howard.

  • Johnny Rocket says 8 months ago

    And Harden strained his back, and was ineffective until the fourth. Rox starters ice cold from three, and we had way too many turnovers. Excellent defense, though, and Dwight was just outstanding. He's going to have a great year. It was not pretty, but it is nice to see we can win with Harden and Parsons being very average.

  • vonsteve says 8 months ago

    Though that was pretty ugly, with a very sluggish start and ice-cold shooting, I do like 40 combined rebounds from Asik/Howard.

  • vonsteve says 8 months ago

    Why did Bev not play as much? I didn't get to watch the game tonight?

    Rib injury. No details yet.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago

    Why did Bev not play as much? I didn't get to watch the game tonight?

  • Cooper says 8 months ago The cats are hanging around. Shocked the heat lost to Philly.
  • tombrokeoff says 8 months ago

    CANT WAIT!

  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago I think this Bobcats team will surprise some people. Will they make the playoffs? No. Will they win 25-30 games? Yes.
  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    thats what a lot of people thought about the clippers/lakers game as well, we all know that didnt go as planned

    You have a point. The Clippers weakness that game was their rotation defense, they were horrible at getting out to the corner 3's--this pretty much describes the Rockets defense last season too. I hope we go into this game hungry, we should go into every game hungry regardless of who the opponent is.

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    thats what a lot of people thought about the clippers/lakers game as well, we all know that didnt go as planned

    I saw that game.............no need to panic, but if you're Doc you can't feel good about the fact Farmer, Meeks and J-Hill put up a 41 point fourth quarter on your starters

  • sircharles says 8 months ago

    I'll keep an eye out for this guy. at long last the season is here. this should be a nice easy win to ease out of the gates :)should be over by halftime

    thats what a lot of people thought about the clippers/lakers game as well, we all know that didnt go as planned

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    I'll keep an eye out for this guy. at long last the season is here. this should be a nice easy win to ease out of the gates :)should be over by halftime