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Dallas Mavericks 105, Houston Rockets 100: Welcome to the 9th seed. Again.

For about 90% of this game, I could have pulled up my recent recap of our loss against the 76ers, changed a few names and statistics, posted it, and I doubt anyone would have noticed that something was amiss.  The Rockets started off well and grabbed the lead, but a 5 minute stretch in the first quarter occurred where they utterly failed to even get up any shots and finished the quarter with 9 turnovers, which was made all the worse by the fact that Carlos Delfino seemingly decided to borrow a page from the Trevor Ariza school of driving to the rim ie. Lose the ball while doing so every single time.  Combine that with the fact that Houston is one of the worst teams in the league at transition defense, and the result was a 19-0 Dallas run which would keep them ahead for the rest of the game.

From there, the pattern from the 76ers game largely repeated itself.  Dallas held the lead, the Rockets would make a run to get close, but thanks to Mavericks free throws, an unusually large number of missed shots at the rim on Houston’s part, and timely jumpers, the Mavericks would pull away without relinquishing the lead.  There were a few things of interest throughout the general body of the game, most notably the emergence of Patrick Beverley (more below), but it was almost boring in how predictable these runs became.  Well, until the last run.

In a way, the last run was more of the same.  The Rockets managed to tie the game at 97 with 90 seconds to go, but failed to close it out again and lost the game.  But what was interesting was the person who managed to let the Rockets close an 11 point gap in little more than five minutes.  Jeremy Lin has played particularly poorly during this losing streak, but tonight Linsanity reasserted itself during the 4th quarter.

The old pattern of Lin’s poor play did not change for much of the game.  Lin was not quite as bad as Harden, as Harden easily submitted his worst performance of the season with a mere 20 points on 23 shots.  But Lin’s game was generally passive.  By the beginning of the 4th quarter, Lin had 5 points on 6 shots and had done little to impress, all the more apparent given the interest in Beverley’s strong performance.  But halfway through the fourth quarter, Linsanity returned.  Lin relentlessly drove to the rim against Mike James and the weak Dallas interior, scoring layups and free throws.  As Dallas began to fire long 2’s like they did in the beginning of the first quarter, the defense rallied and the momentum turned in Houston’s favor as they tied the game.

However, missed free throws (while the Rockets as a whole shot decently from the free throw line, Beardsanity continued their relative struggles with a 15-22 performance) and a pair of blown opportunities by Harden proved to be Houston’s undoing.  But in a scene which had not appeared often this season, Lin was forced to try to drag Harden to victory, instead of the other way around.

While many are undoubtedly frustrated by Harden’s attempts to take the lead as he waved off Lin, let us not criticize him too harshly given everything he has done this season.  Harden missed almost everything he took, whether from the 3 point line or right next to the basket. He did manage to pass and rebound well to avoid the continual Dallas traps, but he had considerable difficulty in getting his shots to fall as they repeatedly rimmed out no matter where he took them.  It was peculiar given how well Harden has shown himself to be at finishing at the rim, but it is reasonable to believe that it was a fluke and unlikely to happen again anytime soon.  Thus, while a more normal performance from Harden likely would have sealed the victory, he has done enough to earn the benefit of the doubt.  While Houston will be up against a difficult defensive team in Indiana next, I remain confident that Harden can turn things around battling a good opponent

  • In a way, the most important result from this game was not the win or the loss in and of itself, but of the long-awaited emergence of a true backup point guard.  While Patrick Beverley so far has played 15 more minutes in the NBA than I have, the fact that he currently posts a PER of over 100 shows that he has played extremely well over such a small sample size.  Furthermore, Beverley has been incredibly aggressive on both offense and defense, making the appropriate passes whether to cutters or shooters, shot well ( he has yet to miss a shot in his short career), and played defense.  While Beverley’s aggressiveness may be need to tempered down somewhat to avoid many of the unfortunate fouls that he committed in the third, I definitely feel more enthusiasm about his prospects to help Houston in the immediate future compared to Machado.
  • While I have continually praised Mr. Harden and have argued that with time, he could very well become the third greatest Rocket in history behind Malone and Dream, the one scenario which has always worried me about him is the possibility of McHale running him into the ground. Three years ago, Amare Stoudamire was a MVP candidate for much of the early part of the season as he thrived under the Knicks, but D’Antoni used him relentlessly and Stoudamire is now a shell of his former self.  There are of course innumerable differences between Mr. Harden and Stoudamire, but there are very few players in this league who play as many minutes as he does(8th in the league), and none in such a fast-paced system. One thing that may be hopeful of Beverley’s emergence is that he may help to shore up the incredibly thin wing depth as Toney Douglas transfers to the 2 fulltime, thus enabling Harden to obtain more of a rest.  During a month with so many back to backs, that will become highly important.
  • Anything that can be said about our power forwards, I have already said in previous recaps.  They played marginally better tonight, but the fact that Delfino was the one guarding Dirk Nowitzki at the end of the game explains our situation better than any statistic ever could.  However, I would like to take a moment to discuss one person who has been bandied about as an upgrade recently.  While it is obvious that Josh Smith would help our rebounding ability considerably, there are other things to consider.  Smith is 27, has played for 9 years, and has continued to remain the same player for the last several years.  He possesses good rebounding and defensive instincts (though he does search for the blocked shot too often), but has problems of temperament and his fondness of stagnating offenses to launch more midrange jumpers.  His recent suspension should not be viewed as a positive sign by Rockets interested in a trade, but as an understanding of the very real risks that could be made by obtaining him.

At this point, one cannot help but remember that at the end of last year, before a game late in the season against the Utah Jazz, Morey tweeted that a victory would almost assuredly mean a playoff spot.  The Rockets lost the game, lost 5 more afterwards, and proceeded to earn the 14th pick again ( though it should be noted that Houston actually still would have made the playoffs if they had won that game against Utah).  While the fact that the Trail Blazers are currently losing heavily to the Cavaliers indicates that the Rockets will be bumped up to the 8th seed by the time most of you read this recap, Houston has to seriously turn itself around now and fast if we are to avoid what occurred last year.

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About the author: Write for a living, though not in sports. Been following the Rockets my whole life, with Stockton’s shot being my first memory. Consequently traumatized.

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  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago Wow! Beverley, where have you been? We finally got a TRUE point guard worth talking about. He keeps his dribble nice and low and keeps his speed up, doesn't freeze the ball either. How many trips around the baseline did he make unscathed last night? 3 in 13 minutes? This is a nice ability to have from a PG, and one we haven't had until now, it really stirs up the D nicely when they make those little trips, ask Nash. It is a small sample, but a couple more small samples with 1/2 the stat line should have Lin worried about the starting PG position. I think Lin is better suited at SG than Douglas, and Douglas better at backup PG with better handles, if for no other reason. Lin coming off the bench for Harden will preserve James nicely too. PB feeding both Lin and Harden in smaller lineups will be interesting to see also.

    When will McHale finally say, "enough is enough!" about our PF situation and start inserting D-mo or Jones for more than just garbage time? Is he showcasing Morris and Ppat for a trade? If so, it needs to happen soon, because they are painful to watch, to me.

    Landing at #9 this year isn't quite as disastrous as the previous 3 years, IMO. I would still consider it over-achieving for our young squad. And, I don't think we should be looking at the draft to find the piece we are missing, nor could we expect to have much success this season in the playoffs anyway. To me, this team really can do no wrong this season as far as their record goes. It's about player development and that is happening in droves.

    Oh, and they doubled on Harden all night and everywhere on the floor. That's alot for anyone to handle on the 2nd night of a B2B. McHale kept going to Harden though to draw the double and hopefully let him create a play finding the open man. Could have worked out better.
  • khyberjones says 1 YEAR ago I disagree with the statement that Lin has played poorly during the losing streak. He played very well in the Dallas, LA Clippers ( he had a double-double) and Boston (he outplayed Rondo) games. He did not play well in the loss to Philly and had a mixed performance against NO.

    He shot over 40% in 3 of the 5 games (though the 2-13 against Philly brings the average down). He has averaged 6 assists, just under 3 steals, about 2.5 rebounds, and 2.2 turnovers (which is about where Chris Paul's turnover rate is).

    The problem during the losing streak is that teams have keyed on Harden and are forcing him to take more jump shots and he has been streaky (much like he was in last year's NBA playoffs). Harden is an average jump shooter. His game is built off the drive. He has not yet developed that Kobe Bryant ability to shoot over 40% from the outside with a hand in his face. The other problem is that the forwards and centers are handling the ball too much and are turning the ball over at a high rate. The choice for the Rockets is to trust the point guards more. Lin needs to run the offense more and has to have the ball in his hands more. When Lin has had the freedom to go 'Linsane' the entire team has benefited.

    He can get Harden high percentage shots and preserve his longevity. Lin can get better shots for Parsons, Asik and Patterson. Carlos Delfino needs to go to the bench and be a spot up shoter. Douglas needs to be the designated shooting guard off the bench, not the point and the 3 guard rotation should be used to take advantage of Douglas' abilities on the wing.

    The Rockets do not have great forwards and the only way to make them more effective is to enable the guards to get those players higher percentage shots. That can't happen if Carlos Delfino is taking too many shots and dribbling too much.
  • EVE0914 says 1 YEAR ago I agree DaDakota ," when he is off, use him as a decoy" this is good idea, but Coaches should be faster adjust lineup when Harden Close
    TD is more like a SG ,let Patrick Beverley become backup for LIN
    , and they need to learn better defense
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago It really upset me when Lin was scorching hot yet they kept going to Harden.
  • goRockets says 1 YEAR ago Indiana is good defense team, but not very good offensively, kind of like Grizzlies and Bulls, whom Rockets have beaten this season. Rockets really lose games because they shoot themselves in the foot with TOs and missed FTs. If they can take care of the ball, especially that first quarter, and play solid defense, they should win. Hoping a winning streak starts Friday! Go Rockets!!!
  • goRockets says 1 YEAR ago Actually still 8th seed, Portland lost tonight also, gotta thank the CAVS and Kyrie I guess.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago Paradise nailed it: painful. I was upset since it was Dallas. 5th game in a row. And only 3rd I've watched. Big disappointment. FTs, TOs, missed layups. Uhhh.
  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: Dallas Mavericks 105, Houston Rockets 100: Welcome to the 9th seed. Again.
  • Paradise says 1 YEAR ago Harden was blowing a lot of really good looks late in the game. I guess tonight just wasn't his night.
    I agree with you DaDakota. Obviously he wasn't feeling it tonight, we should have run less through him and just used him as a decoy for the real play.
  • DaDakota says 1 YEAR ago Lin and Harden need to shoot better off of each other, and Harden is relied on with the ball FAR FAR too much, when he is off, use him as a decoy.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago I didn't see the game, but from the box score Harden's 5-23 shooting combined with the Mav's edge in personal fouls called (10 fewer) stand out as the difference. I am guessing Harden didn't get very many calls at the rim tonight. On the bright side, Beverley seems to have done well.
  • Paradise says 1 YEAR ago Painful game to watch. Lin made me so happy in the 4th until he couldn't hit a damn freethrow. We should have taken this one, now were on a 5 game losing streak.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago I really hope we dont lose 5 in a row and especially not to the Mavs. Im glad this game is on ESPN and I hope to see a W!

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