Denver Nuggets 93, Houston Rockets 87

I’m enjoying these new Rockets, but my forehead’s getting a little sore. For a fun project, I decided to tally up how many times I reflexively slapped my hand against my forehead while watching tonight’s game. It turns out the number was fifteen, and the last tally mark was by far the biggest. That last tally mark let the Nuggets seal the game.

This is a young team, and they’re having stereotypically young problems. Passes are bobbled (Looking at you, Morris), dribbles are lost, and defense is overhelped. Strangest of all, they actually look worse as time goes on. It’s probably just a coincidence. Extra practices aren’t hurting them.

Defenses are hurting them. Andre Iguodala stepped it up and held Harden to fifteen points on fifteen shots. While a point a shot isn’t a particularly bad number, it’s far worse than the efficiency we came to adore in those first two games. He had his first relatively quiet night of the season, and hopefully one of only very few (15 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 5! steals) Harden’s night was pushed off kilter early, as he found himself surprised after a pair of drives to the basket. He got muscled around inside, and is clearly used to being able to draw a whistle in that situation. This set the tone for the evening, as the refs (including one infamous Joey Crawford) decided to allow a fairly large amount of contact throughout. Lin’s nose, for example, suffered late at the hands and elbows of the Nuggets.

Lin also looked troubled, though his dribble and passing remained solid. He ended the evening with an equal number of steals, assists and points (6). His ballhawking skills remain valuable, but his man defense leaves something to be desire. While nobody on the team is the defensive black hole Martin and Scola were, allowing Ty Lawson to score a game-high 21 points.

Parsons continued his streak of playing invisible, decent games. His defense was as solid as ever, though clearly some better communication and planning is necessary of pick and roll defense. His line of 8 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists is a slight step back from his previous games.

Asik managed the only double double for the Rockets, scoring 10 points on 4-11 shooting combined with 13 rebounds (7 offensive!) gave him a strong evening. He also managed a team-worst plus/minus of -16. His minutes were disrupted when he took an elbow to the brow from Kosta Koufos and had to head to the locker room for 4 stitches over his left eye. He returned to the game, and it seems unlikely to affect him.

Patterson played well, and put in a season-high 18 points on only 13 shots. He also drained 2 of his 4 three pointers. He’s clearly been devoted to adding a range element to his game, and it’s proven invaluable. He was active in a way he wasn’t last year, and the proper removal of his bone spurs may play some part in that. The biggest hitch in his game was a few poor defensive possessions in which he gave deadly marksman Danilo Gallinari the room he needed to knock down some key shots. He’s more used to defending traditional bigs, though, but this is something he’ll have to address.

The bench was, as always, The Carlos Delfino show. Tonight, his guest star was Cole Aldrich, who didn’t look great (1-2 shooting, 3 rebounds and a block), but showed some hustle in his fifteen and a half minutes. Toney Douglas was as mortifying as ever, with only one field goal out of four. It’s worth noting that he managed it exactly as I was finishing a tirade about how terrible he looked. I’ve had this exact experience at least once a game so far, so I may have to do some research on how much home-team hate it takes per good Toney possession.

Marcus Morris came in and nailed a three, but then failed to nail much of anything else. He played hard the entire way, but heart didn’t seem to be enough. He bobbled an inlet pass and failed to save a crucial ball late, earning himself a seat on the bench. Morris looks to be an ongoing source of frustration, as he teases Houston fans with sporadic solid play and good games.

Ah, yes. Delfino. He made half Rockets’ threes, hitting 4-10, as opposed to 4-29 for the rest of the team. Some were contested, but he managed to sink them where others, like Harden (0-5) couldn’t hit any. He rounded out his night with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. He’s been the clear sixth man, and so far the only consistently worthwhile player on the bench. Bear in mind, however, we have yet to see a singly minute of rookie play.

Horrific three point shooting isn’t the entire story, however. Through most of the game, the Nuggets held a large advantage in rebounds, led by Kenneth Faried’s 16. He’s proving himself as a starter on the Nuggets, and he simply has the most energy and hustle of anybody on the court.  On the other hand, the Nuggets missed 9 of their 21 free throws, 4 in a row by Lawson. This accounts for a lot of the closeness of the game, especially late.

Despite how ugly it was, the reality is that it was another winnable game, and that’s both good and bad. It’s encouraging to see a very young team in every game, and it’s always a good sign to see strong third quarters (23-13 in favor of Houston). However, they simply must improve their shooting, especially from deep. If Lin and Parsons aren’t convincing threats as spot up shooters, Harden can be doubled with impunity, and it happened several times tonight. 36% from the field and an atrocious 24% from behind the arc are simply not acceptable statistics for a team hoping to make the playoffs.

Also of note were three technical fouls levied by Joey Crawford during the game. The first was on Faried, who took umbrage to Marcus Morris basically throttling him during a box out and retaliated. The next two were a double technical called on Marcus Morris and Danilo Gallinari for getting into a bit of a scuffle on the opposite end. Scott Machado and Royce White were inactive, but were unlikely to get minutes anyway.

The Rockets have tomorrow off, then a back to back on Friday and Saturday. Let’s hope they get in some shooting drills.

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Total comments: 11
  • Forrest Walker says 1 YEAR ago I think the shooting in general will improve. They aren't working together well to get good shots, and as such everyone has a bad percentage. Three point land looks the worst partially because that's where you try to bail yourself out of rig stymied on offense.

    The missed open shots are a different story, though. Those are just barf.
  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago Since the addition of Harden, these guys have had zero time together on the court with the new leader (was there an old leader?). Regardless, at this point and probably for the rest of the season we will have to enjoy the comedy of errors.

    Parsons is NOT a shooter in any sense of the word and may not ever be, his form is consistently ugly and inconsistent and will take a bout of amnesia for him to relearn proper form. However, as said below our offense would suffer if we switched Delfino and his roles due to the preference for speed, and our defense would doubly suffer in such a situation. It's Lin who really needs to polish up on his shot, his form is fine.

    I think Asik could be really effective working from the elbow in a Hayes-like fashion. I realize he cant score but he seems to be an adept passer, and if all the motion opens up the lane he should make a few layups.

    We need to try anyone at PG besides Douglas in my opinion.

    If it wasn't for Parsons, Patterson and Asik playing good interior defense we'd be 0-4 right now.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago On Parsons I am torn ( in that Battier kind of way, I know ya'll remember that). I like all the glue guy stuff, the hustling but shooting five 3's a game so far at a 25% clip is not going to contribute to many Rockets' wins. I guess I will have to wait and see if it's a slump or if starts taking less shots or what.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago (speaking of parsons / 3s) how about we just stop shooing so many damn 3s altogether? and what happened to being "up-tempo, run-and-gun" ?? am i not mistaken that thats how we were going to play? i havent watched every min of every game, but i dont recall seeing much of that. seems like we bring it up fairly slow. set up in the half court. pass it around. maybe drive in then dish out for a 3 that we miss.
  • Chichos says 1 YEAR ago Playing Delfino as a starter takes a lot of foot speed off the court. Now you have Lin, Harden, and Delfino trading off the wing assignments. I agree in half court sets Delfino's shooting keeps the other team more honest, but we will get torched on defense. We need Parsons to calm down and bury some open 3s. It will happen eventually. Once Lin and Parson make a couple the half court offense will look better.
  • Jeby says 1 YEAR ago Last night was my first chance to watch the new rockets, and I literally smacked my head at least three times in the first half. Hopefully familiarity will fix the bobbled passes problem.
    Just throwing this out there: Delfino fits better with the starting unit than Parsons. Parsons is a much better playmaker, but when he is on the floor with Lin and Harden, he needs to catch kick-out passes and shoot with confidence. He is still the closest thing we have to a wing-stopper, but until he becomes a 3-point threat, Lin and Harden will suffer. Also, Delfino is the new Steve Novak for Lin.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago I like a lot of your points and assumptions Stephen. Top and bottom, players on the roster including the rookies never play in a vacuum but always with the rest of the roster in real line ups that have to work out in practices first. I could be wrong but I can only assume at this very very early point of the season and considering you have to throw out the preseason since Harden is now here that the rookies riding the bench have not translated their upside into success in practice yet. Realistically maybe one of them cracks the rotation in December or January. We are just 4 games in, just 4 games people.
  • Stephen says 1 YEAR ago Consequences of failed and successful trades.

    In pursuing Dwight the Rockets assumed they were going to have to give up a lot of their front court depth and that they would end up taking J-Rich on.
    This would have left them w/a wing depth of Parsons,Delfino(who they were pursuing for a while),Morris,Richardson and either Lamb or a resigned Lee.

    Instead the Rockets ended up trading for Harden,while losing both their SGs and keeping all their bigs.
    They've ended up w/Parsons,Morris,Delfino,Harden and an undersized Cook. W/the late Pre-Season injuries to Pat,Jones and Motie's infection,the team needed Morris at the 4.
    Essentially the team's wings have been whittled down to three players.

    With Douglas' inability to run any semblance of an offense,McHale either has to go w/Machado(who has shown zero ability to defend NBA players or any reliable outside shot) or keep Parsons or Harden on the floor w/second unit. The more time the two spend on the second unit is less time they spend on the court together.
    This is where the Livingston decision is coming back to bite the Rockets. While Shaun has his own pretty strong limitations,the team could use run him and Douglas out there together,letting Livingston run offense while Douglas could defend PGs and jack up shots.

    The dilemma for McHale and the Rookies is if he plays Motie,White or Jones,it does nothing to help his wings rotation. Until Douglas gets whacked by a get-a-clue-stick,the second unit need somebody to steady them and run some basic offense.
    If he plays Morris at the 3(or Jones),he's either removed Delfino,his one half-way reliable 3pt shooter from his rotation or is counting on Douglas to set up Morris,Delfino and the back-up bigs.
    The only viable solution w/the current roster is for either Douglas to completely change what he has been in his career to date,Jones becoming a not-wacky Lamar Odom,White to be astonishing in practices-or bite the bullet and go with an undrafted rookie PG,w/no defense and hope your back-up bigs can stop opposing PGs from doing too much damage inside.

    I hate to blame a player for being who he is,but Douglas is simply not the right back-up PG for this Rockets team. The Rockets either need to add a play-making wing and allow Douglas to be who he is,or they need to replace him on the court w/a PG who is an actual PG.
    If the former,the rookies will stay buried on the bench as Aldrich has looked like a capable back-up C(shocking me!),Pat has been very steady and Morris has been adequate as the back-up 4.(And if you yank Morris after one bad game,his confidence will be shot and he'll be useless going forward.)
    If they go to a play-making PG,then you can run Morris and Defino out as the wings,freeing up minutes for the rookies at PF.
  • sircharles says 1 YEAR ago Hopefully harden now knows to never throw a alley oop to asik.
  • Bigtkirk says 1 YEAR ago This team is going to struggle in the half-court offense for awhile. At one point late in the first half last night, they had become so frustrated that they were posting up Asik in their half-court offense. That's not a good sign, at least at this stage of Asik's offensive development.

    IMHO, it remains absurd that D Mo and Jones have not seen a stitch of playing time yet. With each passing game, it becomes clearer that McHale is not the right coach for developing this team.
  • sircharles says 1 YEAR ago i felt like i was watching the cleveland indians at the begining of there season in the first major league movie

    https://www.youtube....h?v=rBsvuoQMmuo