Houston Rockets 106, Cleveland Cavaliers 92: A consistently inconsistent team.

The great plays of Shakespeare are five acts, but while tonight’s victory against Cleveland was a solid victory, it was not exactly the sort of game from which legends are born.  Therefore, only three acts are really needed to describe what transpired tonight.

After an initial 8-2 deficit, Houston’s frontcourt of Terrence Jones and Dwight stormed the paint and overwhelmed Cleveland’s poor defense all the way to a 49-30 lead.  Houston then put on one of those inexplicably poor performances that seizes them from time to time, as they failed to check Cleveland’s perimeter scorers, which let the Cavaliers back in the game and even gave them a 63-61 lead – Dion Waiters in particular had a field day, finishing with 17 first half points on 10 shots.  Having given up the lead, the Rockets emerged from their stupor to once more batter Cleveland into submission.

The three stages can be summed up by one fact: the Cleveland Cavaliers needed 17 minutes to score their first 30 points of the game.  They then needed less than 11 minutes to score the next 30 points, but then needed 18 minutes to reach 90.

  • Houston’s reawakening during the 3rd part, after the Cavaliers had taken the lead, can be partly attributed to just more effort, but Kevin McHale did make an important though surprising substitution.  He yanked Terrence Jones and Chandler Parsons very early in the 3rd quarter to replace them with Donatas Motiejunas and Jeremy Lin.  The fact that it worked in general is not incredibly surprising – Lin helped to get the ball moving in transition, for example.  But it also worked very well on the defensive end.  Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, no doubt aware of Motiejunas’s defensive reputation, or lack thereof, had Tristan Thompson attack Motiejunas repeatedly on the post.  But Motiejunas’s defense is not particularly weak man-to-man; it is in defensive awareness where he struggles.  The result was that Thompson only scored once on Motiejunas in the 3rd quarter.  It could not help but remind me of when Howard was so badly stymied by Andrea Bargnani earlier this season, especially since Bargnani is another European big who is a decent post defender but a miserable help defender.
  • What was also surprising (and a tad worrying) is that after yanking Parsons and Jones from the game, Kevin McHale opted to not play Parsons at all for the rest of the game.  Parsons wasn’t playing great having gone 1-4 from 3, but he wasn’t bad, and McHale does rely on him extensively, as he plays the third highest minutes per game in the league.  Likely this sudden rotation change was to combat Cleveland’s rotation of Jarret Jack and Kyrie Irving simultaneously, so it is a sign of McHale adapting to the situation.  (And no, it does not appear at the time of writing that Parsons was injured, especially since he never went to the locker room.)
  • A special shout-out to Jeremy Lin and the first triple double of his NBA career: 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists (Beverley and Lin, the two point guards, combined for nearly half of Houston’s rebounds).  Like I said earlier, Lin did a very good job of sparking Houston’s offense in transition.  Irving hit jumpers on Lin (and everyone else who guarded him) throughout the night, but Lin answered by running through the paint and making excellent passes to the frontcourt. That is the Lin who can singlehandedly shore up Houston’s weak bench, the Lin I had hoped to see.
  • Also on a more personal note about Lin: I will not deny that many of my columns have been fairly hard on Lin’s performances, especially before this recent stretch of games.  But more than any other Rocket, Lin is the one who I have the highest expectations relative to his play.  Other members of Red94 like Rahat have discussed the possibility of Houston obtaining another max free agent in 2015.  I am at best, skeptical of the idea, which means that if Houston is to become a true contender, most if not nearly all of its improvement must come within the team.  And while Lin is obviously not the best player on the Rockets, he is the one who I think has the best chance to surpass the expectations set out for him.

 

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Total comments: 16
  • feelingsupersonic says 7 months ago Right I agree BrentYen. I think if you isolate each point of attack then having Lin and Harden might yield the best results but when looking at the big picture and you take into account relentlessly pushing the ball by even the power forward then over time you will have hopefully worn down the opposing teams defense and hopefully their will to win as well.
  • BrentYen says 7 months ago Yep, i think this is the actual game plan, to have guys the push for fast breaks when there are chances. Just saying I don think the game plan is to always pass to Lin or PB.
  • feelingsupersonic says 7 months ago I would just off the top of my head think considering the pace the Rockets strive for it's probably not possible to just put that on Beverley and Lin. I would imagine that if the guy has handles the directive is to push it forward. That there are 6 or 7 guys in the rotation that can push the pace is highly desirable in the offensive system Morey and McHale are building. If you think about it a considerable number of these players weren't here last year or were not in the rotation. I think they just need time and next year they will be better.
  • BrentYen says 7 months ago

    Well,ummmmmmmmm, OK, I admit I don't have the stats.However................If someone can prove that TJones AND/OR Casspi (notice either or both) lead more fastbreaks this season than our guards, primarily Beverley and Lin............I will agree to not post on this board for an entire year.Amazingly, these guys together have missed more than 1/2 the current season.My proposal stands.Good luck.


    Haha, I did not mean they actually leads more fast breaks (which is not true I think.), just saying there were times that they lead it while our guard were available. IF it was game planed like you said, they probably would find Lin, PB or Harden 1st in those situations, but they did not.
  • feelingsupersonic says 7 months ago “I just thought Jeremy Lin and (Donatas Motiejunas) were playing really well,” McHale said. “I hope to have more guys back soon and we can distribute those minutes more.”


    A quote by Coach McHale about how he wants to spread playing time and get players rested. I have taken many criticisms of the coaching staff and players thus far with a grain of salt because there have been so many injuries. Patience everyone, these Morey and McHale guys know a couple things about basketball.
  • Richards says 7 months ago

    Lin/Bev combination was so deadly. We saw them in preseason and early in the season. No they both health and running on all cylinders.

    I see coach McHale play Beard the whole first quarter and run Lin/Bev most of second quarter.

  • rocketrick says 7 months ago

    We see how effective Lin can be when he get the Def. Rebs himself....He does not have to wait, can immediately running a fast break and put huge pressure to other teams' transition D. I mean

    Not sure about the game plan because, often times we see TJ or even Cassipi leading the FB.


    Well,ummmmmmmmm, OK, I admit I don't have the stats.

    However................

    If someone can prove that TJones AND/OR Casspi (notice either or both) lead more fastbreaks this season than our guards, primarily Beverley and Lin............I will agree to not post on this board for an entire year.

    Amazingly, these guys together have missed more than 1/2 the current season.

    My proposal stands.

    Good luck.
  • BrentYen says 7 months ago

    We see how effective Lin can be when he get the Def. Rebs himself....He does not have to wait, can immediately running a fast break and put huge pressure to other teams' transition D. I mean It does not hurt for you to do this and if no chance for easy FB score, circle back and give the ball to Harden. Every one touches the ball with the situation that suit them the best.

    Not sure about the game plan because, often times we see TJ or even Cassipi leading the FB while Lin and Harden were available for leading it. When it works, it looks fantastic, but if I get to chose, I think to let Lin to lead it will give you an overall better result on average. Harden can run with Lin or trailing to be ready for half court sets.

  • rocketrick says 7 months ago

    This game, the fact that Lin got many rebounds led to many fast breaks. If coach Mac wants movements, he should tell players to release the ball to Lin every time they rebound the ball. That way, they use the strength of Lin, which is leading fast breaks, and help put movements in the game. Also, this way Lin does not need heavy minutes to be effective.


    Actually I am pretty sure that is the gameplan, to outlet the ball to Beverley or Lin. Of course not everytime the Rockets get a defensive rebound leads to a fast break. Often times, the opposing team already has 2-3 guys back ready to defend. So it's a possession by possession situation.
  • Buckko says 7 months ago

    Why do we need to nit pick the harden/lin thing again. They both played excellent, got the W, and I'm happy. Anything else really matter? They're both just getting better.

  • webattorney says 7 months ago This game, the fact that Lin got many rebounds led to many fast breaks. If coach Mac wants movements, he should tell players to release the ball to Lin every time they rebound the ball. That way, they use the strength of Lin, which is leading fast breaks, and help put movements in the game. Also, this way Lin does not need heavy minutes to be effective.
  • Bigtkirk says 7 months ago

    SDrake, every observation you make is subjective. Perhaps its correct. But it's just as likely incorrect. My point is that you need to cite at least some objective criteria to support your position. Otherwise, it lacks substance.

  • SDrake says 7 months ago

    SDrake, by virtually any metric, Harden is a top-25 NBA player. By comparison, Lin is average to slightly below-average. And you say Houston is "at its best when Lin can maximize his minutes with Harden on the bench." What is your objective evidence to support such a statement?

    When Harden is in the game, whoever is playing the other guard position becomes mostly irrelevant in the offense as Harden becomes the center of all ball handling. Lin is a better offensive player than Beverley and Lin is much better offensive player when he can be aggressive. Thus, Houston is better when Lin can get more playing time with Harden on the bench with Beverley made irrelevant with Harden on the floor. I'm saying what many others on here have said all season... That Lin is best used leading the 2nd team and keeping the offense moving with Harden on the bench.

    Yes, I'll agree that Harden is a top-25 player, but he's got many holes in his game (defense, ISO, etc.) that he needs to improve upon if he wants to become a top-10 or top-5 player. Unless Harden can improve these aspects of his game, the Rockets will continue to be a 1st round playoff exit team. Harden is too much an individual player than a team player.

  • Bigtkirk says 7 months ago

    SDrake, by virtually any metric, Harden is a top-25 NBA player. By comparison, Lin is average to slightly below-average. And you say Houston is "at its best when Lin can maximize his minutes with Harden on the bench." What is your objective evidence to support such a statement?

    FWIW, I didn't take Parsons public comment after the Dallas game as a criticism of Harden. I interpreted it as Parsons saying that the players worked harder offensively when they couldn't rely on Harden and that really shouldn't be the case -- they should work just as hard offensively when they are relying on Harden's offense as they do when they can't.

  • Buckko says 7 months ago Crazy stat line by P-Bev 0pts 0 fg% 10 rebounds 8assists 6 steals 1 block.
  • SDrake says 7 months ago

    To nitpick... Start of 2nd paragraph... Cleveland never had an 8-2 lead. They had a 6-2 lead. The Rockets then made it 6-4 before Cleveland then made it 8-4. But this small error doesn't impact the valid points you're making.

    About Parsons not coming back into the game... My wife isof the conspiracy-theory mind and insists it was punishment from McHale for saying that Houston's offense is more balanced when Harden is on the bench (which I agree with). Houston is at its best when Lin can maximize his minutes with Harden on the bench.