Houston Rockets 114, Washington Wizards 107 – Escape from Waterworld

It was a soggy night in Washington, and in a rare occurence the bad weather outside affected the basketball inside as the game was interrupted on two separate occasions thanks to a leak in the Verizon Center roof. If you stuck around past the rain delays, you would have seen the Rockets allow a huge lead to evaporate as they lost control of a game they were completely dominating for three quarters. They slide from 25 points up at one point to fall behind by 5 midway through the fourth, but were able to recover to escape with the win. For three quarters this was the most complete performance the Rockets have put on since Christmas Day, but the events of the final frame turned it into a nail-biter the Rockets were lucky to escape from with a win.

  • Jeremy Lin and John Wall have a history going back to the Las Vegas Summer League before their rookie seasons, when the matchup between the two of them was possibly the highlight of the tournament. It’s always been fun to watch the two play against each other, and tonight was no exception. For three quarters I thought Lin did a really good job of staying in front of  Wall and preventing him from getting to the rim. Several times he forced Wall to make a bailout pass from under the basket. But it all fell apart in the fourth when Wall seemed to move to another gear. He was a blur in the open court and got the rim at will as the Wizards erased a 15 point deficit in just 6 minutes.
  • Howard absolutely pulverised Gortat in the post whenever he got the chance. Gortat is by no means a small man, but it was incredible how easy Howard found it to back him down. Even when Dwight caught the ball near the three point line he was able to get all the way to the rim without facing up. The Wizards adjusted by benching Gortat and playing Nene and Seraphim down the stretch, and it worked a lot better for them.
  • This is the second consecutive game where the Rockets have gone through a stretch featuring several consecutive turnovers late in games and given up damaging runs to their opponents. I think you can trace a fair amount of the blame to a failure to adapt to adjustments in defending Howard’s post game. Last night, the Hawks put pressure on the feeds to Howard, fighting hard to disrupt him as he made his catch and forcing passes to be made through a thicket of limbs. Tonight, the Wizards switched Howard’s primary defender and started to double team more often. This is an area where I think McHale needs to step in quicker – when he sees changes like this he should call a timeout and suggest an alternative strategy. Otherwise we may well see more sequences like this in the future – if you can throw Howard off his game, the turnovers he coughs up can be very damaging otherwise.
  • On the back of a brilliant quarter from Omri Casspi (who had 12), the Rockets put up 38 points  in the second frame and opened up a 17 point half time lead. For the first time in a long while, the Rockets’ bench actually looked productive. They ran a second unit of Brooks/Lin/Garcia/Casspi/Smith, and it worked really well.  Lin was in attack mode and getting to the rim, and Casspi was hitting from both outside and in. Garcia has been in a slump recently, but he was back to being quietly useful tonight, facilitating well and coming up with one of his trademark sneaky blocks. And it was great to have Smith the garbage man back on the court – his game has great synergy with Lin’s when Jeremy is aggressive and able to penetrate. If he can stay healthy it will add some much needed pop to the second unit’s offence.
  • Terrence Jones also had a good game tonight. He started slow but had a great third quarter, and had a key block late on to preserve the Rockets’ fragile lead. My one criticism is that he continues to struggle mightily to box out on the defensive glass. The Wizards had 17 offensive boards tonight and a lot of them came when Jones’ man was able to sneak past a ball-watching Jones for the offensive board. Particularly when the team is going through an offensive funk, these lapses can be very demoralising.
  • There was a clear emphasis in generating early offence from the Rockets tonight. For the first time in what feels like forever they were pushing the ball off makes and it got them several easy buckets. Nice to see and hopefully they’ll be able to keep it up in subsequent games.

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  • jlewey says 8 months ago

    Dwight still managed 23pts. And has the highest FG percentage of the top 40 scorers not named lebron who has taken a 100 less shots than Durant but still has more makes at an unreal 59% . Would be nice if Howard had a significant midrange game but he still gets buckets.

    I think Swayze is talking about free throws cause a free throw is a 15 ft shoot

  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    Rob Dover, What game were you watching? You wrote the following about the Lin/Wall matchup...

    "But it all fell apart in the fourth when Wall seemed to move to another gear. He was a blur in the open court and got the rim at will as the Wizards erased a 15 point deficit in just 6 minutes."

    But during the 19-0 4th quarter run by the Wizards that changed the game from a 97-83 lead to a 97-102 deficit, Wall only scored 4 of the 19 points. Seraphin scored 8. Who was guarding Seraphin?

    Or... Why not discuss Howard's meltdown during the 19-0 run? The following were among the play-by-play during the 19-0 run...

    9:15 Dwight Howard traveling

    8:37 Dwight Howard lost ball turnover

    7:28 Dwight Howard misses layup

    7:07 Dwight Howard offensive foul

    6:13 Dwight Howard lost ball turnover

    5:50 Dwight Howard misses 7-foot jumper

    5:11 Dwight Howard misses 2 free throws

    Rather than blame the 4th quarter meltdown on Lin, it's obvious that Howard's play during the 19-0 run was far more significant yet drew no mention in your recap.

    I thought Dwight's defense on Seraphin in the half-court sets was decent and Seraphin just made some quality post moves and made them.

    Also, Wall notched 10 pts and 6 assists in that comeback stretch. It started in the 3rd quarter (score was 83-59) when they made up 9 of the 24 points they were down and ended when they took the lead at 99-97 in the 4th.

  • linonlyfan says 8 months ago

    I liked this game a lot aside from the bit where the Wizards came back. I thought the first 2 quarters looked good, the offense smooth with a clear emphasis on Dwight first with with a lot of action coming from after he gets the ball in a threatening position. Part of it I feel is Harden played a lot more off the ball and as a decoy while the PG and forwards focused on getting good entry into Dwight to start off the offense.

    Im not surprised Dwight had some trouble later, the rhythm he got into was completely disrupted when the Wizards suddenly changed up the way they defended him. Again this highlights the need to ensure the whole team gets their reps on various looks that Howard will get particularly in the post season where a experienced team like San Antonio will give Howard a totally different reception each time. I actually think the team has most trouble with teams that aggressively deny the post entry pass (as Atlanta did to some extent) because then the action bogs down trying to create a open pass and when nothing happens the guards go into attack mode with no clear out, the defense set and not that much time left on the clock. The team needs to get into the mode where they can recognize the specific current defensive scheme fast and adjust on the fly.

    The defense was good. I didn't look too closely but there felt like there weren't too many glaring examples of either Harden or Lin getting toasted through inattention. Harden looked like he was really trying and I saw one very good 3 point contest. Also Harden stopped the late Wizards run with some amazing shotmaking which basically is priceless.

    Question? Does a pass into the corner for a Brewer 3 count as a turnover? It probably should.

  • Sir Thursday says 8 months ago

    Rob Dover, What game were you watching? You wrote the following about the Lin/Wall matchup...

    "But it all fell apart in the fourth when Wall seemed to move to another gear. He was a blur in the open court and got the rim at will as the Wizards erased a 15 point deficit in just 6 minutes."

    But during the 19-0 4th quarter run by the Wizards that changed the game from a 97-83 lead to a 97-102 deficit, Wall only scored 4 of the 19 points. Seraphin scored 8. Who was guarding Seraphin?

    Or... Why not discuss Howard's meltdown during the 19-0 run? The following were among the play-by-play during the 19-0 run...

    9:15 Dwight Howard traveling

    8:37 Dwight Howard lost ball turnover

    7:28 Dwight Howard misses layup

    7:07 Dwight Howard offensive foul

    6:13 Dwight Howard lost ball turnover

    5:50 Dwight Howard misses 7-foot jumper

    5:11 Dwight Howard misses 2 free throws

    Rather than blame the 4th quarter meltdown on Lin, it's obvious that Howard's play during the 19-0 run was far more significant yet drew no mention in your recap.

    I think you'll find my third bullet point covers the period on offence that you're talking about.

    The start of the fourth quarter was characterised by Wall continuously pushing the ball in transition, beating his man and forcing a rotation from the help defender. Seraphim got most of his points off dump-offs and offensive rebounds as his man was drawn away to help on Wall. To be honest I don't think anyone could have stopped Wall with the mood he was in, but it was definitely him sparking the comeback.

    As I said, I thought Lin did a really good job on Wall in the first three quarters, and it was noticeable how much Wall easier it was for Wall to get to the rim when Brooks was guarding him. I actually wrote a separate bullet about how awful Brooks' defence was against Wall, but had to get rid of it to fit under my word count limit. (But seriously, it was awful. Watch the last minute of the first quarter and you'll see Wall smoke Brooks on four consecutive possessions).

    ST

  • sli says 8 months ago

    Glad to finally see it mentioned in a post-game recap: opposing coaches making adjustments that would neutralize Howard's post game. I could see it after only a few games into the season. I could never discern McHale ever making responding adjustments. If Howard was beasting in the first half due to the opposing team defending him one-on-one, it would all disappear once the opposing coach outlined the adjustments to his team during half-time. Howard putting the ball on the floor when double-teamed is a sure TO. Howard racked up the TOs in the 4th quarter in today's game. But in other games when the opponents double-teamed him right from the start, Howard would run up 3 to 4 TOs in the first 6 minutes. I wish I could discern McHale effectively managing his team right away when Howard had suc TOs.

  • Cooper says 8 months ago Dwight still managed 23pts. And has the highest FG percentage of the top 40 scorers not named lebron who has taken a 100 less shots than Durant but still has more makes at an unreal 59% . Would be nice if Howard had a significant midrange game but he still gets buckets.
  • Patrickswayze says 8 months ago Dwight Howard, Dwight Howard 10 years and a 15 ft shoot is his kryptonite.
  • feelingsupersonic says 8 months ago

    Rob Dover, What game were you watching? You wrote the following about the Lin/Wall matchup...

    "But it all fell apart in the fourth when Wall seemed to move to another gear. He was a blur in the open court and got the rim at will as the Wizards erased a 15 point deficit in just 6 minutes."

    But during the 19-0 4th quarter run by the Wizards that changed the game from a 97-83 lead to a 97-102 deficit, Wall only scored 4 of the 19 points. Seraphin scored 8. Who was guarding Seraphin?

    Or... Why not discuss Howard's meltdown during the 19-0 run? The following were among the play-by-play during the 19-0 run...

    9:15 Dwight Howard traveling
    8:37 Dwight Howard lost ball turnover
    7:28 Dwight Howard misses layup
    7:07 Dwight Howard offensive foul
    6:13 Dwight Howard lost ball turnover
    5:50 Dwight Howard misses 7-foot jumper
    5:11 Dwight Howard misses 2 free throws

    Rather than blame the 4th quarter meltdown on Lin, it's obvious that Howard's play during the 19-0 run was far more significant yet drew no mention in your recap.


    Wow, how do we reason with this. I do not see Dover assigning blame to any specific player much less Lin.

    That my friends is persecutory delusion.
  • SDrake says 8 months ago

    Rob Dover, What game were you watching? You wrote the following about the Lin/Wall matchup...

    "But it all fell apart in the fourth when Wall seemed to move to another gear. He was a blur in the open court and got the rim at will as the Wizards erased a 15 point deficit in just 6 minutes."

    But during the 19-0 4th quarter run by the Wizards that changed the game from a 97-83 lead to a 97-102 deficit, Wall only scored 4 of the 19 points. Seraphin scored 8. Who was guarding Seraphin?

    Or... Why not discuss Howard's meltdown during the 19-0 run? The following were among the play-by-play during the 19-0 run...

    9:15 Dwight Howard traveling

    8:37 Dwight Howard lost ball turnover

    7:28 Dwight Howard misses layup

    7:07 Dwight Howard offensive foul

    6:13 Dwight Howard lost ball turnover

    5:50 Dwight Howard misses 7-foot jumper

    5:11 Dwight Howard misses 2 free throws

    Rather than blame the 4th quarter meltdown on Lin, it's obvious that Howard's play during the 19-0 run was far more significant yet drew no mention in your recap.

  • rm90025 says 8 months ago

    Glad you mentioned the Lin-Wall matchup at the Vegas Summer League. I was at that game. Was there to see #1 overall pick John Wall and the whole gym was wildly entertained as Lin basically outplayed him.

  • Red94 says 8 months ago New post: Houston Rockets 114, Washington Wizards 107 - Escape from Waterworld
    By: Rob Dover

    It was a soggy night in Washington, and in a rare occurence the bad weather outside affected the basketball inside as the game was interrupted on two separate occasions thanks to a leak in the Verizon Center roof. If you stuck around past the rain delays, you would have seen the Rockets allow a huge lead to evaporate as they lost control of a game they were completely dominating for three quarters. They slide from 25 points up at one point to fall behind by 5 midway through the fourth, but were able to recover to escape with the win. For three quarters this was the most complete performance the Rockets have put on since Christmas Day, but the events of the final frame turned it into a nail-biter the Rockets were lucky to escape from with a win.

    • Jeremy Lin and John Wall have a history going back to the Las Vegas Summer League before their rookie seasons, when the matchup between the two of them was possibly the highlight of the tournament. It's always been fun to watch the two play against each other, and tonight was no exception. For three quarters I thought Lin did a really good job of staying in front of  Wall and preventing him from getting to the rim. Several times he forced Wall to make a bailout pass from under the basket. But it all fell apart in the fourth when Wall seemed to move to another gear. He was a blur in the open court and got the rim at will as the Wizards erased a 15 point deficit in just 6 minutes.
    • Howard absolutely pulverised Gortat in the post whenever he got the chance. Gortat is by no means a small man, but it was incredible how easy Howard found it to back him down. Even when Dwight caught the ball near the three point line he was able to get all the way to the rim without facing up. The Wizards adjusted by benching Gortat and playing Nene and Seraphim down the stretch, and it worked a lot better for them.
    • This is the second consecutive game where the Rockets have gone through a stretch featuring several consecutive turnovers late in games and given up damaging runs to their opponents. I think you can trace a fair amount of the blame to a failure to adapt to adjustments in defending Howard's post game. Last night, the Hawks put pressure on the feeds to Howard, fighting hard to disrupt him as he made his catch and forcing passes to be made through a thicket of limbs. Tonight, the Wizards switched Howard's primary defender and started to double team more often. This is an area where I think McHale needs to step in quicker - when he sees changes like this he should call a timeout and suggest an alternative strategy. Otherwise we may well see more sequences like this in the future - if you can throw Howard off his game, the turnovers he coughs up can be very damaging otherwise.
    • On the back of a brilliant quarter from Omri Casspi (who had 12), the Rockets put up 38 points  in the second frame and opened up a 17 point half time lead. For the first time in a long while, the Rockets' bench actually looked productive. They ran a second unit of Brooks/Lin/Garcia/Casspi/Smith, and it worked really well.  Lin was in attack mode and getting to the rim, and Casspi was hitting from both outside and in. Garcia has been in a slump recently, but he was back to being quietly useful tonight, facilitating well and coming up with one of his trademark sneaky blocks. And it was great to have Smith the garbage man back on the court - his game has great synergy with Lin's when Jeremy is aggressive and able to penetrate. If he can stay healthy it will add some much needed pop to the second unit's offence.
    • Terrence Jones also had a good game tonight. He started slow but had a great third quarter, and had a key block late on to preserve the Rockets' fragile lead. My one criticism is that he continues to struggle mightily to box out on the defensive glass. The Wizards had 17 offensive boards tonight and a lot of them came when Jones' man was able to sneak past a ball-watching Jones for the offensive board. Particularly when the team is going through an offensive funk, these lapses can be very demoralising.
    • There was a clear emphasis in generating early offence from the Rockets tonight. For the first time in what feels like forever they were pushing the ball off makes and it got them several easy buckets. Nice to see and hopefully they'll be able to keep it up in subsequent games.