Houston Rockets 98, Los Angeles Clippers 81: I think we’re going to the playoffs.

I observed in the preview earlier this morning that a lot of things would have to go right for the Rockets preview.  However, that was written on the assumption that James Harden would suit up tonight, and when it was announced only a few hours before the game that he would be replaced by James Anderson in the starting lineup due to a reaggravated foot injury, I expected a complete, total blowout.  Even when Houston took the early lead, I could not help but wait for the other shoe to drop, for the Clippers to finally wake up and pound a weaker team missing its superstar shooting guard into dust.  After the first quarter, when the Clippers had a one point lead thanks to 7 early Houston turnovers, I expected them to continue along that road towards victory.

Instead, aside from a brief scare early in the fourth quarter, this was a dominating Rockets team performance.  No Rocket had a performance which was jaw-dropping or utterly unexpected, as even Francisco Garcia’s 15 points was something most fans knew he could do.  Instead, they all hustled, played defense, and fought a far better team that wilted under the relentless pressure which the Rockets gave.

If anything truly changed the nature of this team, it was Coach McHale’s decision to replace Donatas Motiejunas with Greg Smith in the starting lineup due to the Lithuanian’s continual battle to not end up on the battle anyways with foul trouble.  While Smith has also had his share of struggles with fouls, tonight he managed to avoid it, as he and Asik combined to create a Twin Towers effect in the paint and completely shut down the Clippers there.  While the Clippers managed to score 29 points in the first quarter, it was thanks to 5-6 shooting from long range and Blake Griffin continually drilling the 15-footer.  However, the same duo had their troubles on offense.  The Rockets used Asik in the post far more than normal this season with the expected results from the offensively challenged center, and the lack of Harden caused Lin to repeatedly lose the ball during that first quarter without someone completely reliable for him to pass it to.

However, the Houston bench came in and helped to calm the Rockets down.  The turnovers decreased, the Clippers stopped shooting as well as Houston did a much better job with their closeouts, and they began to show signs of mental fatigue as they watched Houston take and hold on to the lead.  Blake Griffin and Jamaal Crawford were called for technical fouls after arguing with the refs, the Clippers had trouble getting any foul calls of their own, and the half ended with a peculiar decision by Vinny Del Negro to try Hack-a-Smith at the end, which failed as Smith hit both of his free throws and Caron Butler answered by airballing a three pointer.  Houston entered the locker rooms with a 55-50 lead.

It was during the third quarter that things kicked into overdrive, particularly at the defensive end.  Chris Paul ended up in foul trouble as he picked up four during the quarter, and while Lin’s jumper was not as effective as it was earlier in the game, he also played smarter and stopped his habit of jumping into the air and firing a pass at a teammate’s general direction.  Meanwhile, Asik prevented Griffin from accomplishing anything in the paint while Smith and Parsons grabbed the boards.  For once during the season, Houston played extremely solid offense and defense, with strong rotations and ball handling.  The result was that Houston had the game virtually won by the end of the third quarter, and while there was a brief moment of concern when the Clippers used zone defense to start the 4th quarter off with an early 8-0 run, Houston recovered and German Tim Olbrecht played in his second NBA game at the 3 minute mark.

Houston finishes Hell Week with a 2-2 record and I think for the first time, this team can really, truly begin to discuss the playoffs.  There are nine games left, six of them are against sub-.500 teams, and Houston’s magic number is currently at six and possibly five depending on the outcome of tonight’s games for Utah and the Lakers.

  • While Greg Smith starting over Motiejunas was one surprise from the frontcourt rotation, another was the complete absence of Thomas Robinson in tonight’s game, as last year’s 5th pick only played during garbage time.  Asik-Smith-Motiejunas formed the big man rotation, while Parsons/Delfino got spot up minutes at smallball.  The formation proved to be singularly effective against the Clippers, as backup power forward Lamar Odom is not a serious banger and Houston would want backup center Ryan Hollins to take as many shots as he can.  Whether this will remain a long-term trend will be something to keep note in regards to Robinson’s future as a Houston Rocket.
  • I will have a special spot in my heart for Kyle Lowry, and I in fact selected the Raptors as one of my League Pass teams explicitly to watch him play, even if he just hasn’t been the same this season.  But even Kyle, as much as he hustled and fought, seems to pale compared to the effort which Patrick Beverley shows every single night, especially on the boards.  Even at the very end of the third quarter with a 79-63 Houston lead, Beverley jumped in past several Clippers to grab the board which turned into a Chandler Parsons 3.  I remember being skeptical of Beverley, citing the traditional hustle which all young players display as they desperately seek playing time only for it to wear off as the season progresses.  I am very glad I was wrong.
  • A special shoutout to the fan in the Toyota Center who kept waving a cardboard cutout of Chandler Parsons with James Harden’s beard, prompting a discussion by the Houston announcers about how long it would take for him to grow such a thing.

 

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  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    So perhaps you'd like Coach McHale more if he changed his moniker to Preacher McHale??????

    Truthfully though, RBF, even you have to agree that simply preaching or yelling or whatever your preference for conveying the message, on it's own isn't going to turn an unexperienced NBA player into an All-Star. Life just doesn't work that way. Only if it did!!!!!!!!!

    see....see you trying to pick a fight :lol: :lol:it took me a minute to recover from that.....on a more serious note...I agree with you on all but the preacher McHale part. it doesn't really matterhow you do it ........just get the job done

  • rocketrick says 1 YEAR ago

    just because he says it in an interview doesn't mean he's preaching it to the team. McHale talks a good game, but coaching one is a hole different ballgame. you want to show me something then find a practice with him yelling it. you see if you don't teach it in practice then that's why we keep loosing focus on it during games. fact is I have heard him say it a few times, but action speaks louder than words. also look in other threads where we have discussed the fact that McHale may not even be a good x's and o's coach....he a motivator right? so his postgame statement may be the result of his bench coaches telling him what to say. i'm not sure, but one thing I am sure about if he was really preaching it to the team as hard as you say it would not be as much of a problem as it has been in some of the games we have played.

    So perhaps you'd like Coach McHale more if he changed his moniker to Preacher McHale??????

    Truthfully though, RBF, even you have to agree that simply preaching or yelling or whatever your preference for conveying the message, on it's own isn't going to turn an unexperienced NBA player into an All-Star. Life just doesn't work that way. Only if it did!!!!!!!!!

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I feel like you're being a little hypocritical here, you have provided less evidence to your claims than I have. Perhaps we should stop this conversation before things escalate.

    escalate into what?...........you are no threat to me verbally or physically. if you can't hold your emotions out of the conversation then stop posting comments for someone like me to disagree with and you won't feel rained on. stat geeks always make me laugh. every part of the game can not be defined by stats and you fail to miss that point. sure they are helpful, but are not a know-all be-all means for determining all aspects of the game. when you figure that out then we will be able to have a higher level conversation. until then go ahead and continue to quote your stats and I will continue to shoot them down like ducks on a pond. however save your insults to be better used on someone who gives a sh^t about what you think.....because I don't

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I don't have a problem with that........just stick to the facts tho.

    I feel like you're being a little hypocritical here, you have provided less evidence to your claims than I have. Perhaps we should stop this conversation before things escalate.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I'm not an extremist, so don't call me one. His comment was "What makes you so sure he's not preaching it practice? You're just assuming the worst of him with no proof while demanding proof from anyone who disagrees." I responded that nobody had proof. If that makes me an extremist than what does that make you? I'm starting to get sick and tired of Mchale lovers that feel the need to insult people who don't think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    I don't think it's anyone's intention here to insult anyone. If anyone does cross the line I'm sure 'feelingsupersonic' will chime in so don't worry, there is no need to get hot and bothered.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Because he's being unfaily attacked/criticized like crazy. I'm the yin to the yang.

    I don't have a problem with that........just stick to the facts tho.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    So what you're saying is that nobody has any proof. We just have to go with our gut feelings? Then why are you defending Mchale like crazy?

    Because he's being unfaily attacked/criticized like crazy. I'm the yin to the yang.

  • Steven says 1 YEAR ago So you're not an Anti-McHale extremist?
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I'm not an extremist, so don't call me one. His comment was "What makes you so sure he's not preaching it practice? You're just assuming the worst of him with no proof while demanding proof from anyone who disagrees." I responded that nobody had proof. If that makes me an extremist than what does that make you? I'm starting to get sick and tired of Mchale lovers that feel the need to insult people who don't think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    totally agree.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    2016 found prove. He listed a half dozen links for RBF to see. When confronted with facts that go against his beliefs, RBF then moved the goal posts.

    @2016: Extremists can't be confenced the beliefs or others might have a point. And that goes for Left or Right, Pro Life or Choice, McHale believers/ McHale Bashers.

    I'm not an extremist, so don't call me one. His comment was "What makes you so sure he's not preaching it practice? You're just assuming the worst of him with no proof while demanding proof from anyone who disagrees." I responded that nobody had proof. If that makes me an extremist than what does that make you? I'm starting to get sick and tired of Mchale lovers that feel the need to insult people who don't think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

  • Steven says 1 YEAR ago

    So what you're saying is that nobody has any proof. We just have to go with our gut feelings? Then why are you defending Mchale like crazy?


    2016 found prove. He listed a half dozen links for RBF to see. When confronted with facts that go against his beliefs, RBF then moved the goal posts.

    @2016: Extremists can't be confenced the beliefs or others might have a point. And that goes for Left or Right, Pro Life or Choice, McHale believers/ McHale Bashers.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    What makes you so sure he's not preaching it practice? You're just assuming the worst of him with no proof while demanding proof from anyone who disagrees.

    So what you're saying is that nobody has any proof. We just have to go with our gut feelings? Then why are you defending Mchale like crazy?

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    What makes you so sure he's not preaching it practice? You're just assuming the worst of him with no proof while demanding proof from anyone who disagrees.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    just because he says it in an interview doesn't mean he's preaching it to the team. McHale talks a good game, but coaching one is a hole different ballgame. you want to show me something then find a practice with him yelling it. you see if you don't teach it in practice then that's why we keep loosing focus on it during games. fact is I have heard him say it a few times, but action speaks louder than words. also look in other threads where we have discussed the fact that McHale may not even be a good x's and o's coach....he a motivator right? so his postgame statement may be the result of his bench coaches telling him what to say. i'm not sure, but one thing I am sure about if he was really preaching it to the team as hard as you say it would not be as much of a problem as it has been in some of the games we have played.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Geez do you want me to find every time he mentioned it? That's alot of work but I'll find a few.

    Quote after the recent Pacer's game:

    “We’re a little more read and react,” McHale said. “It’s systemic to our team
    not moving the ball, not moving bodies enough, just being a little bit stagnant"

    Quote after the Grizzlies game:

    “We had bad spacing, and we weren’t moving the ball,” McHale said. “We
    weren’t moving the defense. They just locked us down. It’s been three games of
    that. They’re going to really run at James and try to get the ball out of his
    hands. We’re going to have to adjust to that and play with more movement earlier
    in the clock."

    During the game:

    Coach Kevin McHale shouted “Move it! Move it! Move it!” Again, no one did. (link)

    Quote during the 7 game losing streak:

    "We have to play with pace. We have to move the ball. The ball can't get sticky.
    It's got to go from side to side."(link)

    December:

    After the game, Kevin McHale called the ball "sticky" as the Rockets tried to
    run their offensive sets, basically saying there wasn't enough ball
    movement. (link)

    After the Wizards game:

    "Yeah, we were sticky again tonight," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "We didn't
    have great movement and our spacing got a little bit funky. We chased the ball a
    little too much." (link)

    Alot of talk about ball movement again here after the Hornets game

    After the Nuggets game:

    "We're not cutting, the ball's sticky, it's just a lot of stuff we've got to
    correct," McHale said. "We've got to get better at ball movement, we've got to
    get better ball and body movement." (link)

    and I shouldn't need to remind you there was a lot of praise from McHale about the ball movement after the Clippers game since it was so recent. I can easily find several more but I think you should do that since you're the "Rockets best fan" or so you claim...

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I've been watching all the post game interviews, and just based on the things the players and McHale have said, I can tell you you're wrong.

    I've watched those same interviews, and have on occasion seen some mention it, but I have not seen a steady parade of this idea being pushed. most of what I hearing relates to focus and energy, not ball movement and gritty defense

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Is RBF RedStewie?

    NO..... I'm not. are you?

  • Steven says 1 YEAR ago Is RBF RedStewie?
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I've been watching all the post game interviews, and just based on the things the players and McHale have said, I can tell you you're wrong.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    McHale has been doing a lot of things, but preaching ain't one of them :lol:

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    The whole season McHale has been preaching to move the ball like a hot potato and play gritty defense. This was one of those games where the players actually applied his lessons, but watch us forget these lessons at least2 more games this season to put us down around 20 points before we wake up and make a come back victory.

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    Only different in this game was very good ball movement. Blow out win over Clippers with nobody scoring more than 15 points was total shocker.

    I wonder how many times McHale used the word "ball movement" today even after the game.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Yep, like Phaketrash said the LAC have been very good on b2b's (12-6 coming into this game), and you wouldn't have guessed that watching after what we saw tonight. I'm not saying we shouldn't put any salt on this win at all, put a little salt on but don't just scoff it off like we didn't do anything. I think almost every Rockets fan expected us to get blown out without Harden, but then we're the ones who do the blowing out and all of a sudden it's no big deal. There's some really questionable Rockets fans out there I have to say, my apologies if it angers them to hear me say this was a great win but that's just how I see it.

  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: Houston Rockets 98, Los Angeles Clippers 81: I think we’re going to the playoffs.
  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    Interesting point that was brought up. As the Rockets have been notoriously bad on the 2nd night of b2bs, and LAC very good, I have to give props to McHale for benching the starters last night so that they'd be rested for this game. Sure, the bench gave us the real spark, but I approved of the move both for the rest and for the message (don't play like crap starters! effort needed!) -- tonight, they all came out with 110% effort.

    I will say that it is probably a little bit of both. Our effort level and defense stepped it up, but LAC really imploded. It was ridiculous watching them and how frustrated they got. The calls and stuff got into their heads.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    playoff caliber defense? your kidding right? the clippers were a tired team coming into this game after a hard fought loss to the spurs. they looked a step slow. it was a great win for us, but lets not blow it out of proportion. remember we rested in our blowout loss. I know harden wasn't playing and the players who were playing should get credit for taking up the slack, but if you saw playoff caliber defense you must have been watching another game.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    We played playoff caliber defense, we out muscled them, out hustled them, we fought hard for every rebound and loose ball, our rotations were practically mistake free. That was so awesome to watch after seeing so much of the opposite. If we play defense like this in the playoffs we candefinitelycause an upset.

    Offensively, I know we are better with Harden but I have to say I like how our offense flowed better tonight, we didn't dribble in one spot till there's only 5 seconds on the clock before passing to someone who's not even open expecting him to shoot. Instead we were trying to get a good shot with 20 seconds left on the clock, often passing up half-good looks to get an even better look, just beautiful unselfish ball movement. There was one play where I counted 8 quick passes before a wide open Garcia 3, it looked like we was playing a game of hot potato and the Clippers defense was running around like headless chooks trying to rotate.

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    What a great feel-good win tonight!

    I can taste the Clipper's frustrations from here lol.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Greg Smith is actually a better option than T-Rob, he's significantly stronger and more productive. I'm happy with McHale's thinking process here.

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    Option C. Greg Smith starting to better match up against Blake lol.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    McHale will probably let D-Mo do what he can without help until he gets into foul trouble as usual, then comes in Delfino whodefinitelyneeds help if we don't want Blake to score 50 points.

    Another option is to let T-Rob play with the starting unit, I'm guessing floor spacing is the reason McHale hasn't tried this.

    Otherwise this will probably be another night where the 2nd unit outplays the 1st unit.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    I agree wholeheartedly. I wish Coach Mchale would stop making the guards double team every big that gets the ball in the post.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Paul has not exactly been shooting the ball well lately, averaging a sub .300 percentage from long range in March

    Who wants to bet Paul has his best 3pt shooting game in March tonight?

    We will probably see Lin sag in to double Blake alot, and Cp3 will get wide open shots.