Keys to the game include:
Getting to the line – We need more free throw attempts. The Rockets lead the league at 31 per game, but shot only 14 last night at home! t’s always harder to get calls on the road, but Harden is going to have to sacrifice his body tonight to get to the line. His aggression going to the hole is key. In tight games, I even like to see Howard go to the line. At least we’ll probably get one point. In crunch time the Rockets are still struggling to score, and free throws are our savior.
Foul trouble – Dwight is leading the league in fouls, at 156 this season, and with Smith and Asik on the bench (remind me why he’s not playing again?) it’s imperative to keep Howard on the floor for as long as possible. He only played 30 minutes last night. When Howard goes out of the game and D Mo or Jones are tasked with holding down the middle, you can just feel the Rockets get itchy. Sometimes they settle down and play great small ball, but lots of the time there is the feeling that the second team runs around like chickens with their heads cut off. I’m hoping Lin’s presence with the second team will start to help again.
The paint – The Rockets need to score better against the tough defense of the Grizzlies. Houston only scored 30 points in the paint last night, only got 7 offensive boards and were outrebounded 42 to 31. This is another reason it’s critical to keep Howard in the game. Gasol and Z Bo weigh a combined 530 pounds and can manhandle Jones and D Mo! Gasol outweighs D Mo by almost 50 pounds.
Coaching – A lot has been said about McHale in the forums this year, and many people don’t feel like he has what it takes to coach a playoff winning team. I feel like he’s still growing into the role, this is the most successful team he’s ever coached, and that the front office has been willing to give him time. The second of a back to back will give us a chance to see what kind of wrinkles and game plan changes he can make in a comparative setting to the playoffs. I see McHale as the Rockets coach at least through next year, but would like to see some changes, especially on set plays at the end of games, on defense, and getting the team to put together a consistent effort. There has been slight improvement in these categories as the team gels. The second half of this season will answer lots of questions.
Houston looks for payback on a rare home and away back to back against the Grizzlies. Our starting guards shot a combined 3 for 22 and sunk a career night by Chandler Parsons. He set an NBA record for 3’s in a half, right after Colangelo and Kryzewski slighted him for the pool of players for the world games. Parsons also set a franchise record with 10 3’s in a game and in a row. Stay mad Chandler Parsons.
It’s obvious why teams were going after Courtney Lee. His veteran leadership and defense are valuable. Since his trade to the Grizzlies, they are 6 and 2. Lee stayed in front of Harden the whole game last night and it will be a challenge for Harden to go into Memphis and play against that smothering again tonight. Now that Gasol is back, Memphis will be climbing up the Western standings, hopefully not on the backs of our Rockets. I predict they will pass up Phoenix and Dallas before the season is out.
The Grizzlies are consistently able to hold the Rockets to few points. While the Rockets average 105 a game, they were held to 87 last night and average only 93 a game against the Grizzlies this season. The Grizzlies allow only 96 per game and that ranks 4th in the league. Solving the lack of points for the Rockets will be the number one priority. What will McHale come up with?