The Rockets head to the Philippines for the first of two against the Pacers. With Marc Stein’s Power Rankings putting the Pacers at number two in the league and the Rockets number six, this will be a good gauge as to how the Rockets match up against an elite team. The Rockets have a lot of questions while the Pacers have answers.
Questions: Rockets Chemistry
Who will start at power forward? (Same question as last year). How can the Rockets get Asik and Howard on the court at the same time? How open will the middle be for Lin and Harden to take it to the hole with Howard playing?
The Rockets starting five are beginning to create a new identity and style. They are experimenting with getting the ball into the post often, while still finding out how fast they can play. The Rockets hope to build into something better while incorporating many new names on the roster.
Answers: Pacers Chemistry
The Pacers will be refining what made them so successful last year. They are strong at every position, have depth, are going to be in the top tier of the East again, and hope to blast into the season on the back of last year’s playoff run. All of their starters return from a team that took the Heat to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
With Danny Granger back at full speed after having him for only five games last year, the Pacers retained almost everyone on the team except Hansbrough and Green. Larry Bird is back as President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Frank Vogel signed an extension early in the year. The Pacers have history and playoff experience. The Rockets, of course, have only one playoff series under their belts in the last four years combined.
Questions: Rockets Defense
What kind of defensive upgrades do the Rockets have in store for us this season with Howard in the middle? Is defense going to get easier for everyone with him at the rim? And, with Howard carrying some of the scoring load, will the other players have more energy on the defensive end?
How will the Rockets first team defense measure up against the Pacers formidable offensive punch, where every starter is a scoring threat? Can Donatas Motiejūnas or Terrence Jones guard David West? How will our guards defend against the excellent backcourt of George Hill and Paul George? Which point guard will finish the games? And how is Howard’s back?
It will take the Rockets getting Garcia and Asik healthy to really answer some of these questions. But, after finishing in the bottom of the league defensively last year, the Rockets are going to have to improve significantly to go deep in the playoffs.
Answers: Pacers Defense
The Pacers were first in the league in opponents field goal percentage (42%), first in three point field goal percentage (33%), and second in points given up (90.7). They seem set to continue their lockdown on opponents and their defensive presence is a major factor in last year’s success. Enough said.
Questions: Rockets Second Team
Beverly’s defense is excellent, can he add a scoring punch? Can Asik’s presence solidify the second team? The players on the second half of the roster are all battling for playing time and for some of them they are still battling to make the team. Who will step into that second team and how will they gel?
For the Rockets to be an elite team this year, the bench has to play much better. The starters looked great against the Pelicans in the first preseason game, but the second team was in a deep, negative hole.
Answers: Pacers Second Team
The Pacers can play Luis Scola and Chris Copeland while integrating Granger, who may be coming off the bench this year (he did in their first preseason game). These players would start for many weaker teams. Again, the Pacers went deep in the playoffs for a reason.
If this were a regular season game, we’d get a real feel for how the Rockets will match up against the best in the East. For now the Rockets have significant questions.