Huq’s Pen: And so we live to see another day

  • That’s the beauty of professional sports.  It’s a game of seconds, of inches, of sheer luck.  If Ray Allen doesn’t hit that miraculous ’3′ in Game 6 of the Finals last year, the narrative surrounding Lebron isn’t whether he’ll challenge for GOAT status but whether he’s one of the greatest chokers of all-time.  If Troy Daniels doesn’t hit that shot, if Jeremy Lin doesn’t scoop up the Harden turnover to find Daniels, this post would entirely be about Carmelo Anthony and the team’s summer coaching search.  Instead, we have a series again and the Rockets live to see another day.
  • Before last night’s game, this is what I said I wanted to see:  “This is all you can hope for right now: first, pride, as I already explained.  You have to hope the team hasn’t given up.  Second, reversion (re: Aldridge), as I explained.  Third, some lineup changes.  I think there’s a good chance you could see Motiejunas and perhaps Daniels in the place of Garcia.  McHale has shown a willingness to make extreme lineup changes in these circumstances.  You could also see different versions of small-ball.  Fourth, you have to hope for “basic” adjustments.  Again, it’s too much to ask for anything intricate, but they can change their pick and roll coverage, as Pina outlined in his piece last night.  Having the ‘bigs’ stay at home on Aldridge is basic and implementable and could be more than enough to tilt the odds.”  By and large, I’m satisfied.  They obviously showed up to play; we got the reversion with Harden, despite shooting poorly, putting up points, and Aldridge getting shut down; we got the lineup changes with Asik starting in place of Jones and Daniels replacing Garcia; and we got the “basic” adjustments.  Howard stayed home on the pick and roll (rather than showing as he had been in the first two games) and the team began bringing a second big from the weakside to help on Aldridge after he had already made his move.  In the first games, Aldridge was often alone on an island.  I’m overall very happy with the coverage on Aldridge and I think his dropoff was to be expected.  It just was not sustainable for him to continue torching a duo of two of the top interior defenders in basketball, for three straight games.  If he hits those fallaway 19 footers with Asik in his face, I can live with it.  But I’m not willing to double on the catch to prevent those shots.

  • More from yesterday: “But all of those missed rotations and defensive miscues you kept seeing, over and over, on Wednesday night?  Forget about seeing that stuff fixed.  It’s just too late.  Those errors are just emblematic of a poorly coached, ill-prepared team and there’s nothing that can be done about any of that right now.  That is the stuff that becomes ingrained in practice and its become clear the Rockets haven’t been practicing any of it, to date.  Again, all you can hope for are some basic pick and roll coverage tweaks.”  And again, last night, we saw more of the same.  Houston repeatedly got killed in transition and on the glass, early on as, as has been the case all year, their rotations were extremely messy.  Like I said yesterday, though, I can’t complain.  At this point, it is what it is.  You can’t expect this team to suddenly fix major identity issues halfway through a playoff series.  Smaller adjustments, such as pick and roll coverage, can be altered on the fly, but its just unrealistic right now to bitch about rotations.  If they didn’t learn it in the year, they won’t learn it now.  You just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best.
  • One thing I noticed was that the Rockets were having Asik show on the guard while Howard exclusively stayed at home on Aldridge when the latter two were paired.  I don’t know how I feel about this.  While Asik is essentially set to earn $15million next year because of his ability in those situations, the coverage resulted in some wide open Aldridge jumpers.  He missed them but I don’t like the thought of giving him those looks and letting him get a rhythm.  More on this.*
  • The Rockets have several major defensive problems right now.  First, the transition defense about which I already wrote and about which you just can’t worry about – it’s too late at this point.  But among fixable things, heading into Game 4: a) because they are needing to bring Howard weakside to double on Aldridge, Robin Lopez or even Joel Freeland have been left all alone under the hoop for offensive boards.  I don’t know what the answer is for this.  It’s easier said than done to just say “put a body on him”…and I am a staunch proponent of continuing to double Aldridge off the weakside.  b) the other problem manifested itself in overtime when, without Asik in the game, with Howard as the lone big and pulled out to the perimeter checking Aldridge, Houston had absolutely zero rim protection.  For normal NBA teams, this wouldn’t be an existential crisis, but for the Rockets, who feature poor perimeter defenders all across the lineup, it was a near death sentence.  Parsons, before he fouled out (which might have been the biggest blessing of the year), and Harden, got absolutely torched as Batum and Lillard literally walked to the basket with no big man waiting.  More on this in the next bullet point.
  • Obviously, I understand the merits of this lineup.  Not only did it allow the Rockets to play their best offensive players (Harden, Lin, Howard, Beverley, Parsons) but, it also took Robin Lopez out of the game.  I don’t know if I like this strategy.  In fact, I wish they wouldn’t go small like this and would prefer they just keep Asik in.  Why?  Because, despite the lineup change, they aren’t really utilizing the benefits of the small lineup.  They were still going 1-4 flat every single time, so it’s not like they had Portland on its heels because of the small lineup.  With Asik in, while the spacing is compromised, you can just continue to run the 1-4 flat to your heart’s delight.  I’d say that what the Rockets gain defensively from having Asik in alongside Howard serves more in the aggregate, against this Blazers team, than what they gain offensively having him on the bench.  Seriously.  I know we are all exuberant right now because of the win, but the Rockets almost lost that game last night because of their atrocious defense…
  • …and because of their atrocious offense.  Again, we saw nothing but 1-4 flats regarding which Jeff Van Gundy ironically remarked, “I don’t like that play.”  But, like the transition defense, I’m not going to bitch about it because, if you read Red94, I’ve already spent enough time on these pages doing that.  It is what it is at this point.  This is who the Rockets are.  They are going to ISO Harden down the stretch, for better or worse, no point in wasting my breath here.  You just have to pray he hits shots.
  • Chandler Parsons is losing a lot of money right now.
  •  We finally saw the Harden/Howard ‘pick and roll’ last night, the play which a) was the selling point of the Howard free agency pitch and b) was Houston’s most statistically potent on the year.  Predictably, the Blazers had no answer as each time it was run, it either resulted in a Howard dunk, or something else positive.  A few thoughts here: it’s so mind numbingly bizarre that it’s almost just funny that running the Harden/Howard pick and roll going into Game f****** three of the playoffs was an adjustment.  How is that not your bread and butter?  Hmm, let’s run a play where we can get our two best players–who both happen to be among the ten best players in the league–both involved in concert to where their abilities can provide synergistic effects.  What a f****** brilliantly novel concept!  This is what bothers me: I devoted a paragraph–and it deserved far, far more–above to my concerns over Aldridge-Lillard pick and roll coverage because quite frankly, it scares the sh** out of me wondering how to stop it.  Do you show?  Do you stay?  If Howard/Asik stay back, Lillard is going to go nuts, as he did.  That’s how frightening the ‘pick and roll’ is as a play, and I can guarantee you, there are Blazers blogs right now dissecting the Howard/Harden pick and roll.  So why wouldn’t you run it?
  • I get the idea that you don’t want Howard involved because of the free throw shooting concerns.  Guys, I get that.  But I’d venture to argue that the expected value of that play, even with the threat of Howard missing free throws, is greater than the expected value of the 1-4 flat.  If Howard’s expected free throw rate is 50%, and the probability of him getting fouled, even at a loose estimate is 50%, the chances of something “good” happening still outweigh the return of the ISO.  But again, I’m just bitching for no reason because they won’t change this.
  •  The Rockets should be up 2-1 right now and very well could be down 0-3 as they blew yet another late game lead.  This is a huge, huge, huge problem.  Some of you said I need to stop whining.  That’s fine if you want to keep your head in the sand willfully ignorant about some of the serious problems on the court right now.  Hey, I’m excited about Daniels buzzer-beater too.  We can keep celebrating that.  But you don’t win championships or even series’ depending on lucky broken plays and ignoring actual late-game execution.
  • In summary, here’s what I’ve conceded: transition defense, defensive rebounding, and late game offense aren’t going to change.  But there are small adjustments that can be made for Game 4.  1) continue the coverage schemes on Aldridge: weakside help with Asik as the primary defender 2) I’d like to see Asik stay at home on Aldridge the way Howard does when he’s guarding him 3) more Daniels, quicker hook on Parsons if he isn’t hitting his shots 4) less small-ball.  To be honest, I want to see as much Asik-Howard together on the court as possible.
  • The Rockets are the more individually talented of these two teams.  They should not be losing this series.  We have to hope that that individual talent rises to the top once again in Game 4.

 

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Total comments: 18
  • bernardo says 3 months ago

    Lol see what I mean? I"ll just say this as a fact. Since you specified one specific blown layup, I'll describe one specific last play.

    Closing seconds. Less then 24 seconds left.. Tie game
    1. Harden goes 1-4 flat, tries to drive, gets stripped!

    2. The ball is about to get stolen and Jeremy jumped over the guy or on the guy however you want to put it and recovers Hardens turnover. (That's one time he saved it for us)

    3. Then as Jeremy saves Hardens turnover, he had the awareness to take a dribble, get in the lane, and kicked it out to an open Daniels (2nd great save to find the open shooter)

    4. Daniels hits the 3 and games over (Harden and Daniels owe Jeremy dinner for that one play)

    Tell me one thing I said that isn't a fact

    thejohnnygold prety much summed it up for you. First, you intentionally didn't mention that with the layup it's done. 5 points and about 40 seconds on the clock, the game is ours. Second, what has one play have to do with the other? I credit Lin almost as much as Daniels on that game winning 3. That doesn't mean that Lin put the game almost in jeopardy with the blown layup. I have zero problem criticizing harden as I have done almost entirely this series.

  • SadLakerFan says 3 months ago

    @JG

    I like the positivity in the face of adversity. I too have no doubt some of these issues will be addressed during the off season.......hopefully via coaching change in addition to player acquisitions. I agree a fire sale is out of order, however just bringing in a tactician to help McFail is like putting a bandage on a broken leg................it simply won't help anything. their are deep fundamental flaws in the way we play the game. IMO it stems from both lack of discipline and flaws in philosophy. both issues can be address via coaching. we don't need to reinvent ourselves, however a major tweaking process is necessary. I agree things look pretty good on the Carmelo front right now and no doubt I would love to have him, but we have a good team that is under performing right now. that's what has me bent out of shape. if we lost to a better team in Portland I could live with it, but I feel we are the most talent laden team in this series and we have yet to show it. our coach is being taken to the shed out back by his counterpart and we are down 2-1 in a series we should be up 3-0 in. hopefully we get our sh** together and pull this thing out, however we still face an uphill battle.........not impossible but it won't be easy

    RocketRick makes a salient point - don't get bent out of shape. Instead, look at the other series. Houston is in exactly the same position going into Game 4 that San Antonio, OKC, Indiana, Chicago, and Toronto are/were in. Would you fire all those coaches as well? I don't know which team has more "talent", but I know the two teams ended an 82 game season with exactly the same record. That indicates to me that Portland is a pretty darn good team, and that the games should be close. The Rockets have been in a position to win each game in this series, but they aren't so superior to Portland that you would expect them to win every game by 10+ points, or to even win every game. I think that McHale is one big question mark as a head coach, but I don't think he's been outgunned here. If Harden or Parsons shoot anywhere near their career numbers, Houston would be up 3-0.

    We'll see what happens, but is certainly isn't over by any stretch. Even if we lose game 4, remember the 95 Rockets (or if you don't remember, look them up). They were down 3-1 without home court advantage against the Suns, and still won that series. Of course, they ended up winning the NBA title. But frankly, that series could have easily gone Phoenix's way. Game 7 was a one-point game - Kevin Johnson missed his one free throw of the night (out of something like 25 free throws), and the-unknown sub Mario Elie hit a huge three to win the game.

  • rockets best fan says 3 months ago

    @rocketrick

    I have looked around at the other series. however we don't need to be like everyone else. to win a championship you must rise above the crowd. accepting less than what we are capable of just because everyone else is doing it is a recipe for disaster. I want the Rockets to play to their capabilities............is that asking to much? not IMO

  • rocketrick says 3 months ago

    @JG
    I like the positivity in the face of adversity. I too have no doubt some of these issues will be addressed during the off season.......hopefully via coaching change in addition to player acquisitions. I agree a fire sale is out of order, however just bringing in a tactician to help McFail is like putting a bandage on a broken leg................it simply won't help anything. their are deep fundamental flaws in the way we play the game. IMO it stems from both lack of discipline and flaws in philosophy. both issues can be address via coaching. we don't need to reinvent ourselves, however a major tweaking process is necessary. I agree things look pretty good on the Carmelo front right now and no doubt I would love to have him, but we have a good team that is under performing right now. that's what has me bent out of shape. if we lost to a better team in Portland I could live with it, but I feel we are the most talent laden team in this series and we have yet to show it. our coach is being taken to the shed out back by his counterpart and we are down 2-1 in a series we should be up 3-0 in. hopefully we get our sh** together and pull this thing out, however we still face an uphill battle.........not impossible but it won't be easy


    Sorry RBF, but I must stand up and say I disagree with just about everything you said in this post. Just look around at how all the other first round series are going and it's easy to see that seeding and home court doesn't matter yet. I think it will over time, but it's not like the Rockets are the only higher seeded team with home losses and a deficit early on in their playoff series.

    The Rocket players and coaches are saying all the right things. Nobody is saying they are even remotely close to being happy with the way the first 3 games have transpired. To me, that is encouraging.

    What would be more encouraging is for the Rockets to continue finding ways to overcome adversity and get another much needed win in Portland, be that G4 or G6.

    Everything else, future coaching changes including game strategy, future player addition and subtraction, future decisions on overall franchise philosophy, etc. will come over the summer. Right now, the Rockets are built and are who they are, like it or not.


    Anyway, I am very much looking forward to Game 4 tonight in Portland. Go Rockets!!
  • rockets best fan says 3 months ago

    @JG

    I like the positivity in the face of adversity. I too have no doubt some of these issues will be addressed during the off season.......hopefully via coaching change in addition to player acquisitions. I agree a fire sale is out of order, however just bringing in a tactician to help McFail is like putting a bandage on a broken leg................it simply won't help anything. their are deep fundamental flaws in the way we play the game. IMO it stems from both lack of discipline and flaws in philosophy. both issues can be address via coaching. we don't need to reinvent ourselves, however a major tweaking process is necessary. I agree things look pretty good on the Carmelo front right now and no doubt I would love to have him, but we have a good team that is under performing right now. that's what has me bent out of shape. if we lost to a better team in Portland I could live with it, but I feel we are the most talent laden team in this series and we have yet to show it. our coach is being taken to the shed out back by his counterpart and we are down 2-1 in a series we should be up 3-0 in. hopefully we get our sh** together and pull this thing out, however we still face an uphill battle.........not impossible but it won't be easy

  • QNoir says 3 months ago

    I'd like to see more assists being made. That's my thing. There was a stretch closing the 4th where Harden had three consecutive offensive possessions where he was the only Rocket to touch the ball, and missed every one ... and it's not as if anyone was shooting cold but him. That's just silly. More ball movement.

  • thejohnnygold says 3 months ago

    Lol see what I mean? I"ll just say this as a fact. Since you specified one specific blown layup, I'll describe one specific last play.

    Closing seconds. Less then 24 seconds left.. Tie game
    1. Harden goes 1-4 flat, tries to drive, gets stripped!

    2. The ball is about to get stolen and Jeremy jumped over the guy or on the guy however you want to put it and recovers Hardens turnover. (That's one time he saved it for us)

    3. Then as Jeremy saves Hardens turnover, he had the awareness to take a dribble, get in the lane, and kicked it out to an open Daniels (2nd great save to find the open shooter)

    4. Daniels hits the 3 and games over (Harden and Daniels owe Jeremy dinner for that one play)

    Tell me one thing I said that isn't a fact

    Since your being a bit snarky--here's the deal. First, the actual video so people can watch and not be told "what happened"

    The Lin layup is around the 1:38 mark and the play you are referring to is around 2:14.

    I don't think anyone has a problem with Lin on that play. I am fine with his decision to go for it. Yes, it would have been much better if he had made it, but it was a tough play and I'd be fine if he made that same choice again. The knee-jerk reactions are simply due to the emotional roller coaster that resulted from the miss followed by Batum's 3. It's got nothing to do with Jeremy--the reactions would have been the same if Harden, Bev, or Parsons did that. Let go of the persecution complex. Your agenda to prove that everyone hates Jeremy is old, played out, and not true.

    Meanwhile, your second agenda is showing as well. Harden didn't go 1-4 flat. Lin didn't hero the ball away from Williams. Williams slipped and Lin fell on the ball. Yes, he was hustling, but let's not turn him into Paul Bunyan just yet. Daniels did a great job of getting to an open spot and making himself visible. That could have just as well ended with Lin jumping, looking for an outlet and (once again) finding nothing and turning it over. The play worked. It was great. Why is there such need to vilify anyone? Facts are objective. Your narrative is far from it. Harden wasn't stripped. Lillard (I think...hard to see in the video) stuck his foot in there and the ball bounced off of it. Williams fell. Lin had the ball pop right into his hands. He drove and made a nice pass to Daniels. Shot goes in. The end.

    No one here thinks Harden is infallible. He does get cut some slack because he shoulders the burden of doing what no one else on the team can--carry the team on his own. If this series ends with us losing and Harden not turning in at least 1-2 solid games he will get skewered around here--have no doubt about that.

    Moving on from there, a lot of what is being said about the team as a whole (specifically our coaching and system) is true. There are some blatant problems that need attention. I have no doubt that attention will be given between now and next year's playoffs in a number of ways. This season was probably ear-marked as a measuring stick from the get-go. All this talk about closing windows is a bit over-blown in my mind.

    I don't think a fire sale is in order which is what a lot of the posts sound like. McHale can stay as long as we bring in a tactician to back him up. Morey will know exactly what he wants and go get him. The system will evolve. Defense will be honed. Players will expand and improve their games. I am comfortable and confident with this group--both where they are now and where they are headed.

    It's not time to talk Carmelo yet....but it will be soon....and more and more I'm believing that is what this team's future holds. Bottom line--there is no need to roast this team just yet--this isn't even its final form.

    EDIT: stupid video URL

  • BallSoHarden says 3 months ago

    I'm fine with Howard getting fouled on a pick and roll because it looks like he's hitting his free throws better now and if he goes 55% we score as many points per play as our offense would. Plus it could get Lopez/Aldridge/Lillard in foul trouble and off the court.

  • Cooper says 3 months ago

    It was a smart play the blazers weren't ready and he had a good look, Overall he had a solid game the missed layup just sticks out because it pretty much seals a win in regulation but it worked out regardless.

  • BrentYen says 3 months ago

    I guess the blew lay up was the only thing Lin did in the game. I think it was a good play, just a bad layup.

  • Rockets911 says 3 months ago

    That final 6 minutes + overtime really made me lose 5 years of my life. Lin blew up a layup when he should've hold the ball and let the clock run a little bit. In OT i thought it was over when Portland went up by 4, but Harden and the "rest of the group" got it together and pulled off a huge win for us.


    Lol see what I mean? I"ll just say this as a fact. Since you specified one specific blown layup, I'll describe one specific last play.

    Closing seconds. Less then 24 seconds left.. Tie game
    1. Harden goes 1-4 flat, tries to drive, gets stripped!

    2. The ball is about to get stolen and Jeremy jumped over the guy or on the guy however you want to put it and recovers Hardens turnover. (That's one time he saved it for us)

    3. Then as Jeremy saves Hardens turnover, he had the awareness to take a dribble, get in the lane, and kicked it out to an open Daniels (2nd great save to find the open shooter)

    4. Daniels hits the 3 and games over (Harden and Daniels owe Jeremy dinner for that one play)

    Tell me one thing I said that isn't a fact
  • thenit says 3 months ago Yea saw the highlights got some bounces
  • rockets best fan says 3 months ago

    @thenit

    BARELY.........by the hair of our chinny chin chin

  • thenit says 3 months ago Didn't watch the game but seems like we got a win
  • rockets best fan says 3 months ago

    I agree Rahat..........I'm not that excited over this win. fundamental flaws still exist. the Rockets should never have been in position to play over time. this game should have been won in regulation. poor late game execution. at this point even if we regroup and win this series I still want McFail removed. the man is reaching for straws. Trey Daniels saved his butt last night, but unless we get some of this other stuff fixed a late game 3 may not be enough next time

  • bernardo says 3 months ago

    I went to bed at 7 A.M. in the freaking morning. But like someone said, you live for these types of moments. I was really pessimistic for this one after the two losses, but for some reason I had this irrational feeling that they would pull this one off. I even considered putting some money on them, but usually betting based on feelings just makes me lose money. I watched the whole thing and I don't recall being this emotional and anxious through the course of a game since my hometown club avoided relegation last season. They showed up to play in the first quarter, but as usual they wasted no time blowing that lead. Harden at least put the ball in the hoop despite the poor %, Asik was great on Aldrige and with some putbacks, the rest of the team played above average, except for Parsons who really is losing tons of money right now. That final 6 minutes + overtime really made me lose 5 years of my life. Lin blew up a layup when he should've hold the ball and let the clock run a little bit. In OT i thought it was over when Portland went up by 4, but Harden and the rest of the group got it together and pulled off a huge win for us. That 3 from Daniels, even though it was in a broken play, made my day really. That's a defining moment that (hopefully) will turn the series in our favor. Just hope they keep executing and believing like I did, because i could've just went to bed at a normal hour like a regular person. But I didn't quit on this team; I'm hoping they don't quit on themselves as well. Next game is almost as important as this one.

  • rocketrick says 3 months ago

    New post: Huq's Pen: And so we live to see another day
    By: rahat huq


    3) more Daniels, quicker hook on Parsons if he isn't hitting his shots 4) less small-ball. To be honest, I want to see as much Asik-Howard together on the court as possible.



    Just wondering out loud here, how can the Rockets insert Daniels for Parsons and end up with less small-ball? Especially since you also prefer more Asik-D12 on the floor together. That means both Parsons and one of either Harden/Beverley/Lin must sit for Daniels to be in the lineup simultaneously with Asik & D12.

    Is that really the ideal Rockets lineup in the waining minutes of a tight game?

    I would expect that McHale will choose the players that have been most effective in Game 4 along with Harden and D12 rather than decide big/small, etc. Stotts (the Portland Coach) isn't going to dictate the lineup at the end of the game if it's a tossup and probably prefers having Lopez on the bench in the last couple of minutes anyway for more offense.
  • rocketrick says 3 months ago This is the NBA Playoffs and 2 of probably the best 7 or 8 teams in the entire NBA this season happen to be matched up in Round 1. So of course this is going to be a Battle Royale.

    Seemingly unknowingly the Rockets actually made some vital adjustments in Game 2 but they were mostly unnoticed as they still couldn't pull out a win. Those adjustments plus a few more tweaks and a timely 3 by Trey Daniels equaled a win in Game 3.

    Most discussion and comments on this board after Game 1 through Game 2 was on the necessity of the Rockets firing Coach McHale and the multiple and seemingly impossible negatives of the Harden and D12 pairing.

    Adjustments have been made and now the pressure is on Portland just as Harden stated after the conclusion of Game 3.

    Why?

    Because if Portland fails to win Game 4 on their home court, this becomes a best of 3 series and the Rockets have the advantage of home court in 2 of the 3 last games (after the conclusion of a very pivotal Game 4 in Portland).

    First though, the Rockets SHOULD focus on winning Game 4 under any and all circumstance as any team winning 3 consecutive games in this matchup is obviously going to be quite challenging.

    Go Rockets!!!