Screenshot 2015-02-08 10.57.52

This is a huge week for the Houston Rockets as they square off first, tonight, against the power forward who tortured them in the playoffs last season, and then on Wednesday, against a Clipper team that has tortured them since acquiring Chris Paul.  When Terrence Jones proved he had no business even sharing the court last summer with LaMarcus Aldridge, many wondered why head coach Kevin McHale didn’t at least give Donatas Motiejunas a small shot.  Omer Asik, while drastically limiting Aldridge’s production, couldn’t play every minute and also didn’t need to be accounted for on the other end.  Motiejunas, while not what he is now, had taken major strides during the year towards defensive maturity, as noticed by those of us who were paying attention.

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in from the editor

Individual players can have a long, successful NBA career if they can do nothing but shoot. And from a team perspective, a great shooting night can cover for a lot of mistakes. The Houston Rockets blazed out of the gate with one of their best three-point shooting nights in some time, and one could hope that they would retain a comfortable lead, if not earn a blowout, for the rest of the night like they did against Chicago. But the Bucks hung around, the Houston defense stopped guarding the paint, and Kevin McHale made a curious coaching decision in the fourth quarter. While the Houston Rockets would prevail thanks to their shooting and the offensive genius of James Harden, a good but inferior Bucks team fought hard and made tonight far closer than it realistically should have been.

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in game coverage

Rockets Roundup: 02/06/2015

A quick and digestible look at the most top-of-mind Rockets news of the past few days.

Yahoo! Sports. The Houston Rockets can survive Dwight’s injury, but can Dwight?

“How you look at Dwight Howard’s worrying absence from his Houston Rockets should fall in line with how you typically refer to that proverbial glass either half-full of water or half-empty with worthless, trachea-scratching air. There is a very good chance that the Rockets can weather Howard’s time on the shelf, and resume their impressive ascension into the West’s sturdy list of championship contenders…”

Houston Chronicle. James Harden to participate in 3-point contest at All-Star game.

“The NBA’s leading scorer will not have to wait for the All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 15 to start putting up shots in New York on All-Star Weekend. Rockets guard James Harden on Thursday was named to the field for the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. He joins a list of competitors that includes Portland’s Wesley Matthews, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, San Antonio’s Marco Belinelli, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, and the Los Angeles Clippers’ J.J. Redick…”

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in columns

On Harden, Battier, and the bench

  • Last night was not the first time that James Harden has dominated a player after having been shut down by that player in a previous matchup.  Off the top of my head, this happened against Andre Iguodala, in Harden’s inaugural year with Houston, and also Wes Mathews this year, to name a few opponents.  It’s like clockwork.  A menacing defender forces Harden into a rough shooting night, maybe even blocking him a few times.  Everyone, including even me (sometimes), then responds saying that said defender is just too physically imposing for the 6’5 Harden.  And then Harden kills him.  It makes you, and really made me think, particularly on this occasion.  You don’t really realize how much hard work a guy like Harden puts in behind the scenes.  They, and he, aren’t advertising the hell out of his practice sessions the way that sort of thing is done with other guys around the league, like Kobe.  But for a 6’5 guy who isn’t that athletic to have become maybe the most unstoppable one-on-one force in the entire league…there is clearly quite a bit of attention to detail going in.  Harden is probably in the film room, analyzing tendencies, and seeing what adjustments need to be made.  Whatever it is, he came out and made maybe the single best wing defender in all of basketball look downright silly last night in the second quarter, putting him on skates on at least three possessions in like a ten minute frame.  It was something to behold.

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in columns

No Dwight Howard? No problem.

The reoccurrence of Dwight Howard’s knee injury will keep him out of action for at least one month, likely much longer. For Rockets fans, still haunted by the limping spectres of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Howard’s injury seems like a latest iteration of a basketball jinx.

Once they shake off their collective gut punch, however, Rockets fans will see that losing Howard isn’t as consequential as it might seem. Former backup center and current starting power forward, Donatas Motiejunas, has quietly established himself as a capable (and maybe even superior) replacement. In this article, I examine how Motiejunas compares to Howard in their shot defense, shooting, and passing.

(read full article at Vantage Sports)

in musings