As you may have noticed, Red94 was offline for a better part of the last 48 hours. As I explained on Twitter, we were upgrading to a different server. Hopefully that should make things faster and cut down the error messages you all were used to seeing.
Let me know in the comments, or via email, if things seem faster to you. If you all are still experiencing the same problems, we may need to look into a completely different route.
After the challenge of facing off with the defending champions, the Rockets’ next task is a team from the opposite end of the NBA spectrum. Before the season started, it wouldn’t have seemed wholly unreasonable to predict that the Hornets would lose as many games as the Heat would win. New Orleans have made a mostly promising start to their season though, racing out to a 3-2 start. They arrive at Houston on the back of four days of rest, so don’t expect any tired legs here!
The Hornets’ strength is their frontcourt. They’ve put together a very solid big man rotation with Robin Lopez and Anthony Davis starting while Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith come off the bench. All of these guys provide slightly different skill sets which work together nicely. If only they had some decent backcourt players, they’d be in business, but unfortunately for them that side of the court is sadly underpowered. Greivis Vasquez will start at PG flanked by Austin Rivers and Al-Farouq Aminu. Off the bench, you’ll see Brian Roberts as the backup point along with Roger Mason Jr. and Darius Miller. The Hornets are hoping to see development from all of the young guys there, and in time perhaps this strategy will pay off, but for the time being it leaves them bereft of consistent scoring punch. It might be different were Eric Gordon around, but he has been slow to recover from his latest injury.
Through seven games, the Rockets have not had much success on offense. Houston is scoring only 98 points per 100 possessions, putting them at 22nd in the NBA. While this lack of offensive punch may be expected given the dearth of proven scorers on the roster, (Harden is the only Rocket with a career scoring average in the double digits) what is more surprising is the fact that the Rockets are creating and taking efficient shots but simply not converting them at an acceptable rate.
The Rockets as a team are distributing their shot selection in a very efficient manner. 38% of Houston’s shots are right at the rim and 35% are from 3 point range, percentages that place Houston 2nd in each category. The Rockets play at an above-average pace and attempt 32 shots per game at the rim (also 2nd in the league) and 29 threes per game, second behind only the trigger-happy Knicks. The Rockets only take 13 shots per game between 10-23 feet, by far the lowest in the league (in contrast, the Bulls take the most mid-range jumpers, at 34 a game). In short, the vast majority of Houston’s shots are from the two most efficient ranges on the floor.
On a night of great moments, my favorite came long after the final buzzer had sounded.
Adjacent to the court, there’s an area at Toyota Center maybe best described as the loading zone. Postgame, if you hang around–sorry, media and staff access only–you can see some really cool conversations go down as players from both teams hang out before exiting, sometimes with their families. I once saw a long encounter between Luis Scola and Jason Kidd and wondered what the hell they could possibly be talking about.
I hung out there for a bit last night after lockerroom duties just wanting to soak in every minute of the Heat’s only trip to Houston. Patterson and Jeremy Lin were there as were Shane Battier and GM Daryl Morey. But no Lebron or Wade. That wasn’t anything out of the ordinary – most of the time, the opposing team’s players head straight out to the team bus.
I left that loading area and headed back to the media workroom, on that same floor, which is basically just a room where us writers do our work after the game. As I’m settling in, the door opens and a Heat representative is leading Dwyane Wade and Lebron James into the room, the first time I’ve ever seen a player in our space. (I’m guessing they were being led through this route as a detour to avoid whatever at the usual exit.) James and Wade look at us typing away at our keyboards and we all stop; both parties size each other up in surprise for a whole two seconds I wish I could have captured on camera. We had all just been together minutes before in the lockerroom, invading their space as they dressed.
“So this is where it go down, huh?” said Wade smiling behind a pair of dark shades.
Added Lebron, “We in ya’ll lockerroom now!”
Someone in the corner shouted, “Could you pipe down?”