Huq’s Pen: Heroball this was not

  • First, real nice to see two guys I’ve really been pulling for in Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas come up huge last night in the victory.  Anything Motiejunas gives is a plus as the hope here is that he just continues to get consistent minutes.  Jones, on the other hand, had six blocks with 25 points, often putting the ball on the floor and taking it straight to the rim.  There’s no doubting Jones’ future; at the same time, he still has quite a ways to go before the Rockets can trust him in a playoff series.
  • You could see last night why I’ve been so intrigued by Eric Gordon in the past, even this summer when his name was linked with the Rockets.  He’s tantalizing offensively and stout at the other end (giving James Harden fits)…but the man just simply cannot stay healthy.  You could get him for pennies on the dollar, in terms of value, but I can’t see the Rockets ever touching that contract.  But in a world where Eric Gordon were healthy and motivated, you could do far worse than he and Harden on the wings.  That world does not exist.

Last night may have been a turning point, though I’ll step back as I’ve said that in regards to many things that didn’t take fruition.  Readers of this page know that I’ve railed frequently against heroball, even in the rare occasions when it has led to a win.  Many have misunderstood me, somehow taking my stance to mean that I don’t want Harden to take the last shot or have the ball in his hands at the end.  In actuality, heroball–which the Rockets employ at the end of every close game–is when the Rockets run a 1-4 flat with Harden up top beyond the three-point line, letting him pound the air out of the ball while all five defensive men set and watch him.  It usually results in an off-balance stepback.  Sometimes it goes in.  Usually, it doesn’t work, as evidenced by the Rockets’ disastrous offensive crunch-time efficiency as outlined by Richard Li some weeks ago.  Last night, what the Rockets ran was not heroball.

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in columns

Westbrook is unquestionably the second best player on the Thunder, a team tied for first place in the brutal Western Conference. His absence a huge factor in the Rockets’ resistance to a clearly superior Thunder team during the playoffs, and the same will be true in this meeting. This time, however, Houston is missing their own starting point guard in Patrick Beverley, who’s out with a broken hand. That grudge will have to wait, but the larger grudge will take center stage. The Thunder will come at a  battered, weary Rockets team, and there will be no mercy. If Houston wants a win, they’ll need to summon every bit of resolve they have left.

Wait. That paragraph seems very familiar. It’s almost as though this all happened before. Is this just déjà vu, or did I copy my own paragraph for a reason? Fifth game in seven nights? Check. Second night of a back to back? Yup. Houston missing Patrick Beverley and Ömer Aşık? Of course. Thunder without Westbrook? Somehow, yeah. But none of the details are the same, right? It’s not like this game is happening the night after a hard-fought battle with the New Orleans Pelicans, right? Actually, it’s exactly like that. The similarities between this situation and that one are staggering and very troubling, because the outcome was extremely disappointing last time around. The Rockets will have to try to rewrite their past mistakes to get a win.

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in game coverage

The Houston Rockets’ first lead was at 9-7 at the 8 minute mark in the first quarter, and ended when Eric Gordon made one of the many layups he got throughout the game on the way to a season-high 35 points.  They would not regain the lead until there was 57 seconds left in the 4th quarter, when James Harden made two free throws to put the Rockets up 100-99.  A New Orleans without Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, and Jrue Holliday led for nearly the entire 48 minutes and by as much as 17 points in the second quarter, the Rockets missed 16 free throws, and Houston’s bench became even more depleted than usual with injuries to Aaron Brooks and Greg Smith (again).  But a general offense in the latter part of the second quarter, Terrence Jones in the third quarter, and James Harden to close out the stretch grasped victory from the jaws of defeat.

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in game coverage

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