If there has been anything to note during Houston’s recent stretch of well-played games, it has been the attention that the team pays to the 3-point shot.  Not only to our ability to shoot the 3, but to also ensure that the opponent doesn’t make their own 3’s.  The Golden State game where Houston tied the NBA record was also interesting in that a team which possesses Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson went only 3-15 from the 3 point line.  Just as Moneyball emphasizes the importance of avoiding the foul on defense, Houston also prefers to chase opponents off the 3-point line and concede the mid-range jumper.

However, tonight was not to be.  I don’t watch the Kings, but I do know that while they own one of the worst records in the league, they also have a 14-12 record at home.  Perhaps that record may or may not be due to everyone on their team turning into Ray Allen from the 3 point line on a regular basis, but it certainly worked tonight as the Kings surged in the 4th quarter and stayed consistent for most of the game thanks to an excellent game from their perimeter shooters.  An interior defense that was allowed to hammer Houston whenever they entered the paint prevented the layup certainly helped for them as well.

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It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance at the standings (or Forrest’s game preview) to know that tonight’s game was one of the most important of the season so far. Portland are the most serious challengers for the 8th seed the Rockets currently occupy, and in addition are 2-0 up in the season series. To keep the Blazers at bay and their chances of splitting the tie-breaker alive, it was critical that they get the W tonight. For the Rockets, Delfino returned to active duty after missing a game with an injured left elbow. It sounds as though it’s an issue that will continue to dog Delfino throughout the rest of the season – this may lead to him missing the occasional game in future. The Trailblazers came in with Batum nursing a bruised wrist, but otherwise their regulars were all healthy (a few fringe players – Sasha Pavlovic and Ronny Price – are out for them).

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The Daily Blast – February 8, 2013

Superstarden – ESPN explains what James Harden’s performance against the Heat says about his place in the league. Also, Shane Battier discusses the difference between Harden’s struggles in the Finals versus his success now:

“We were able to hone in on what he was able to do and take some of it away,” Heat forward Shane Battier said.

“No one had done it, and I think it frustrated him a little. Probably the only thing that is different now is his freedom. You give any talented player freedom in this league and that player is much more dangerous. He’s the franchise guy, and he plays with a tremendous amount of confidence. He’ll take any shot at any time and, as a defender, those are the most dangerous guys.”

Playoffs?! – ESPN Insider breaks down the West playoff race. The simulations have the Rockets taking the seventh seed:

So if the Lakers make the playoffs, whom will they knock out? The Hollinger Odds say Utah on the basis of Houston’s superior point differential — including a 45-point Rockets win in Salt Lake City last week that skewed the recent numbers for both teams. Even taking that out, Houston has still outscored opponents by 2.0 points per game while the Jazz would have a plus-0.4 differential. Consider the Rockets the favorites to make up the 1.5 games that separate them in the standings and finish seventh.

After the break: Zen Beard.

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For the third time this season, the Houston Rockets will face off against the Portland Trail Blazers, this time in Houston. Somehow, both times these two teams met ended in overtime contests. The Rockets have yet to win in overtime against any team, and find themselves needing to get a win to pull the season series to 2-1 in Portland’s favor, and a chance to tie the series by season’s end. The Blazers sit just a single game behind the Rockets, waiting in the 9th seed to grab Houston’s playoff spot, making this contest a must-win for Houston.

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