The Houston Rockets are getting into a nasty habit. They gave up another 20 point lead to let an Atlantic Division team creep within single digits. The good news is that the Boston Celtics never regained a lead in the second half, unlike the Washington Wizards in the previous game. The bad news is that the Celtics are quite a bit worse than the Wizards, and should have been an even easier out. Unfortunately, a combination of factors culminated in this cakewalk starting and ending more like a steep mountain hike.
The easy answer for what the Rockets did wrong was that they let the Celtics scoop up offensive rebounds. Boston had 15 on the night while the Rockets had 10. Plenty of sequences saw Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk grabbing easy rebounds off Celtics misses with red jerseys standing helplessly. Some of this can be attributed to size differential, as the Rockets were happy to go small, even running Terrence Jones as the center for a while. The Celtics kept larger players on the floor, and survived off of rebounds in the first quarter. This doesn’t explain the fourth quarter, however, when the Rockets suddenly lost the ability to play basketball and instead simply turned the ball over repeatedly while Jerry Bayless went off.
I’ve been writing the last week on Donatas Motiejunas and my belief of his need for consistent playing time. A reader, Johnny Rocket, makes a compelling counter-argument:
I disagree with Rahat’s premise that playing time is the same thing as player development. The first thing that NBA players have to learn is that if you don’t do things the right way, you don’t play. It is absolutely vital–especially on teams that have ambitions of becoming contenders–that the best players play without exception. Jones didn’t play last year because he wasn’t as good as the other options (including Greg Smith). But that experience helped Jones, as he freely admits.
With all the injuries to all the big men, D-Mo has had plenty of time to establish himself as a viable option. He’s failed to do so, so why reward that failure with more playing time? It would be devastating for morale, as the players would see it as a white flag of surrender.
from the editor
Does anyone remember when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey kept drafting power forwards? You probably do, because it continued all the way to the 2012 draft, in which Houston drafted Furkan Aldemir, a player you’ve probably forgotten about. Morey likes power forwards so much that of the 19 draft picks the Rockets have made in his tenure, 10 were power forwards. Plenty has been said about Morey’s strange penchant for the four spot, one tendency that seems hard to explain in the midst of his laundry list of trade victories and asset arbitrage. Do we finally have the distance to see what was going on the whole time, now? It’s been seven years of drafts since Morey took over, and the big picture is finally in view.
What’s changed that makes this penchant for fours finally find traction? Somehow, it’s the 2014 All-Star game. It takes years for trends to become readily evident in the NBA, and a couple of these trends are finally showing their faces. If we look at the returns on votes, especially in the Western Conference, the fans’ votes suggest something strange. Only power forwards and point guards seem to matter very much. Half of the frontcourt in the west is taken up by power forwards. Point guards, equally importantly, occupy seven of the ten frontcourt spots. Well, that’s strange. Let’s look at the likely candidates for the All-Star game out west.