The Houston Rockets are undefeated in 2014. The New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers may not be much to write home about this season, but two wins were exactly what a stumbling Rockets team needed. Now, they have a chance to kick off a road trip with another win in Atlanta over a Hawks team that has its own share of injuries as well. With star-caliber big man Al Horford on the bench with a pectoral injury, the Hawks have dropped three of their last four games. Despite being only two games above .500 versus Houston’s ten, the Hawks occupy the third spot in the wasteland known as the Eastern Conference. A win over a third seed, even a weak one, would be a nice third win in a row for a Rockets team looking to gel in the new year.
Stop me if you’re heard this before: the Eastern Conference is terrible. Read any NBA blog for a couple posts, and you’ll be well aware of this fact. The east has alternated between two and three winning teams all season long, with the Toronto Raptors joining the Atlanta Hawks in a dance back and forth across the .500 line. With Al Horford most likely shut down for the year, it’s hard to see the Hawks maintaining their level of play, such as it was. On the other hand, with the competition out east, it’s also hard to see them falling off significantly. One was or another, Atlanta is a playoff team, and beating playoff teams is mission critical for these Rockets.
You know the incredible feeling you sometimes get after throwing on a pair of no-longer-blue jeans that were hanging in your closet for months? You stretch down to fold your wallet into your back pocket and something’s already there. You reach back and it feels like paper. A movie stub? To large. A receipt? Too grainy. You drag it out then swing it past your eyes. Dear lord in heaven, please, yes, thank you. It’s $20.
That moment right there is how some people would describe how it felt to watch Omri Casspi play basketball in November. He was incredible, a nightly pleasure twice as enjoyable because nobody expected it. He made 42.9% of his threes that month, and posted a 59.9 True Shooting percentage, good enough to tie Kevin Love for 18th overall right now.
Casspi was so much more than a shooter; almost everything he did was unconsciously brilliant. He passed, ran, dribbled, shot, rebounded, and competed. Houston’s offense scorched the Earth in his 341 minutes of action. But the numbers said something totally insane about the other end of the floor: Houston had the second best defense in the league whenever Casspi the Great played. When he sat the Rockets played down to a Brooklyn Nets/New York Knicks level of atrociousness.
It’s not you, it’s me- As you know by now, last nights’ Rockets-Lakers game was bumped
from ESPN’s broadcast because no one wants to watch the Lakers without Mamba for what ended up being an exciting game between Phoenix and Minnesota. What you may not know is that the NBA made it up to Rockets’ fans in a big way, by bumping the Lakers-Bulls match-up on TNT, Monday January 20th, in favor of the Blazers-Rockets. [read more…]