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The Houston Rockets are in the throes of a massive slump, losing a season worst five games in a row. As recently as January 8th, the Rockets and the Pacers shared a 21-14 record, both looking like playoff locks after starting slow. Since then, the Rockets fell into a tailspin and now desperately need to win games and keep their playoff hopes alive. The second highest-scoring team in the NBA faces off against the stingiest team in the league to see if Houston can steal one on the road.
The Gathering – SI.com’s Rob Mahoney explains how James Harden punks defenders just by how he picks up his dribble.
Fashionista – The 2013 All-Star game uniforms have been revealed, and the design includes a nod to Houston’s “rich aeronautical history.” The Basketball Jones has a review and more pictures for your jersey-ogling pleasure.
Decision Distraction – ESPN has had extensive coverage of the Royce White saga. TrueHoop TV breaks down the situation, with some interesting thoughts on how White would be received in the locker room if he ever rejoins the team. If you have ESPN Insider, a scout questions whether White has the talent to make him worth the trouble. Also, an Outside The Lines segment on mental health is on the way. One of White’s provocative quotes from the clip: “I’m only high maintenance because you’re uneducated.”
For about 90% of this game, I could have pulled up my recent recap of our loss against the 76ers, changed a few names and statistics, posted it, and I doubt anyone would have noticed that something was amiss. The Rockets started off well and grabbed the lead, but a 5 minute stretch in the first quarter occurred where they utterly failed to even get up any shots and finished the quarter with 9 turnovers, which was made all the worse by the fact that Carlos Delfino seemingly decided to borrow a page from the Trevor Ariza school of driving to the rim ie. Lose the ball while doing so every single time. Combine that with the fact that Houston is one of the worst teams in the league at transition defense, and the result was a 19-0 Dallas run which would keep them ahead for the rest of the game.
The Mavericks and Rockets meet for the second time this year and their first time in Dallas. Interestingly, in the last month or so the teams have had followed pretty much the exact opposite trajectories of each other. The Rockets went on a hot streak from mid-December until early January (going 12-3) before cooling off and losing 4 straight, while the Mavericks had an absolutely miserable stretch during which they went 2-13 before recently recovering with a three game win streak.
The Rockets will have the schedule against them in this game, arriving in Dallas late on Tuesday after their match-up with the Clippers. A glance at their record in back-to-backs makes for grim reading – scoring is way down at only 96.4 PPG (down on their overall average of 105.4) and their record is only 4-7. The main cause of that discrepancy seems to be shooting – field goal percentage drops from 45% to 41%, a significant decline. They will face a Mavs team with a day’s rest who are in the middle of a four game homestand, so if they are going to get anything out of the game the Rockets are going to have to fight through tired legs and find a way to disrupt the Maverick’s rhythm. [read more…]