As Rahat graciously provided a live account of tonight’s game, I do not believe that a general recap will suffice.  The Rockets executed, made wide-open 3 pointers, and took advantage of Toronto’s woes on the offensive and especially the defensive end.  While the boxscore shows that Toronto’s rebounding and turnover numbers were similar to ours, context, as with any statistic, must be noted.  Houston utterly demolished Toronto on the offensive glass and on the passing lanes, which was punctuated by a play late in the 3rd quarter where Parsons swooped into 3 Toronto players and grabbed the ball from them.  While that offensive rebound only culminated in a missed Harden 3, it showed the nature of the game as the Rockets completely outhustled and outworked the Raptors up to a 96-69 lead with exactly 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.

At that point, Houston decided to take the night off and shoot jumpers.  Toronto promptly ended the game on a 10-0 run which ended with a Cook 3, and at that point Toronto was the team hustling while Houston fell back into bad habits of lazy passes and relatively little effort.  The fourth quarter was filled with a slight tension for the fan, but Houston finally cut down any hopes of a Toronto rally late in the game with a Lin steal and dunk.

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in game coverage

6:48 PM: Kyle Lowry wants to kill the Rockets tonight.  I think he will.  By the way, I just saw a recognizable media personality a while back on the television seriously pushing forth the assertion that the Rockets somehow chose Jeremy Lin over Kyle Lowry (and that the results from each player thus far were proving the folly of their decision.)  Do people not realize that there would be no James Harden without the Kyle Lowry trade?  Lowry-Lin isn’t even a subject of contention.  Goran Dragic is the guy whom the Rockets chose to let go to sign Jeremy Lin.  But there is absolutely no hole in their thinking on the Lowry trade.  This shouldn’t even be a topic for debate.  Up to this point, I didn’t even realize it was.

7:13 PM: As DeRozan hits the open jumper, I remember that he’s actually making, or slated to be making, $10million/year.  I still can’t get over this.  That’s your definition of a cap killer.

7:14 PM: As Bargnani scores on the reverse layin, I pray to myself that Motiejunas is somehow put into this game to face him, if even for a minute.  For us.  Just to see.  Please?  Just for fun?

7:15 PM: Bargnani pump fakes Patterson out on the 3 point line, draws him off his feet and draws the foul.  This is what the Rockets hope Motiejunas will bring to their team when his time comes.

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in game coverage

Preview: Toronto Raptors @ Houston Rockets

in game coverage

If the playoffs started today

At the moment, Houston is tied for the 10th best record in the West with Utah, the Lakers, and Dallas all bunched up together at just one game ahead.  They’re pretty much right on track for their usual finish at #14.

In all seriousness, after the recent rough stretch, I think things are extremely encouraging.   The Rockets, historically, in this decade, have always started slowly and then taken off later on in the year.  Add in the fact that they did not have Harden in training camp and at least one of the rookies is bound to break out–as has almost always been the case–and I do think this team will be fighting for a playoff spot come April.

As of now, I see the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Nuggets, and Lakers (they’ll get their act together) as locks.  After that, it’s everyone else vying for the final three spots.  And from those remaining teams, including even Dallas with Dirk, Harden is the single best player and closer, in my opinion giving Houston an edge.


in musings

Rockets center Omer Asik is a chain-wire fence. Behind defensive rotations that are regularly seamless, he gobbles up every loose ball within reasonable length of his giraffe-neck arms, protecting the paint as if it were covering a mound of solid gold.

This is what he’s best at, and this is what he prefers to do. Defense is why Asik was brought to Houston; he contributes vital skills at a consistently elite level, helping elevate the play of those around him.

Very few centers can corral a pick-and-roll, win a pure strength battle for position against a 290-plus pound man, and, without picking up a foul, convince a guard that finishing at the rim isn’t such a bright idea.

More than a few times this season Asik did all three on the same possession. But when taking stock of Asik’s value, a question must be asked: How do you grade a player who looks so dominant on one side of the ball, and so inept on the other?

There’s much more to offense than scoring, but those factors ultimately exist as a necessary means to putting the ball in the basket. Asik makes himself useful by setting some of the best ball screens in basketball and grabbing a high number of offensive rebounds (he’s snatching 13.7% of all available balls to him on the offensive glass).

But Houston’s up-tempo, pick-and-roll heavy offense calls for a big man who can do a little more. The Rockets need someone with quick feet who can consistently catch a pass while moving towards the basket, then either finish through traffic or get to the free-throw line. Omer Asik is not this player, yet. But he’s getting there.

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in essays

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