Houston Rockets 118, Cleveland Cavaliers 111 – All’s well that ends poorly

With three quarters in the books in Cleveland, the Houston Rockets had scored 101 points and led the Cavaliers by 22 points.  After three quarters of dominance, the Rockets let their foot off the gas as the Cavaliers floored it for all they were worth. The effect was awkward, spotty, and hard to watch from all angles, as an accelerating Cavs team still sputtered and clanked along the way. The Rockets’ deep bench was unable to keep up with the energy of Cleveland and nearly fell apart late. The buffer the starters had built proved strong enough, and the Rockets made it out of Cleveland in one piece.

The biggest takeaway from this, as with all the games against losing teams of late, is that the Rockets are putting away the teams they need to put away. In the early going, an extended spurt of activity, a bout of intensity or just a hot hand from a lottery team could spell doom for the Rockets. The chemistry was half-mixed, the sets were still coming together, and the effort was spotty. Now, the Rockets threw away an entire quarter and still cruised to a win. Most notably, the effort is there, even though there’s little at stake.

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Houston Rockets 129, Minnesota Timberwolves 106 – Balance of power

The Rockets were handed the benefit of the schedule tonight as the Minnesota Timberwolves came into town off the back of an overtime game against Dallas the night before. Though the Timberwolves came out of the gates quickly, they faded noticeably as the game went on and the Rockets slowly but surely pushed the game out of reach. In their second consecutive clinical showing, the battle hardening that comes from playing a string of playoff contenders was in full evidence – the team played efficiently and from the moment they drew level in the second quarter the result never really seemed in doubt. A very balanced attack (7 players in double figures) and some hot shooting from behind the arc allowed them to blast their way to 129 points, and it’s difficult to lose if you can put that many on the board in regulation.

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The complicated path to Carmelo Anthony

Buried in Adrian Wojnarowski’s plea for New York Knicks owner James Dolan to go away and never come back was official word from the NBA’s most diligent reporter that the Houston Rockets and Carmelo Anthony share a mutual interest.

Several rumors have popped up over the past few weeks, and it’s only logical to assume a fidgety general manager like Daryl Morey would see an available superstar and do everything in his power to adopt him, but in my opinion Wojnarowski’s report finally allows worthwhile speculation to begin.

A lot can happen over the next few months, but a roadmap attempting today to figure out how Houston can sign Anthony this summer won’t hurt anybody, will it? So many freaking things needs to go one way in order for this to actually happen, but these are the three easiest to write about. Read More »

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Huq’s Pen: I’m feeling a little Melo

  • If you’re reading this, you are no doubt aware of the rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s purported interest in the Houston Rockets.  Shockingly, I’ve seen some places where some who are inclined towards this team have expressed hesitation regarding such an acquisition.  I underscore ‘shockingly’ because such a maneuver should be considered a no-brainer.
  • To begin, as I quipped on Twitter very recently, the mere revelation of said interest, in concert with the reality of Dwight Howard’s capitulation this summer, evokes the words of the esteemed philosopher Michael Jones who once famously said, “back then [they] didn’t want me, now I’m hot [they] all on me.”
  • ‘Capitulation’ because, as the Chronicle reported last season in a story which surprisingly gained little national steam, the impetus for Howard’s infamous ‘opt-in’ was an agreement in principle between Orlando and the Rockets, at the deadline, to send the center to The Third Coast.  Howard wanted no part of such a move and killed talks with the contractual formality.  Of course this summer, he took $30million less to join us.  Because Houston is now a desirable destination.
  • And as you painfully might recall, the team spent what felt like (at the time) the better part of a decade wooing Anthony by dangling packages frontlined by Kevin Martin in trade talks.  Anthony’s heart was set on New York and he forced his way there (forcing through new rules in the latest collective bargaining agreement in the process.)  Now, with the Knicks an absolute embarrassment to professional sports, the talented forward reportedly has wandering eyes.  Because Houston is now a desirable destination.
  • All that’s left now are for Chris Bosh and Chris Paul (and whoever else we chased) to head over, Ipad in tow, with a cameo by Pau Gasol and we’ll have come full circle.  Morey at this point is like the pimple-faced band geek who stumbles upon Crossfit (or whatever fitness innovation is in vogue at the time of reading) a semester before prom and finally snags the head cheerleader.  In the movies, the geek would then, filled with indignation, shun the cheerleader, rewarding some homely creature who saw worth in him before his newfound repute.  In real life, the geek gladly snags the cheerleader.
  • Which leads us to Morey: those watching last week’s Jekyll and Hyde impromptu which saw this team drop three straight after topping three of the league’s best teams in the previous three affairs, if viewing objectively, no doubt came away feeling a bit disturbed.  As I explained in the previous edition of this column, I’ve bought in to the fact that this is a ‘very good team’ sure, but ‘true’ contender they are not.  That should be painfully obvious to the impartial observer.

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The Rockets Daily – March 19, 2014

Third Star - You might not believe this, but Knicks owner James Dolan is “by no means a basketball expert”.  New York is well out of the playoffs – only a collapse by the eighth-place Hawks could save them – and with the second highest payroll in the NBA, they are paying over three-million dollars per win so far this season.  New President Phil Jackson may very well cure what ails the Knicks, but until then, and until Carmelo Anthony signs an extension keeping him at the Garden, rumors like what Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is hearing will persist.

Anthony has free-agent options, and two have risen above everything else: Chicago and Houston, sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo Sports. The Bulls have an easier path to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign Anthony, but the Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary to offer a third near-max deals alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources said.

New York can offer Anthony more money and more years than Chicago or Houston, and they will get every chance at keeping him.  I can’t imagine the Zen Master failing at his first big off-season task, but Stephen A. Smith is saying that Melo already has one foot out the door.

The subject of Melo to the Rockets has been covered pretty extensively in these pages and argued for days in the forums, so there isn’t much left to add.  I know fans are really excited about Terrence Jones and his development, but keep in mind that Jones is a Rockets for two more years after this season on a rookie-scale contract.  He’s not going anywhere.  And passing on a former scoring champ, a seven-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA and gold-medal winning superstar because your former 18th-pick MIGHT develop into something close to that is just foolish.  Anthony takes a lot of criticism for his style of play, but despite some of the shaky squads he has been a part of in his eleven years, Melo has never once missed the playoffs.

Phil Jackson will probably keep him in New York, but if he doesn’t succeed, you better believe Daryle Morey will be right there waiting with a check.  That should tell you all you need to know about Carmelo Anthony.

Power Rankings - I’m sure you’ve seen by now, but Houston fell back to Earth after a one-week stay at the top of Marc Stein’s rankings, this week coming in at number four.

It was the shortest of stays at No. 1, as feared, in the face of those three rough road assignments. The Rockets, though, can take a measure of solace from the fact that there are just six teams in the whole league with winning records against .500-or-better teams. And they’re one of ‘em.

Looking at the week the Rockets had, a three-spot slide doesn’t seem like much.  But when you consider that out of all the playoff teams, only Brooklyn, Golden State, Memphis, San Antonio and the Clippers have better records than Houston over their last 10 games, the sky doesn’t seem quite so vertically challenged.

I said last week that if Houston didn’t win at least two out of those three tough road games, the good vibes from the last month wouldn’t mean anything.  Well, the Rockets lost all three and all of a sudden that true-contender talk has faded.  But truth be told, the schedule did Houston a favor.  If the suddenly-average Trail Blazers can hold off the Warriors for the five-seed, and San Antonio doesn’t tank its way into the two-seed to avoid a first-round bloodbath with the Grizzlies (don’t count that out), Houston will face a Portland/San Antonio duo that they are currently 6-1 against for the season in the first two rounds of the playoffs.  The Spurs are a different beast lately, but that’s about as good as can be expected in the blood-soaked battlefield of the West.

4-year All-Stars - The Point Forward had unveiled another one of their All-Star teams, this time made up of four-year college players.  Two players from the home-team made the list:

Damian Lillard, Blazers | Weber State | 2012 No. 6 pick
J.J. Redick, Clippers | Duke | 2006 No. 6 pick
Chandler Parsons, Rockets | Florida | 2011 No. 38 pick
David West, Pacers | Xavier | 2003 No. 8 pick
Tim Duncan, Spurs | Wake Forest | 1997 No. 1 pick

George Hill, Pacers | IUPUI | 2008 No. 26 pick
Jeremy Lin, Rockets | Harvard | undrafted
Wesley Matthews, Blazers | Marquette | undrafted
Draymond Green, Warriors | Michigan State | 2012 No. 35 pick
David Lee, Warriors | Florida | 2005 No. 30 pick
Nick Collison, Thunder | Kansas | 2003 No. 12 pick
Roy Hibbert, Pacers | Georgetown | 2008 No. 17 pick

Hold Me Back! - In case you missed it, there was a near-altercation following the Rockets-Jazz game on Monday, when John Lucas stole the ball in the final seconds and attempted a 40-point game-winner at the buzzer to score one more bucket as the game was ending.  He failed, but that didn’t keep Francisco Garcia from taking exception.

Someone better tell John Lucas and his tyrannosaurus rex punches that Francisco Garcia ain’t afraid.  

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