When a basketball team loses by 1 point, you can normally point to this or that stroke of bad luck and declare that had it not been for that, the result would have been different.
There is no reason to do that tonight. For the fact is that the Rockets were lucky to lose by just one point. Aside from the bench and Harden’s scoring/heroics at the last minute, there is little to feel positive about when you look back on this game.
Red94 has discussed the new-look Rockets a great deal over the past few days, including this excellent podcast by Rahat and Forrest. But tonight, the Rockets looked more like last year’s team than the new variation which has surprised the league this season. Harden, Howard, and another wing carried the Rockets for most of the game and scored practically all of Houston’s points. But after giving the game away late in the fourth quarter, the Rockets failed to execute down the stretch and lost an eminently winnable game despite some last-minute heroics.
And now I am thinking of 0.9 again. Wonderful.
In today’s episode, Rahat and Forrest Walker discuss the addition of Josh Smith.
Fresh off the good feelings from their win over Memphis, the Rockets embark on a stretch of five games in seven nights, fortunately against lesser competition. The additions of Corey Brewer and Josh Smith will help immensely as the fatigue continues to set in. Tonight at San Antonio, the Rockets face a Spurs team that a) they have dominated in recent history and b) could care less it has been dominated. Smith should give Houston an even greater advantage over the athletically challenged Spurs; recall that San Antonio was one of the sole good teams against whom Terrence Jones actually looked effective last season. That impact should be amplified with the superior, but still athletic Smith.
I went on one of my rants this morning, with the topic being Dwight Howard. Some misunderstood the meaning, which can happen when writing in spurts of 140 characters. I said, as I have been saying for close to a year, that Dwight and Harden are not enough because Dwight is more likely to give you 10 and 5 than 30 and 20 in a big game in the playoffs. That’s not meant as a dismissal of Dwight’s value to the team. His defense alone (he’s the top rim protector in basketball currently, by percentages) makes him worth his weight and salary in gold.
What I mean is that the connotation behind any star duo is that they alone are good enough to carry the team to a title. Jordan and Pippen. Shaq and Kobe. Today, Westbrook and Durant. Dwight isn’t good enough to be half of a two-headed attack. He roasted Portland, but that was a tailor-made matchup against a smaller defender. This shouldn’t even really be a controversial take anyway – no two players, even Westbrook and Durant possibly, are good enough in the modern NBA to carry a team to the title. It takes at least three star players or a balanced attack. My point is that this is even more the case with the Rockets because you just don’t know what Dwight can give you against certain matchups. That’s why they made the move for Josh Smith, despite his warts, and why they should still be sniffing out trades for a second playmaker. That was all I meant.