Right now, in the NBA, a war is being fought. There are no heroes, but there are victims. None are innocent, but some are weak while some are strong. This war has raged for months and will only give way to another, bloodier campaign. In the western half of the nation, no team can escape the slings and arrows of war, no team can avoid the blood-soaked battleground that awaits.
The Eastern Conference, however, escaped long ago, retreating into what may look like a safe haven but is actually closer to a halfway house. Some teams, like the Toronto Raptors and the Chicago Bulls, have risen from their beds in the infirmary to challenge their grim stewards, but the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers remain implacable, above the mewling struggles of their charges. No, the contest is fought in the vast, open spaces of the American West.
After a brutal stretch of games and their first three game losing streak, the Rockets fed on one of the worst teams in the NBA. This was one of the first games in a long time that Harden and Parsons got significant rest. This game was never close. Houston won every quarter and ended up winning by 38. Up by 8 after 1Q, 19 at the half, 23 at the end of 3, the Rockets end up winning by 38. It was a rout and it obviously got under Utah’s skin.
Even with Howard out, the Rockets had no trouble in the middle. Did you see Asik smile? I saw Asik smile. Omer got the start with Howard out due to an ankle strain. It was Howard’s first game missed all year and he seems to be the biggest Asik fan on the bench. Asik went on to notch his first double double since last April. He scored 12 points and had 11 boards in 28 minutes. He still looks like he can’t jump and missed multiple two footers, but he gets the job done. Maybe if he had played like this earlier, he’d be starting somewhere else by now. But, it’s obvious he’s the best backup center in the league and if he can get going, he will pay off big time in the playoffs.
The thing about this loss is that if it wasn’t for Dwight Howard stinking it up against OKC, or the Rockets doing whatever the hell they did against Chicago this last week, I would have shrugged my shoulders and went “Oh, well” at this defeat. It would have been a 4-2 result against this last stretch of death, and with only 6 of Houston’s last 16 games against playoff teams, the Rockets could have fought for the third seed. But instead, after losing to the Thunder and the Bulls, the Rockets led 102-98 with 4:26 left in today’s game against the Heat, and then in a scene which has played itself out in far too many games this season, the Rockets gave their opponent a nice, big 15-0 run which they would have to recover from…only this time there was no time left on the clock.
Every Friday, I rank the active Rockets (who see the floor) based on their performance from the previous week. For last week’s rankings, here you go. Jordan Hamilton, Omer Asik, and Donatas Motiejunas were covered further in yesterday’s column.
12/13) Trisaiah Danaan
(Get it?) These two logged some garbage time minutes against the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls, aaaaand that about sums it up.
11) Omri Casspi
Casspi is now a garbage time guy. It’s sad, but necessary.
10) Francisco Garcia
Looking for a boost (maybe?), Kevin McHale called on Francisco Garcia to light a fire under Houston as they slogged behind Oklahoma City. It actually sort of worked, with the veteran hitting some threes and drawing some anger out of Kevin Durant. That was nice.
But for Garcia to enter last night’s game before Jordan Hamilton didn’t make a ton of sense. In no way is Garcia the better player, and it isn’t the best idea for McHale to reconfigure the rotation after every little hiccup.
9) Omer Asik
Wrote a lot of nice things about Asik yesterday. But all that’s left is basketball death. Read More
The Houston Rockets weren’t prepared to play. There’s plenty to say about a game featuring the worst Houston loss in the calendar year, but all of it simply describes how little the Rockets fought back when the Chicago Bulls unleashed their attack. Barring injury, this was a worst-case scenario for a team that needed to get back on track, not farther off the rails. The Rockets forgot how to shoot, how to pass, how to defend, and how to care.
The silver lining on this burgeoning, dark cloud is that this might serve as yet another wakeup call for a team that seems to fall asleep easily. The comeback against the Portland Trail Blazers may have been impressive, but it’s been forgotten that the Rockets played haphazard ball to get there in the first place. Since their magnum opus against the Indiana Pacers, the Rockets have been lackadaisical and complacent, culminating in the most disappointing game of the season. The good news is that there’s nowhere to go but up. The bad news is that this is about the third time this season that’s been the case.