Let’s get one thing straight – this was not the Heat of last year’s finals. This was the inconsistent Heat of 2014, coming off a back-to-back where their best player had exhausted himself in historic fashion the night before. But nevertheless, they are the current NBA champions and victories against them are rare. More impressive was that this was as comprehensive a three point victory as you’ll ever see. The Rockets never trailed all game, and whenever the two starting units were matched up against each other the Rockets seemed to have a clear edge. The raucous home crowd and the antics of Patrick Beverley spurred them on to one of the year’s better wins. LeBron had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but his long three over an outstretched Howard clanked off the rim and left the Rockets with the win.
Patrick Beverley was everywhere tonight. He made three 3 pointers in a row to start the game and never looked back. In one particularly memorable sequence, he blocked a lay-up, then stole the ball, then managed to draw a foul while diving out of bounds to save an errant pass from Parsons. In another, he picked up LeBron (!) on the perimeter, hounded him into a tough shot, then leaked out for an easy lay-in. His final line of 19 points (5-8 from three), 2 assists, 3 steals doesn’t immediately jump out of the page, but it was one of the best games he has played all year and his talismanic play lifted the rest of the team to new heights.
What was surprising about the majority of the game was that when the starters were matched up the Rockets came out well on top. The +/- tells the story – all of the Rockets starters were in double figures positive, and all the Heat starters were double figures in the negative except for Wade. They got contributions from every position – Dwight was scoring in the post against Bosh, Beverley was hot from the outside, and Terrence Jones cleaned up numerous situations around the rim. The Heat did try to keep the ball out of Harden’s hands, but he made them pay for it by registering 11 assists to go along with 21 points.
Superlatives - James Harden and John Wall were named NBA Western and Eastern Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Feb. 24, through Sunday, March 2. Harden’s week:
Harden led the Rockets to a 2-1 week behind averages of 27.0 points (tied for third in the conference), 7.7 assists (fifth in the conference) and 2.0 steals. He tallied 22 first-quarter points en route to a game-high 43 on Feb. 25, during a 129-103 win over the Kings. Harden closed the week by posting a 20-point, 12-assist, three-steal effort during a 118-110 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Also, Kevin McHale joined Eric Spolestra as the NBA Coaches of the Month for February.
McHale guided the Rockets to an 8-2 record in February, and the highest winning percentage (.800) in the Western Conference. The Rockets opened the month with six consecutive wins, and their average margin of victory in those games was 13.2 points. Houston, which averaged 111.9 points on the month, topped the century mark in each of its eight wins.
Not a bad haul for the hottest team in the league since New Year.
Tank the tanking - Nate Wolters, starting shooting guard for the Milwaukee Bucks. Henry Sims, starting center for the Philadelphia 76ers. Kent Bazemore, starting shooting guard for the LA Lakers. Now that you understand the shameless levels of tanking certain teams are currently subjecting on their fanbases, and taking into account former-GM Bryan Colangelo’s recent revelation that he tried to tank games, you can understand why Daryl Morey is open to exploring ways to change the NBA draft.
“We have to get rid of the marginal incentive to lose,” Morey said Friday at the annual Sloan Conference on sports analytics at MIT.
“It’s bad right now,” Morey said. “I think last year, at the end of the season, I counted like two-thirds of the teams weren’t trying to win.” Read More
Pat Beverley has received some well-deserved acclaim lately. Simmons and Lowe were bantering about a nickname for him, spitting out ideas like “The Pitbull” or “The Rotweiler.” In a little over half a season, Beverley has demonstrated a remarkable ability to be a complete pest and irritate the hell out of the opposing point guard. As many have pointed out, he’s brought a much-needed tough/nasty/chesty edge that the Rockets would otherwise lack.
Nevertheless, for all the praises that have been sung about him, no, defensive, measurement, seems to indicate that he’s performing a whole lot better than his peer guards. That seems strange, considering that he certainly passes the eye test better than his peer guards. Or more peculiar, he has a noticeably good defensive game but the box score of the opposing point guard actually looks decent when all is said and done. I think there are two main explanations, in no particular order.
- Defensive statistics are poor and don’t adequately capture defensive performance;
- Pat Beverley’s defense is aggressive and easily noticed, but not necessarily more effective
What’s the best way to get back on track after a tough loss to the Clippers and a long five game road trip? Play etroit at home. As the Rockets announcers noted, there isn’t much D in Detroit. The Pistons were a step slower than the Rockets and Houston made them pay, in the first half. At the end of the first half Harden saved the ball from going out of bounds to Howard at the top of the key and he gave an amazing alley oop to Jones for the slam. The Rockets are up off the bench and the half finally ends with Howard trying a 3 from the corner. It’s all smiles into the locker room, as the Rockets took a 69 to 46 halftime lead.
The second half was another story. The Pistons took it to the Rockets 64 to 49 in the second. It could have been another Tale of Two Halves loss. The Rockets transition defense totally fell apart in the 4th quarter. At one point in the 4th quarter Detroit had outscored Houston in the paint 24 to 2. The Pistons got fast easy points in transition time after time. It was ugly! At a time when the Rockets needed to run some time, Detroit came down and scored layup after layup with hardly any time coming off the clock. The coasting Rockets made it a game at the end, thankfully Beverley saved the day.
Teams: Detroit Pistons @ Houston Rockets
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston TX
Television: CSN Houston
Notes: In the first meeting between the Rockets and Pistons, Dwight Howard had easily his best game as a Rocket, putting up 35 points on 13-18 shooting, with 19 boards, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Not to mention, he went 9-14 from the free throw stripe.
The Pistons have lost six of their last seven and are giving up almost 109 points during that stretch, six points higher than their season average.
Insider’s View – Q&A with Brady Fredericksen of Pistons Powered.
MF – In the first meeting between Houston and Detroit, Dwight Howard had his best game as a Rocket. For a player that relies so much on shots at the rim for his offense, even someone as talented as Howard, it was surprising that he was able to dominate the Pistons high-profile frontcourt so handily. Has this been a problem all year or are the Pistons normally better at defending big-men/protecting the rim? Read More