Do you believe in jinxes?

Because to me, worrying about them always seemed so silly.  In high school, guys who wouldn’t wash their socks after big wins weren’t insuring a repeat performance, they were only making their shoes stink.  As Chris Webber says (and to which I agree), believing in such things just means you don’t trust in yourself and your training.  I personally just never had much use for superstition (and certainly didn’t need any help making my shoes stink).

But jinxing was on my mind when I wrote the headline for Game 3’s post-game coverage, “You may or may not want to consider thinking about possibly pulling out your brooms”.

As you can see, I was a little timid with the headline at first, afraid to outright upset mystical forces that I don’t understand and/or believe in. But as I got to writing and re-watching some of the game, I couldn’t help but notice how dominant the Rockets looked; Dwight snatching every rebound, Harden slicing and dicing the Mavs defense.  Even though it was a wire-to-wire game, the Rockets had absorbed two 30-point performances by Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, and saw every trick in Rick Carlisle’s toolbox and still came out on top.

So if i was a little concerned at first that perhaps I was being too cavalier with the title, by the end it was all I could do to not out-and-out guarantee the sweep.

But I was wrong: maybe jinxes really do exist, and Rick Carlisle definitely still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

First off, Carlisle made the obvious decision to start JJ Barea and my new least favorite player in the whole world, Al-F@$#% Aminu, [read more…]

in game coverage

When the Daryl Morey brought Dwight Howard to Houston to join James Harden, even the most pessimistic Rockets fan surely had fantastic daydreams of nights just like last night.  The two best players at their positions, together on the same team, doing the things they do better than anyone, at the same time, on the same night.

And be sure, when Dwight plays the way he did last night, and all series really, he is still the most dominant big man around.

It may seem strange to anyone who watched last night that this article begins with Dwight Howard and not James Harden,
who scored 42 points on 15-24 shooting (5-7 from deep), dished 9 assists and grabbed 5 boards.   [read more…]

in game coverage

With the Mavericks seemingly exploding before our eyes (KNOCK ON WOOD), I thought it was time for something fun. All the talk about hacking has resurrected conversation about the differences between American and foreign big men. Conventional wisdom has us believe that American big men are more physical but less skilled. Foreign big men, on the other hand, get pushed around easily but are more adept with the ball in their hands. In the current times of hack-a-you, this means that American big men are characterized as being dunces from the free throw line, while foreign big men conduct symphonies from the same spot. To what extent are these stereotypes true? Let’s use data to find out.

[read more…]

in musings

The Houston Rockets swept away the first three quarters of the game under and endless torrent of brutal slams. The Dallas Mavericks stayed close and mucked it up for almost 36 minutes, bogging down the game with fouls and intense defense on James Harden. Josh Smith and Dwight Howard had different plans. The Rockets ended the game with fourteen slams, including several lobs from Josh Smith to his AAU teammate Dwight Howard. Much like the “run it again” era of Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets, this Houston team found a winning play and called that number over and over again. With no answer for Houston’s big men, the Mavs fell behind, even with James Harden on the bench. The Rockets now lead the series by a commanding 2 games to 0.

Dwight Howard and Josh Smith came alive, more alive than they’ve been all season, and both justified every second of their tenure in Houston with this game alone. Dwight Howard brought the hammer down with 28 points and 12 rebounds on a mere 15 shots, including hitting 8 straight free throws in 11 tries. This version of Dwight Howard, the thundering, rolling, dunking machine, is what Houston hoped for and what people predicted and all last season. The long absence due to his knee procedure has paid huge dividends so far, with these two playoff wins worth infinitely more than any regular season tilts. He’s healthy, he’s motivated, and he’s unstoppable.

[read more…]

in game coverage

On Dwight, Capela

  • In one of these games this postseason, Clint Capela will go for something like 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots, and then everyone on the Rockets portion of the Internet will collectively react in the online equivalent of how everyone storms the court and goes nuts at the end of those streetball videos where someone makes the other guy fall down.
  • Dallas is going to ante up the variance because that is the only way to overcome the vast talent disparity between the two teams.  It feels weird being on the other side of that equation.  They’ll give Harden different looks in pick and roll coverage and try something out of the box in assisting Dirk.  On the latter point, I don’t know what all can be done for such a challenging dilemma.
  • I hope we aren’t celebrating already as tempting as it may be.  I think back to 2005 when I and my friends, after Houston went up 2-0 against Dallas, not only looked past the Mavericks, but also Phoenix, in preparing for the Western Conference Finals.  We know how that turned out.
  • Over these past two seasons, because he’s had his ups and downs, and this season has been in and out of the lineup, there have been times during games where I’ve caught myself thinking, “wait a minute.  That guy with ‘Howard’ on the back of his jersey is Dwight freaking Howard.”  This was a guy who, as recently as within the past five years was the undisputed most disruptive force in all of basketball.  This was a guy who, before Kevin Durant made “the leap”, was considered, unarguably the second best player in the league.  We got a reminder of that former status in Game 1 when Houston looked like a machine during Howard’s minutes.  But can he sustain this level of dominance for long minutes?  If he can, maybe Houston needs to be taken a lot more seriously, and maybe they’re as good as people envisioned when Howard first signed.  Howard carried an Orlando team to the Finals with Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu setting him up in the pick&roll; he now has maybe the best player in the league tossing him lobs.
  • I’m no longer worried about Howard murking things up in the post because I think he understands his role on this team, something that wasn’t the case last year before the team’s hierarchy was set.  With Harden’s explosion this season, Howard now knows what he has to do, and I am feeling more confident that how the offense ran in Game 1 is how the team intends to play going forward.
  • The Mavericks have no answer for the Rockets’ star duo, but at the same time, you have to hope that Ariza and Terry continue to hit.  Everything only looked as smooth as it did because those threes were falling.  To that end, aren’t we glad its Terry in the corner instead of Beverley?  I have much more confidence in Jason Terry’s ability to consistently knock down open shots, rather than Beverley’s, as the latter was seemingly feast or famine.
  • Some of you are talking about Beverley attempting to return in later rounds as if I’m supposed to be excited at the prospect.  Why?  If Houston advances that far, I don’t know that I want them to tinker with their rotation if things are working.  And Pat already wasn’t hitting his shots before going out.  That’s supposed to change?  He also wasn’t slowing anyone down.  I suppose it would be nice to have his physicality against some of the elite point guards Houston may face, but we saw how that worked out during the year when he got torched on several occasions.  Not to think too far ahead, but if the Rockets go on to play Cleveland in the Finals, I’d rather just start Brewer and have him on Kyrie Irving, with Terry coming off the bench when Irving sits.
  • Clint Capela is an NBA rotation player.  No, I’m not saying he’s going to be a star or the next Dwight Howard or anything, but at the least, he will earn NBA checks.  That will present an interesting situation this summer with Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, and Donatas Motiejunas already under contract, and Josh Smith due for a raise.

in columns