Recall from Part 1 that Houston’s most used lineup of Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Motiejunas was a +11 in 295 minutes played. This came as a huge surprise because even after he returned, Motiejunas still wasn’t at full form this year. I’m wondering if the year would have gone differently had he simply been healthy from the start. By contrast, the lineup of Ariza/Beverley/Harden/Howard/Jones, with Terrence Jones being in Motiejunas’ place, was -20.8 in 92 minutes played. I’ve argued for a few years now about the superiority of Motiejunas over Jones, but even I didn’t realize how drastic the drop-off was. [read more…]
I’ve now had over 48 hours to digest the disappointing end to Houston’s season. What started out in October carrying expectations of title contention ended in utter embarrassment, with the franchise now unexpectedly again at a crossroads. The Houston Rockets thought they were right there and now, they’ll need to tear it all down completely. What the hell happened?
Setting aside the gossip and conjecture, Houston’s twelve month demise can be summed up neatly through one quantitative comparison: the team’s defensive rating fell from 8th overall last year, to 21st this year. That defensive decline almost solely can be held accountable for the team’s record. The team actually improved
offensively, finishing 12th last season, and 7th this season, in offensive rating. [read more…]
The Houston Rockets ended their miserable 2015-2016 season the same way they started it: with laughable effort, pathetic shooting, and a summary execution at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. Last season, the Rockets looked poised to be a serious force and a strong title contender if they could just take a step. What nobody guessed is that the step would be backwards, right off a cliff. There was nothing left to play for, no light at the end of the tunnel, and nothing left to root for except for an end to one of the most disappointing seasons in sports history. [read more…]
I have been writing for some time now that the Rockets’ goal should be to be second best. That logic is underscored by the ramifications of the Steph Curry injury. To recap, many of you felt that a team led by James Harden could never top the Warriors and by extension, felt the Rockets should seek to trade James Harden to facilitate the construction of a team that could. I countered that such a course would be futile and take many years to bear fruit, if it did at all. I argued that, while perhaps defeatist, it was smarter to just aim to be “good enough”, or second best, just hanging around and staying in the picture long enough for luck to strike; I argued that it didn’t make sense to part with Harden when the Warriors’ window could close at any moment. “Staying in the picture” was how the Mavs won their title and how the Spurs won at least one of theirs. And if this Curry injury is as severe as it might be, it’ll be how the Clippers or Thunder will win their first, if the Spurs don’t add yet another. Fortunes turn quickly in the NBA, and if the Rockets were any good, they too would be right in the picture.
Had the Rockets had any pride, they’d be 2-2 at this moment with a very real shot to advance. I don’t think this series is necessarily over, but Houston blew a golden chance. Going forward, this entire episode reaffirms my belief that just being second best is good enough.
Let’s just get the most important thing about this game out of the way – and which has absolutely nothing to do with the Houston Rockets and everything to do with Stephen Curry.
Curry was clearly limited in the first half, but you could see how much better he makes the Warriors. Even while he could not shoot, Curry is an underrated distributor and he did a great job at finding the open man for the Warriors in the first half. Never mind the fact that his mere presence at the three-point line can send even the best defenses panicking and scrambling.In fact, I would say that despite the scoring disparity between the halves, I don’t feel like the Warriors played significantly better basketball in the second half. They just went bonkers from three-point range and the Rockets played a lot worse.And boy, did they play worse. The first half was the most inspired play which I have seen from this team all season long. They got several nice lobs to Howard, Beasley scored so well that the Warriors double-teamed him,
Harden facilitated, and Beverley ran around like an animal.But then the Houston Rockets, tied at the half and facing the prospect of going down 3-1, “dropped their guard” according to J.B. Bickerstaff
. And as they have done this season, the Rockets had a stretch or a period where the fans start to think things may turn around before getting slapped down by the hard wall of reality.And as the Rockets face Game 5 and elimination on Wednesday against a Golden State team which will probably not play Curry, only the most hardcore of hardcore Rockets fans might believe they can take one, let alone two games in the Oracle Arena. [read more…]