We may forget it from time to time, but there are other players on the Rockets besides James Harden.

Harden dropped 24 points tonight, but by his ludicrous standards did not score all that well. He took 17 free throws and shot just 4-11 from the field. Dallas was aggressive with the double team and absolutely determined to make the rest of the Rockets beat them tonight.

And that is what the rest of the Rockets did. Terrence Jones came close to a triple double, Jason Terry and Trevor Ariza blazed from three, and Corey Brewer was the hero of the fourth quarter. And while it is far too easy to massively extrapolate from just one game, there is one thing that is patently clear: the Mavericks may have an answer for James Harden. But they are as helpless as a newborn kitten in trying to stop Dwight Howard.

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in game coverage
  • So.  How is everyone?  I am in a strange mood right now regarding this.  Considering this team has a very strong chance to make the Western Conference Finals, I should be a lot more excited than I am.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been so drained from my real job.  Maybe I subconsciously think the team will let me down, because historically they always have?  I don’t know.  BUT THEY HAVE A VERY REAL SHOT TO GET TO THE WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS.  That’s incredible, like, considering what happened this offseason.  If I had told you back in the summer that the Rockets would be the 2nd seed, you’d ask me, “oh, is Chris Bosh first team All-NBA?”
  • The last time these two franchises squared off in the postseason, the Mavs had Dirk, and the Rockets had a 25 year old superstar shooting guard carrying a tremendous load.
  • Bob Sura and Mike James is a decided advantage over Terry and Prigioni, even if Sura was completely hobbled by that point.  Actually, I don’t really know, now that I’ve typed all that up.  Sura was completely hobbled.  And while James exploded for some big games, he had a tendency to play outside the offense.  And Terry and Prigioni will hit some huge shots throughout the course of this series.  Verdict: the Rockets have had a problem at point guard for a very long time (not including their lottery years in between with Lowry and Dragic).
  • Ariza vs. Wesley is a huge advantage Ariza considering Wesley was like 5’11 and 35 years old by that point.
  • Ryan Bowen and Clarence Weatherspoon vs. Terrence Jones and Josh Smith.  LOL.  Consider that the team had freaking Juwon Howard as its starter, and losing him was considered a big loss.  But those first two guys aren’t even NBA players.  This exercise is leading me to wonder why I’ve been suggesting Harden doesn’t have help when T-Mac basically had a glorified NBDL team surrounding him.
  • That ’05 team’s key reserves were Dikembe Mutombo and a 75 year old Jon Barry.  Related: Jerry Stackhouse absolutely murdered Jon Barry and whoever this team put on him that series.  This team, even without Motiejunas, with Josh Smith and Corey Brewer, has one of the most explosive bench combos in the league.

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Red94 Playoff Preview Roundtable

McGuire: The Houston Rockets saw a lot of Hack-a-whoever in the last few weeks of the regular season, and there is no doubt Rick Carlisle will use a ton of it against the Rockets. How concerned are you about this, and are you starting to believe that the rules need to be changed to deal with it?

Rahat: It has kept me up at night, admittedly.  But I don’t think it warrants changing the rules.  If people don’t like it, they need to step up and make their free throws.

Walker: It might hurt the Rockets, and it might hurt them badly. That’s the boring part. The interesting part is what happens if Houston gets waylaid by this as badly as people are worrying. This is a metagame issue, and metagame is critically important for all games and rule sets, even in sports. Sports fans and personalities seem allergic to any discussion of metagame to the point that its very existence is denied, but this facet won’t be denied.

When changing a rule, you have to examine not just what you want to change, but what the rule currently advantages and disadvantages and weigh that against what the proposed change would do. The current rule set effectively punishes poor free throw shooting. Nobody is arguing about on-ball fouls, for whatever reason, so let’s stick with off ball fouls.

In a hypothetical new situation, free throw shooting would be a less valuable skill, as long as someone on the team can do it. How much less valuable, though? Probably not a lot. These cases are already fairly liminal. The biggest change would be that big men don’t have to spend quite as much effort and time on their free throws. I don’t see why anyone cares either way how good centers are at free throws. Maybe this lets them work more on footwork or team defense.

I’ve thought about this issue to the point that I don’t care about it any more. It’s annoying to watch and I don’t think it would affect much more, so I guess change it. It doesn’t really matter.

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in conversations
  • I wrote this weekend that the Houston Rockets had “collapsed“, squandering a chance at what would have been the franchise’s first division title in twenty years with back to back losses to the San Antonio Spurs.  Oops.  As we know, the team took care of business to close out the year, getting a bit of help in the form of good luck in some other outcomes, and now, they’ve reclaimed the #2 seed.  Yes, in terms of appraisal, the second seed means no different than the sixth, and the only implications are in playoff positioning.  But there’s just a good feeling about the whole thing, at least for someone like me who has been following this team for so very long.  Relatively speaking, this franchise has been mediocre for the better part of two decades, with nothing to really hang its hat on.  I don’t know if it has any cumulative effect, but there has to be some value to good feelings, right?

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Final Bench Data

The Rockets finished the regular season using their bench 35% of the time, which ranked 4th from last place. The Rockets bench had a net rating of 2.1, which ranked 11th in the league. Click on the graphic below for a complete visual representation of the league’s bench usage and effectiveness.

Click for a full-sized interactive version

Click for a full-sized interactive version

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