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Recap: Dallas Mavericks 116, Houston Rockets 109

Tonight’s story was the return of Houston head coach Kevin McHale, who today ended a leave of absence he took on November 10th. He had to return eventually, and he chose the night of a home game against the Dallas Mavericks. He had been missed by the team and fans alike, and hopefully things will progress on an even keel for him and the Rockets from here on out. Everyone wishes him the best, but wins are a different story.

The story of the season was highlighted against the Mavs: No deficit is insurmountable. No lead is safe. Due to a confluence of factors, the Rockets produce highly volatile games where the outcome seems not to be certain until the final moments. This game included both sides of that coin.

The first quarter was as bad as it gets for the Rockets, with the Mavs shooting 77% as opposed to 33% for Houston. Everything a Dallas player looked at fell in, and the Rockets clanked shot after shot. As the game seemed to be escaping them, regression to the mean began to occur. The Rockets went on a tear in the Second quarter that almost exactly mirrored the Mavs in the first. They erased a 19 point deficit to come back and lead by 3 at the half.

After the hair-pulling frustration of losing the first quarter 39-24, and the terror of seeing Harden twist his ankle, Houston gave an amazing 42 – 24 second, and Harden played every minute of the Half, giving him 30 points on 10 shots, 5 assists and 5 boards at halftime. Unfortunately, the game continued.

The third quarter was a back and forth affair, with the Rockets taking a 9 point lead briefly, then ending the quarter up by 5. The fourth saw the Rockets make another push, leading by 11 at one point in the middle of the quarter. Houston then completely collapsed, suddenly unable to make a shot once more, and surrendering a ghastly 18 point swing in the last 9:25.

OJ Mayo and James Harden competed for most ridiculous stat line all night, with Mayo amassing 40 points on 15-26 shooting, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Harden had one fewer point, but a more eye-popping box score: 39 points on 10-17 shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 9 assists. Only his 6 turnovers hurt his line. the Mavs couldn’t contain him, and he was the main reason for the big comeback.

Part of the big meltdown, however, was the ongoing point guard confusion. Lin played only 18 minutes. He ended the evening 2-3 from downtown and 0-1 elsewhere.Three assists in 18 minutes is about on par with his production, and he didn’t look terrible. He ended the game benched, however, and Toney Douglas had 38 minutes of playing time. Douglas continues to improve, though to be fair that’s not a great compliment considering how he looked at the beginning of the season. He hit half of his threes, including a huge one during the Mavs’ late run. Unfortunately, a complete defensive collapse at the other end allowed Mayo to seal it.

The return of McHale seems only to have only confused the already unstable rotations. Greg Smith picked up two fouls only a couple of minutes into his playing time and never returned. Cole Aldrich suddenly found himself on the court for 12 minutes, and looked serviceable if not good. Carlos Delfino once again was the clear sixth man, playing through the end of the game. His shooting, however, was subpar for him: 2-10 from downtown is not what Houston needs from him. Three point shots are streaky by nature, though, so an off game is to be expected, as long as it doesn’t persist.

Asik played for only 20 minutes, collecting a quiet 6 points and 7 boards. Patterson continued to shoot the lights out (6-8) but also continued to struggle to stay on the court due to foul trouble, though he ended with an only slightly low 29 minutes. Parsons had the second most minutes (41 to Harden’s unsustainable 45), but looked as though fatigue was killing his jumper. He hit only 1-6 threes and 5-12 elsewhere. His 10 rebounds and 5 assists, however, suggest that a back to back took a toll on his shot.

Fatigue can explain much of what happened late in the game, and it’s very likely Houston wins if tired legs hadn’t stolen threes from them. However, larger problems persists, such as high turnover rate. It’s not surprising that the youngest team, as well as the team with the most new players would have trouble holding onto the ball. However, Improvement must be made over time; it’s nearly impossible to win games when you give up 19 turnovers. Obviously, having the highest rate of play in the NBA contributes to that, as well as to the high volatility of games. There are simply more possessions in which teams can go hot or cold.

Despite falling back into sub-.500 territory, the Rockets still have a realistic shot at the playoffs, once things settle down and once they get to know each other. Despite having stultifying nights like the last two, they show great promise, once they can figure out how to use it.

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Total comments: 14
  • CHOPE says 1 YEAR ago OOPS...sorry guys. should be
  • CHOPE says 1 YEAR ago http://www.red94.net/recap-dallas-mavericks-116-houston-rockets-109-2/10619/#comments
  • UncleCaveman says 1 YEAR ago I hated some of the lineups that McHale put out there, especially in the 4th. There were extended minutes with Patterson as the sole "big" and Parsons apparently playing the 4 with Toney Douglas and Jeremy Lin on the court together. Is the team better with McHale? It doesn't look like it to me.
  • SamC says 1 YEAR ago I suppose I'm just used to seeing coaches who have set rotations and only make changes if someone's in foul trouble or injured. Players have to know how to play with each other and if you're mixing up the rotations a lot, it can lead to a lot of turnovers.
  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    Rahat Huq, on 09 December 2012 - 19:13 PM said:

    I was curious about this. I wasn't at nor did I watch the game. Why did he make such drastic changes his first game back?

    The Rockets were getting killed in the first quarter, and it was the insertion of the small ball lineup that got them back in the game in the second. McHale then proceeded to continue playing a small lineup for the rest of the game. I'm not sure that was the best decision because it meant that Delfino, Parsons and Harden had to play the majority of the game and were tired down the stretch, but I can kind of understand why he did it.

    In addition, the coaching staff seemed to make a (reasonable, based on what I saw) decision that Toney Douglas was the best man to guard OJ Mayo after he torched everyone else they put on him in the first quarter. That's why he saw so much floor time in this game. And despite Mayo's gaudy statline I thought he did a reasonable job (although there was a glaring exception to that statement late in the fourth quarter where he got wiped out on a screen and allowed Mayo to bury a 3 to put the Mavericks up 5 with not much time left).

    Of course, the upshot of that was that Lin didn't see much playing time. There was a section in the third quarter where he went with a double PG lineup with both Lin and Douglas, and it didn't look too bad. Douglas has picked up his level quite considerably over the abject awfulness of the first few games and Lin is starting to make some shots from the corners, which just about turns them into a functional pairing.

  • Johnny Rocket says 1 YEAR ago The reason McHale pulled Asik is simple: he had 4 TOs in 20 minutes. That's not acceptable, no matter how good your rebounding.

    I don't know why, though, he sat Lin so much over Douglas. Douglas played fine, but so was Lin.

    In terms of where the Rockets are at in general, this is what rebuilding looks like: wildly inconsistent performances. You gotta role with it or it will drive you crazy! I agree with Stephen that 9 wins are pretty good at this point.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago I knew about the back to backs and all that but thanks for a real breakdown with regards to playing time and who's hot and who's not. I get tired of Rockets fans talking about replacing McHale as a knee jerk reaction to a game. It's almost as if watching the games is not enough, fans have to pretend like they're GM's. I get tired of it. Anyway, I don't want to get completely negative so thanks Stephen for presenting facts. Let's enjoy what this team is doing, overachieving.
  • Stephen says 1 YEAR ago To be honest,looking at the schedule I thought the Rockets would be in the midst of a 6 game losing streak and that they'd be buried in December,before making a late run.

    Instead the Rockets are 2-3 so far out of the @OKC,Utah,Lakers,@SA,Dallas,SA stretch. They have16 games in Dec(4 sets of back-to-back,a 4 game-in-5-night,3 rd stretch starting Christmas Day).
    To date they've played 13 games against Play-Off teams from last yr out of their 19 games.
    I was hoping they'd have 7-8 wins by now,9 far exceeds my expectations.
  • Stephen says 1 YEAR ago Drastic changes? Not Really.
    Lin 19:59 against LA,26:03 against SA then 18:05 against Dallas.
    But really,it was a return to McHale's rotation at beginning of yr,only using Douglas,Delfino and a third big(at beginning of yr it was Morris out of lack of anyone else).
    He went w/Smith,who got in foul trouble,replaced him w/Aldrich who was reasonably effective.
    He went small because that's what Dallas did,Asik isn't someone who can punish other teams posting up and Kaman was eating his lunch on jumpers.
    He didn't rest Harden in First Half because he was afraid the ankle would tighten as it did after Half-Time.(A couple of times cameras caught McHale asking Harden how he was feeling and Harden saying he was OK to play.)

    We constantly hear how coaches see things in practices and being around the team that we as fans don't and that explains what often appears to be puzzling player decisions.
    Against Dallas we may have seen indirect confirmation of that cliche.
    For the past few weeks McHale has been away from the team,not attending practices,his only real exposure to the team watching them on TV and phone conversations w/Sampson.
    And the previous three games were the first ones McHale could devote his full attention to.
    And what would McHale have seen watching the games?
    Marcus Morris,0-2FGA,0-2FTA,2 rebounds...0-5FGA,1-2FTA,5 rebounds...1-5FGA,3 rebounds. These bad numbers don't even begin to describe the utter futility of Morris trying to create something.
    Lin had a good game against Utah then went 4-17 in next two games including 0-4 from 3pt land.
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago I was curious about this. I wasn't at nor did I watch the game. Why did he make such drastic changes his first game back?
  • SamC says 1 YEAR ago I'm surprised McHale would make such drastic changes to the rotation in his first game back.
  • blakecouey says 1 YEAR ago Is it too soon to ask if we should oust McHale? I understand it was his first night back, after nearly a month during a very emotional/stressed time, but this isn't the first time we've seen ineffective use of the bench, ugly rotations, and poor execution. What kind of coaches are out there that could be beneficial to growing our youth and instilling confidence/work ethic into them more so than McHale?
  • Bigtkirk says 1 YEAR ago Hopefully, McHale was just getting back in the swing of coaching things in this game and the poor use of the bench won't continue. But I'm at a loss to understand what Douglas, Delfino and Aldrich did in this game to deserve 82 minutes of playing time to the exclusion of almost everyone else on the bench.
  • cdhthegreat says 1 YEAR ago The coaching tonight was pathetic. 45 minutes for harden with a rolled ankle. COLE ALDRICH. Patterson at the 5. No Greg Smith.

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