If there has been anything to note during Houston’s recent stretch of well-played games, it has been the attention that the team pays to the 3-point shot. Not only to our ability to shoot the 3, but to also ensure that the opponent doesn’t make their own 3’s. The Golden State game where Houston tied the NBA record was also interesting in that a team which possesses Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson went only 3-15 from the 3 point line. Just as Moneyball emphasizes the importance of avoiding the foul on defense, Houston also prefers to chase opponents off the 3-point line and concede the mid-range jumper.
However, tonight was not to be. I don’t watch the Kings, but I do know that while they own one of the worst records in the league, they also have a 14-12 record at home. Perhaps that record may or may not be due to everyone on their team turning into Ray Allen from the 3 point line on a regular basis, but it certainly worked tonight as the Kings surged in the 4th quarter and stayed consistent for most of the game thanks to an excellent game from their perimeter shooters. An interior defense that
was allowed to hammer Houston whenever they entered the paint prevented the layup certainly helped for them as well.
From the very beginning, one couldn’t help but get the impression that it was just going to be one of those nights where the Kings couldn’t miss. The Rockets were initially content to let Demarcus Cousins take his midrange jumpers, but the 6’11’’ physical behemoth hit 5 of his first 6 and the Rockets offense was stagnant as the Kings took the early lead. The Rockets would rally in the second quarter behind Lin and Harden, but every time Houston came close or took the lead, Sacramento just hit a few more jumpers. If that wasn’t bad enough, once again Houston’s bigs aside from Asik struggled to rebound or defend as Jason Thompson, Chuck Hayes, and Thomas Robinson did what they liked against Patterson, Aldrich and Morris. Houston had a 53-51 lead with 1:20 to go, but a Sacramento run led by jumpers and rebounding gave the Kings a four point lead at the half.
While Cousins had been incredibly important for the Sacramento lead for the first half, he was largely inconsequential during the second half as he racked up his fourth foul early in the third and his fifth almost as soon as he came in during the 4th. Sacramento’s offense sputtered as they figured out what to do without their star big man, and Patrick Beverley and the Rockets bench ( yes, the bench)took advantage as they took the lead by the end of the 3rd quarter and created a 94-84 lead with 10 minutes to go. However, while Lin came back in to finish things off, he was quickly removed as Isaiah Thomas drew an absolutely ridiculous ticky-tack foul against Lin to remove him with 8 minutes to go and then picked up another one when Lin came back in 3 minutes The Sacramento jump-shooting team which had seemingly started to cool down after shooting well for most of the game instead went into overdrive as they buried 5 three points in the final quarter. Even though Cousins did not come back in, he was not needed as Sacramento just went on a run which erased the lead and ended the game with a minute to go. While Houston tried to gamely make a run at the end, they simply couldn’t shoot as well as the Kings did tonight.
- While I personally think that any discussion of Cousins trade rumors is silly due to the constraints that their GM must face with the likely move to Seattle, I believe that there are two distinctions which should be made when discussing Cousins. There is Demarcus Cousins, the 6’11’’ center who someday in the future may be one of the most dominant big men to play in this league due to his skills and athleticism. And there is Demarcus Cousins the current player, the physical behemoth who is more than happy to take 18 footers, possesses very poor offensive efficiency for a man his size, and is not precisely Shane Battier in emotional temperament. The latter, to put it simply, is someone who Houston absolutely does not need as they pursue the playoffs. I don’t think Cousins today is better than Asik, and I don’t think Cousins would take being benched in favor of Asik well at all given his maturity. While like many players it would be nice to obtain him for a few spare ends, I don’t foresee him as someone Morey is going to go all out to chase.
- I fully expect a lot fans to savage Cole Aldrich for his performance in tonight’s game, and that is certainly deserved. While Cousins took mid-range jumpers against Aldrich, he bullied in the post against Aldrich in the second quarter and outplayed the hapless center, and even Chuck Hayes successfully drew a foul against Cole on a post-up while ripping rebounds away like he always does – there was a stretch late in the 2rd quarter when Houston obtained zero defensive rebounds for four minutes with Aldrich and Patterson on the court. I do however think that Aldrich does play better defense than Greg Smith, which is less a commendation of the former and more a massive condemnation of Smith and his general cluelessness on that end of the court. With Smith’s recent relegation to the D-League, I believe Coach McHale must agree to some extent.
- Chandler Parsons had one of his worst games in a long time as a Rocket as he simply could not hit a wide-open jumper at all tonight, finishing with 2-12 and a 0-6 performance from distance. However, while it wasn’t enough to overshadow his poor perimeter performance, one of the good things about Parsons is that unlike his predecessor in Mr. Budinger, Parsons can contribute even without shooting thanks to his good basketball IQ. He drew the 5th foul from Cousins with an absolutely insane dunk attempt, had 6 assists, and did his usual work on the defensive rotations. Even if Francisco Garcia went nuts like the rest of the Kings tonight, that’s a credit to them and not a disservice to Parsons.
- I miss the Chuckwagon, who really had a great game for us. I don’t really miss Aaron Brooks, and while the box score says he was in for 7 minutes, I can’t recall a single thing he did.
There really isn’t a whole lot to take away from this loss, and while Houston missed a chance to increase their chances of a playoff spot, one game’s one game. The Rockets have had recent games where they shot incredibly well from the perimeter, and tonight they got that done to them – about the only thing I would take of note is our need for a backup center, but that was already a problem even before this game. Losses like these are just how it is sometimes over the course of an 82-game season.