More thoughts on Game 2
- The lineup the Rockets used last night to begin the game was the one I was hoping they’d use back before the series began. Interestingly, last night was the first time all season that that particular quintet shared the court. And boy, did it pay off. From the opening tip, the Rockets looked crisp, moving the ball and driving the lane–with the paint freshly unclogged–and flying up and down the court. Had the Rockets held on, and then by some act of divine intervention gone on to win the series, you’d have had to change Beverley’s nickname to ‘The Plumber.’ He unclogged things. Thanks, I’ll be here all week.
- As I said, the Rockets just looked so much more fluid in the first half last night with the 3-guard lineup. They were able to attack with Ibaka out of the paint. The lineup, somehow, also did not cost them on the boards as they ended up outrebounding the Thunder 57-40. Beverley grabbing 12 had something to do with that.
- Picking Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook to get into it at some point, before the series began, was pretty much free money. My thoughts on Westbrook were pretty much affirmed: he’s just so volatile, yet so damn talented. He’ll brick 10 shots in a row–not even looking in the direction of Kevin Durant–and then go on a 10-0 scoring run on his own. But I think if he didn’t have that team around him, he wouldn’t be held so highly in regard. A badly undermanned Rockets team could have won that game last night because of some of Westbrook’s poor decisions. He’s nowhere near the stratosphere of Chris Paul. Westbrook helps his team, but also hurts them, but they are good enough collectively to where they can overcome the flaws and let the good things he does spark a positive in the net outcome.
- Jeremy Lin, before getting hurt, had another poor game, but the Rockets looked much better with him on the court than without him, simply for the reason that they were able to push the tempo at breakneck speeds. To even have a chance, Houston is going to have to have Lin healthy for Game 3.
- You can’t really conceptualize the concept of “toughness” until you see a game like Beverley’s from last night. The concept is just so abstract and intangible that…you basically can’t even put it in words. To borrow from Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart (originally said regarding pornography), “I know it when I see it.” I don’t think people quite understand just how difficult it is to dribble a basketball against pressure or be a point guard. People just see a guy who can seemingly dribble and think he can play some sort of point role (I think back to the Trevor Ariza days when some fans actually thought he’d be the next T-Mac…). But it’s a really, really hard thing to do to dribble a ball when people are reaching are reaching in to take it away, and at the same time have the mental wherewithal to direct an offense. That kind of thing takes years and years of practice and numerous basketball camps. They talked in the TNT halftime show about how Beverley was taking the pressure off of Lin so that he wouldn’t have to handle the ball….so it’s important to understand why that’s such a big thing. When most people are dribbling a basketball against tight pressure, their mental focus is exerted upon maintaining control of the ball. An actual point guard on the other hand, is not phased by the circumstances, and is able to maintain his focus upon the court and his teammates. Jeremy Lin, in this sense, is not an actual point guard. This is why the Heat were so famously able to rough him up. Teams just simply don’t apply pressure in the regular season. But back to toughness…you see a guy like Beverley, driving the ball into the teeth of the defense, going toe to toe with one of the games premiere guards, and crashing the boards at just 5’10, and you know immediately what the term means. You realized last night that Patrick Beverley is a guy you want with you in the foxhole.
- This series, ultimately, will give rise to long-term questions. If the current trends continue, does what we’ve seen warrant a serious consideration to moving Lin and anointing Beverley? I don’t know if that’s smart analysis. I think teams can, and historically have, really gotten themselves into trouble making personnel decisions based on small-sample postseason results. But at the same time, Lin and Beverley’s disparate results are alarming. Lin will improve his shooting, no doubt – he made huge strides this year. But being a point guard isn’t something that can just be picked up overnight. Steve Francis never figured it out. Lin is a guy who didn’t even play the position in college…and when you see some of the frantic crosscourt passes he’s been making when under pressure…it’s evident. I don’t know what any of this means, I’m just thinking aloud, but this will be a topic for discussion in the summer.
- Kevin McHale must be applauded for what was undoubtedly his best coaching performance of the year. He pushed all the right buttons, switching the lineup, and then going to a zone to get the team back into the game. The Rockets even made a nice play out of a timeout! (the play where Delfino came off a screen and made a layup.) Having said that, I have no idea what that was that the Rockets ran at the end of the game where they took 10 seconds to basically get a 2 pointer, when they needed a ’3′….
- Last night was encouraging, but similarly deflating in that, with all it took to get back in it, we still lost. If the Rockets hit a few more 3′s, they can win a game, but they simply are just overmatched against this Thunder team. No shame there. At least they fought and made it fun.
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