There are a lot of big takeaways from Houston’s four point loss to the Raptors. There’s a lot to learn for a team in need of lessons. There were plays. There were shots. There were fouls and hustle and grit. All of these basketball things happened and all of them were recorded by television cameras. If the Rockets want to beat these Eastern Conference playoff teams they’re going to have to learn from their mistakes. They need to hit more shots and allow fewer rebounds. The four factors? They definitely need to pay attention to those. Yes, this was a big game for the Rockets who now are one step closer to the end. The end of the season and, perhaps, the end of time.
The main thing the Rockets should try to do in order to avoid this again is to have Dwight Howard. They’ve been very good at having Dwight Howard all season, and it’s been a very successful strategy. Suddenly their execution on having Dwight Howard really took a nosedive in the last couple weeks, and the team has struggled because of it. They showed a brief spurt in having Dwight Howard, but that hustle was short-lived, and they’re back to not having him. It’s a major disappointment, and hopefully they’ll figure out how to get back in that having Dwight Howard groove by the playoffs.
The Rockets have also let that lack of effort on having Dwight Howard spread to their starting point guard, spiritual leader and core of the team Patrick Beverley. The Rockets are much better when they successfully have Patrick Beverley, and that element of their game was sorely missing. This lack of grit was contagious between team, as the Rockets also failed to have Terrence Jones for most of the game, the Raptors didn’t even have Amir Johnson except for 3 minutes, and worst of all the Raptors didn’t even have Kyle Lowry at all. The Rockets know from personal experience that having Kyle Lowry is a great boon, and the Raptors were lucky to win the game with that kind of slip-up going on.
Jeremy Lin looked good for the Rockets, helping close a 20 point deficit to 1 point. Then, after Lin played the end of the third and starts of the fourth quarters, they pulled him out. Isaiah Canaan came in instead, and was decent, but the momentum fell off. The Raptors came back and led by as much as nine before the Rockets failed a last-ditch attempt to catch up. Canaan looks solid but is still clearly a rookie out there. He’s like a stockier version of Aaron Brooks but with fewer circus shots.
If Canaan were a sophomore like Terrence Jones or Donatas Motiejunas instead of a rookie, he would probably be better. The Rockets should probably also have Canaan be a sophomore from now on, but traditional wisdom states that few, if any, rookies make that jump until their second year.
Yes, so many lessons were learned and so many playoff implications were implied. James Harden, for example, learned that sometimes he can draw fouls and sometimes he can’t. He should try to make his foul-drawing rate close to 100% for best effect, but I suppose it’s a process. The Raptors needed this win to try to hold onto that precious 3rd seed. The Rockets needed this game to increase their wins number instead of increasing their losses number, which is what happened, and that’s a problem. Having another loss might come back to haunt them in the playoffs, or in the summer, or even earlier, depending on what we mean by haunt. Right now, I think we mean like a ghost. The ghost from losing to the Raptors could be very, very scary.
Lin played aggressively, Harden played decently but got burned on defense, Ömer Aşık grabbed 15 more rebounds, made 3-5 shots, dropped a couple passes and didn’t airball a free throw. DeMar DeRozan went insane and can’t be contested, which is great for him. The Rockets missed half of their free throws in a critical comeback period, which was awful for them. It was a basketball game that was close down the stretch, which was fun for most people, less so for Rockets fans.
A basketball game took place. The Toronto Raptors beat the Houston Rockets. The score was 107 to 103. The playoffs start in 17 days.