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Some more thoughts on the Game 3 victory

  • Thursday’s game illustrated why I was so despondent after the Motiejunas trade, prior to its nullification by Detroit.  Motiejunas will by no means ever be a star player, but the quality contributions he made in Game 3 were the sort of production a team needs from its role players if intending to compete for a title.  He spread the floor, he worked inside, and most importantly, he defended.  I wondered back at the deadline, weren’t players like this the type you wanted to add?  But despite the breakout, it appears Morey, having access I do not to the Lithuanian’s medical records, made the correct gamble initially.  Until Thursday, D-Mo looked bad for most of the year, only adding to the doubts concerning his health.  And his cap hold would likely need to be off the books if Houston’s master-plan of possessing two max-slots is to come to fruition.  I can get behind that plan, if it means Kevin Durant is coming to town.  But if it fails, which is the likely scenario, it would be difficult to part ways with a young player the type of whom the team needs to be adding to its core, not subtracting; another star-chasing casualty.

  • Houston had been establishing Dwight Howard very deep in the block to where he would not have to make any moves.  He can be extremely dangerous when not needing to dribble the ball, as evidenced by his entire career.
  • Trevor Ariza was possibly this team’s most important player in 2015, and, a large cause for its decline in 2016 due to his own decline on the defensive end (a point which has gone unnoticed by the larger media).  But on offense, especially when juxtaposed against Golden State’s multi-dimensional wings, I’m reminded why Houston struggles to score during so many critical junctures.  If it’s not a wide-open ‘3’, Ariza has difficulty doing much of anything else, a problem with good defenses closing out on the perimeter.  He’s not much of a finisher anymore, and he’s not skilled enough to do anything in the mid-range.  Every time Ariza awkwardly dribbles into the paint, the visual serves as a reminder as to how dependent this team has become upon James Harden offensively.
  • It seems Bickerstaff tightened up his “rotation”, to use that term lightly, pulling the plug on the disastrous Corey Brewer experiment (one can hope for more than just one night), but also shortening up on Josh Smith and Clint Capela.  In Thursday’s “must-win”, Howard played 33 minutes, Motiejunas 31, and Michael Beasley 20.  I’m perfectly fine with that, as those are the team’s three best big players, except that this should have been the “rotation” all along!  After a torrid start to his Rockets career, upon mysteriously being benched and buried, we speculated that perhaps Michael Beasley’s defense was deemed too prohibitive for playing time.  Except, he’s back again and playing the same way he had all along.  Is there any rhyme or reason to John Bickerstaff’s coaching ways?  I can sympathize with the desire to test out different combinations in hopes of finding something that works, but at some point, don’t you have to settle in?  These are human beings with human emotions and expectations.  They can’t develop confidence and consistency if game to game, the lineup is in flux.
  • James Harden was masterful Thursday night, as he almost always is–not coincidentally–in each of Houston’s wins against tough competition.  And as I tried to explain on Twitter shortly after, in a simple point which somehow went over the heads of some, that dependent relationship is problematic and hits at the core problem for this era in Rockets history.  That observation is not meant as an indictment upon Harden.  It’s just simply not realistic to expect him to perform at an All-NBA level, every night.  With the current state of affairs, Harden would have to have 4 out of 7 magnificent performances, in 4 consecutive rounds, for Houston to win the title.  That’s a huge load to carry in 2016.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of www.Red94.net.

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