The biggest game of the season

A part of me still thinks the Rockets will make the postseason.  Well, let’s just say it wouldn’t surprise me given the way this season has played out.  Tonight will be the team’s last ‘hard’ (on paper) matchup out of what is left.  Golden State should be a cakewalk, as should the Hornets (Kaman out for the year.)  The Heat game is a tossup – will they still be in the race for the #1 seed or will they rest their starters?  The Rockets could very likely go 4-1.

The Suns have games remaining against OKC, the Clippers, Denver, the Jazz, and the Spurs, a ‘who’s who’ murderer’s row of opponents.  Except for that last game where one would expect Pops to rest his big guns, one could easily see Phoenix drop all of those matchups.  But that still leaves Denver, Dallas, and Utah to compete with Houston for the last three spots.

The Jazz have a joke of a schedule remaining, headlined by two with the Aldridge-less Blazers and one with the Howard-less Magic.  Their only true test left is against Phoenix.

The Mavs have games left against Houston, Golden State, Chicago, and Atlanta.  Who knows what to make of that…will the Bulls have the #1 seed locked up?  Will the Hawks still be fighting out the 4-5-6?  These things are too difficult to forecast.

Finally, the Nuggets close out with the Clippers, Suns, Magic, Thunder, and Timberwolves.  That schedule is a tossup.

After an embarrassing week, the Rockets also don’t own the tiebreaker against any of these other clubs.  So here we are, hoping for the best when a week ago the team controlled it’s own destiny.  So it goes for the Rockets this season.  One probably should not have expected anything less.

standings 300x144 The biggest game of the season

click to enlarge

I asked on Twitter yesterday if any of you would support a decision to bench Kyle Lowry and roll with the lineup that knocked off the Bulls and Lakers for these final games.  After all – desperate times call for drastic measures.  The team has looked completely out of sync since Lowry’s return with players no longer seeming to know their roles in this new rotation.  Where before, Dragic was the undisputed ball-controller, things seem to have bogged down.  The question was posed tongue-in-cheek but to my surprise, the majority of you responded affirmatively.  Rest assured, that won’t happen.  As one reader put it, the long-term benefits of playing Lowry far exceed any short term potential gain.  Besides, if you bench him now, you lose him forever.

The more interesting scenario would involve bringing back Kevin Martin, a move I would fully endorse.  Why not?  The argument against, for these past few weeks, was that his return would throw off the chemistry this rotation had developed.  However, with Lowry’s return already causing that damage, there’s probably nothing left to lose by bringing back the other backcourt opening day starter.

If I’m McHale, I’d bring back Martin and create two separate quintets.  I’d start Dragic, Lee, Parsons, Camby, and Scola, the group that beat the Lakers and Bulls, and play them together in the first and first half of the third.  I’d then bring off the bench, as one complete unit, Lowry, Martin, Budinger, Dalembert, and Patterson to play the second, latter half of the third and former half of the fourth.  (The ironic part about that second group is that four of the five players were opening day starters.)

I pose this suggestion more in jest but I’m sure it would have its merits.  As I said, why not at this point?  You keep in tact groups that have played together and instill some sense of accountability.  The group that plays the best gets to close out the fourth quarter.  Good thing I’m not an NBA coach or ideas like playing Luis Scola at the ‘5’ would seem tame in comparison..

Speaking of, that was all the talk after Monday night’s loss as Kevin McHale once again closed with two power forwards.  From Twitter, to the radio airwaves, to the pages of the Internet, loyalists everywhere screamed in frustration over the decision that has seemingly lost so many games.  I’d like to one day ask Daryl Morey his thoughts on the lineup and whether it’s value is affirmed by any stretch of numbers because, from the naked eye, it seems to have brought nothing but evil.

I did notice the other night, digging for something, via 82games, that Patrick Patterson leads the entire NBA in crunch time +/-, for whatever that’s worth.  So there’s that.  (The team is a -3.2 overall with the Patterson/Scola lineup.  I don’t seem to have any 2-man crunch time stats.)  They want Patterson in there for his keen sense of defensive rotations, a decision I agree with.  But paired with Scola, it’s difficult to watch.  Still, I can’t fault McHale too much on that call as a center probably would not have fared well guarding Al Harrington on the perimeter.

Speaking of Patterson, the last sophomore slump this bad that I can remember is when the guy that sat in front of me in 10th grade Algebra opted not to retake his mid-term when given the chance–after making a 33–because “it ain’t worth it.”

At this rate, with Marcus Morris also already sidelined, one hopes the Rockets have better luck with this year’s #14.

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