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@  jorgeaam : (06 October 2015 - 07:47 PM) Well, thinking twice about it, I'd rather have him score less and have the team as a whole do better. Lawson should take a lot of his load off
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@  thejohnnygold : (29 September 2015 - 05:16 AM) FYI, it was media day today. Interviews are up at NBA.com
@  slick shoes : (23 September 2015 - 06:37 PM) kind of late in the day but NBATV is broadcasting classis Rockets games all day today.
@  SadLakerFan : (16 September 2015 - 04:37 AM) Man, as a Laker fan, I'm learning how little you care about the off season when your team sucks. Anyway, a quick moment to remember Moses. Still remember watching the 81 team as a kid - losing record, NBA Finals. I would have cried w/joy if they could have beaten the Celtics.
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@  jorgeaam : (15 September 2015 - 08:30 PM) So to celebrate his new contract, Montrezl Harrell saved someone's life on monday
@  thejohnnygold : (14 September 2015 - 04:36 PM) A good article from Blinebury talking about when Hakeem and Moses used to play in the park. LINK

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The day after, and three days away: Reflecting upon Houston's complete collapse


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#1 Red94

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    Posted 18 April 2013 - 01:44 PM

    New post: The day after, and three days away: Reflecting upon Houston's complete collapse
    By: rahat huq

    It's 7:07 A.M. right now at the time of writing.  I've had a little over six hours now to digest last night's loss.  I've calmed down a bit and am glad I stepped away when I did.  Had I not, I would have certainly written things I'd later regret - things fueled by pure, unadulterated anger.  As I said last night, I was livid.  In fact, I don't think I can even recall the last time I've been so upset during and after a Houston Rockets game.

    The unfortunate part is that this should be a time for celebration.  The team will be playing its first playoff game since 2009, and its first playoff game in Red94's existence.  Instead, all I feel right now is anger: anger over the way the team completely choked at the end, for the second year in a row, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and bumbling away a golden chance to face a hobbled Spurs team against whom some felt they can beat.  Instead, they will now open at Oklahoma City, the expected Western Conference champion.

     Last night's meltdown started and ended in predictable fashion in the same manner in which we've seen far too many losses this season.  The Rockets began the 4th with another one of Kevin McHale's patented smallball lineups, one that saw journeyman Carlos Delfino guarding the 7-foot Pau Gasol.  Both Jeremy Lin and James Harden sat on the bench--a predicament which by any evaluative measure, either statistical or observational, should absolutely never occur yet for some baffling reason continues to with unacceptable frequency--and things played out as expected.  The Lakers, with the size advantage, gained momentum and then never looked back.  That's really all it takes in the NBA.  One lineup error for a one-minute stretch and the game turns.  I had written all along, through the first three quarters, that while Houston was leading, one just didn't feel comfortable.  Things got much worse, though.

    The starters were brought back in and what ensued over the next several minutes, spanning from the latter half of the 4th quarter through overtime, was what I described last night, in the moment, as a complete and utter disgrace.  Now let's take a quick moment to step back for some perspective: the Rockets choking in the clutch is nothing new.  In fact, I wrote about it just the other day.  Their league-leading offense shrinks to one of the worst in basketball in late-game situations.  So this is a problem you saw coming.  Why it became so tough to stomach was because of the stakes and the stage, and a duration which felt like an eternity.

    As is pretty much the case anytime the Rockets are involved in a close game in the 4th quarter, the team completely abandoned its pick&roll offense, resorting to the dreaded "hero-ball spread."  For those who have been living in a cave, (or don't have CSN), this is a set where, essentially James Harden holds the ball at the top of the key while the other 4 players spread out of the way.  Harden then dribbles the ball for about 20 seconds and chucks up some variation of a contested jumper, whether it be from straightaway '3' or of the stepback variety within 2 point range.

    The offense completely sputtered, LA capitalized at the other end and maintained the lead.  Chandler Parsons then hit perhaps the flattest 3 point shot in the history of basketball, everyone on Twitter erupts, and the game goes to overtime.

    The Rockets then start out overtime, in creative fashion, running a few isolation sets for Parsons.  Those of course don't end well.  Harden starts hogging again, gets blocked a few times and the game ends.  See you in Oklahoma on TBD at TBD.

    A few thoughts which may or may not end completely off topic: Who is to blame: Harden or McHale?  First, Harden.  Actually, scratch that.  Let's say the good first:

    • Omer Asik had one of his best games of the season, completely shutting down Dwight Howard in the first half.  Jeff Van Gundy remarked numerous times in the first quarter, "I don't understand why they're doubling Howard against Asik.  His (Omer's) defense is better than Howard's offense."  I didn't understand McHale's reasoning either.  Of course, the double teams led to numerous open 3's in the first quarter, shots which enabled the Lakers to stay in the game at that point.  In any event, Asik sealed off the paint and converted numerous other times offensively with violent slams.

    • Chandler Parsons really seems to play his best on national television.


    Now, the bad:

    • This was Harden's worst game of the year.  30 points on 25 shots.  Going vigilante on offense (unless that was the call from the bench; more on this later.)  Bitching at teammates for his own mistakes.  Interestingly, viewing the fan reaction on Twitter and other venues, you can kind of sense the end of the honeymoon for the faithful with Harden.  Now in no means am I implying that he isn't adored.  Unless J.J Watt were also running, Harden would win any mayoral contest here - he's basically put the Rockets back on the map and given this city hope it hasn't had in years.  What I mean though is that, we've entered that phase where, after the honeymoon, you still deeply adore your significant other but you no longer view them as The Second Coming.  You start to see the flaws and realize you're going to have to cope with them.  That's becoming the case with Harden.  His abysmal defense has already been extensively documented.  Now it's the late game hero-call spontaneity and the bitching at teammates.

    • I noted several times last night where Harden, after throwing an errant pass to Asik, which Asik predictably failed to reel in, barked at the Turk on the way back down.  This is something I've seen many other times over the course of this season.  I quipped on Twitter that this is quickly becoming an abusive relationship as Asik just turns, puts his head down and meekly runs back to the other side of the court.  The irony here is that for all of the times Asik has covered for Harden on the defensive end, you'd think he'd have boughten him a Rolex by now or something.  Sidenote: A friend and I have a theory that the only way to stop the abuse is to nip it in the bud from the get-go.  Did you ever have that fat friend in childhood who never said anything when everyone picked on him and made fat jokes?  What happens is that after the initial taunts are not met with rebuke, it becomes ingrained in the public gestalt that such ridicule is acceptable.  This then perpetuates the abuse.  Same thing in sports.  You'll often see that teams are quick to heap blame on one particular whipping boy, even when unjustified, simply because they've let it be known that they'll allow it.

    • McHale: I wrote this summer, in my evaluation of his performance last season, that Kevin McHale deserved a C+.  What was an 'A' for his handling of such a young team was brought down to a 'C' for his role in one of the greatest meltdowns in franchise history.  That same can be said for this season though not to the same degree as this loss is in no way comparable to a 6 game late season losing streak.  It's simple, and Jeff Van Gundy has said it himself.  When a team gets blown out, its on the players.  When they lose close games, especially in the exact same manner every time, that's on the coaching.  Whether ISOball is the call from the bench or Harden is going off cue is a subject for later debate, but there is simply no justification for some of the completely unimaginative plays the Rockets have run out of timeouts.  Throw a wrinkle in here and there.  Instead of 4 guys watching Harden, how about 3 guys watching Harden while one guy bends over to tie his shoes!  I don't know...do something to vary it up.  There is literally no excuse for the game to end last night, on a critical possession, with Jeremy Lin chucking a desperation 3 pointer after James Harden dribbled away 20 seconds from the shot clock.  None.


    Finally, it begs the transcendental debate: is it Harden or McHale?  If we build from the premise--regarding which everyone should be in agreement--that the Rockets' late-game offensive schemes are completely unacceptable, upon whom should the fault be placed?  There are those who put it on McHale, believing that the total abandonment of the team's actual offense is by design.  And then there are those put it on Harden, assuming that The Beard is ad libbing off cue against his coach's instructions.  Either way, there's going to have to be a solution and you can bet it will be discussed: the superiority of team offense over conventional crunchtime ISOball is almost axiomatic in the stat-geek community.  But what's the solution?  If McHale is the problem, you just replace him.  But if it's Harden, there's hope too: numerous other young superstars, from Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, had to be reined in and made to understand the importance of trusting the scheme and trusting their teammates.  Remember: James is just 23.  This is his first time in the spotlight and he no doubt wants to prove his worth.  I suspect that with age and experience, these warts will change.  But in many cases, at least in Jordan's and Kobe's, it took a coach that the star actually respected, for that transformation to occur.  Now, I don't want to speculate, especially on the eve of the playoffs, but while we all may disagree on the cause of the issue, we can agree it's a problem that needs to be fixed and probably won't be addressed until the summer.

    Whatever happens, this was fun, and despite the 'bad', this was still an unforgettable season and one of the most enjoyable in Rockets history, primarily because of the efforts of the two men upon whom I just cast blame above.  Bring on the Thunder.

     
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    #2 Jason

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      Posted 18 April 2013 - 02:58 PM

      I respectfully hate the title of your article. I do not see that we had a "complete collapse" at all. I am proud of this team for winning 45 games (despite being projected to win around 30) and making the playoffs. Clearly the team has some growing up to do but to say that we completely collapsed is absurd in my opinion.
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      #3 pharmag

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        Posted 18 April 2013 - 03:05 PM

        With the isoball, I think there is a little chicken and egg scenario too.  I know fatigue is not excuse, but it must be considered.  The question then becomes, does hero ball happen because Harden wants it to or does it happen as a byproduct of the team not moving around.  I think it is a mix of both.  There are plenty of times where Harden calls off screen and just have everyone spread.  However, on the bricked Lin 3 where Harden passed it to him at end of shot clock, Smith set a pick on Blake so Lin could drift to corner,where Harden could drive and kick to him for wide open 3.  Lin didn't move at all.  Now that is not to say that Harden would have driven and kicked, but even if he had, there was no one to kick to.  I think Harden deserves the brunt cause he needs to step up and lead, but I think the team enables him to play hero-ball by not moving around.  And I think alot of that relates back to the team is just gassed by the end of games, and if you don't have the ball, it is really easy to just stand there.


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        #4 Mario Peña

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        Posted 18 April 2013 - 03:07 PM

        I understand your frustration Rahat, you were mad as hell I bet. But I gotta say though this team disappoints often, I knew to expect it and that there would be nights like that because they are just too young to expect them to be any more consistent. I think I am realistic and the fact is the Rockets have just not been playing good basketball, you can't shoot about 40% from the field and 25% from the three point line in Staples against the surging Lakers (winning 7 of last 8) led by a couple Hall of Famers in Howard and Gasol and expect to win, in fact it's surprising it was as close as it was considering it from that perspective.

         

        Key rotation players are slumping or not at their best right now. I have documented the drastic increase in minutes for the Rockets' rotation players as well (Lin last year-940/this year-2640, Harden 1946/2985, Asik 971/2464) and it's not even debatable the toll that it has taken especially considering the pace at which they play for their scheme to succeed. In the past seven games Harden is shooting 36%FG/68%FT/36%3FG and Lin is shooting 39%/75%/35% and that my fellow forum members is some kind of slump the backcourt is in (the FT% is telling and may indicate fatigue). Parsons and Delfino have not been 100% and that combined with the fact that we have no backup center and no real resolution to the situation at the 4 with the backcourt slumping and the Rockets are clearly running out of gas and focus.

         

        They will be better and have more depth next year.


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        How sweet it is!

        #5 Jason

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          Posted 18 April 2013 - 03:10 PM

          I understand your frustration Rahat, you were mad as hell I bet. But I gotta say though this team disappoints often, I knew to expect it and that there would be nights like that because they are just too young to be anymore consistent. I am realistic and the fact is the Rockets have just not been playing good basketball, you can't shoot about 40% from the field and 25% from the three point line in Staples against the surging Lakers (winning 7 of last 8) led by a couple Hall of Famers in Howard and Gasol and expect to win, in fact it's surprising it was as close as it was considering it from that perspective.

          Key rotation players are slumping or not at their best right now. I have documented the drastic increase in minutes for the Rockets' rotation players as well (Lin last year-940/this year-2640, Harden 1946/2985, Asik 971/2464) and it's even not debatable the toll that has taken especially considering the pace at which they play for their scheme to succeed. In the past seven games Harden is shooting 36%FG/68%FT/36%3FG and Lin is shooting 39%/75%/35% and that my fellow forum members is some kind of slump the backcourt is in. Parsons and Delfino have not been 100% and that combined with the fact that we have no backup center and no real resolution to the situation at the 4 with the backcourt slumping and the Rockets are clearly running out of gas and focus.

          They will be better and have more depth next year.


          Great post. I agree with all of this.
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          #6 rockets best fan

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          Posted 18 April 2013 - 03:48 PM

          Rahat

          totally agree with your assessment. it was a collapse. not as dramatic as last year, but still a collapse. that's coaching plain and simple. if McHale is truly against hero-ball why has he allowed it to continue all season long. he is the coach......if he wanted to change it  do you believe it would still be happening? I too was livid last night. I didn't get on the boards last night because I too needed time to gain perspective. HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM..........our coach stinks.


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          you can only warn a man that the bridge is out.....if he keeps driving he's on his own B)


          #7 miketheodio

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            Posted 18 April 2013 - 03:50 PM

            i gave mchale the benefit of the doubt all year. i assumed the team would grow and mchale would learn with the roster changes (he'd come up big where it really mattered). look at their overtime record. look at their record in close games. his rotations completely killed the flow in last nights game.

             

            if these same patterns exist next year (no half court offense), i wouldn't keep him around the next one.


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            #8 Mario Peña

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            Posted 18 April 2013 - 03:56 PM

            Rahat

            totally agree with your assessment. it was a collapse. not as dramatic as last year, but still a collapse. that's coaching plain and simple. if McHale is truly against hero-ball why has he allowed it to continue all season long. he is the coach......if he wanted to change it  do you believe it would still be happening? I too was livid last night. I didn't get on the boards last night because I too needed time to gain perspective. HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM..........our coach stinks.

             

             

            I have to respectfully disagree (you knew I would). This is no where near a collapse, It's a fatigued and inexperienced team that is slumping. Those are the facts that McHale is dealing with right now, not a good hand.


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            How sweet it is!

            #9 miketheodio

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              Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:18 PM

              I have to respectfully disagree (you knew I would). This is no where near a collapse, It's a fatigued and inexperienced team that is slumping. Those are the facts that McHale is dealing with right now, not a good hand.

               

              the same problems have existed all year. when the shots go in, the problem gets ignored.


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              #10 Mario Peña

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              Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:29 PM

              the same problems have existed all year. when the shots go in, the problem gets ignored.

               

               

              Of course they have. They are not deep enough to play the style Morey implemented, not experienced enough to grind out the season, no solution at the 4, no back up for Asik, no training camp with the franchise player, no continuity at perhaps the most important position in the system (Patterson's team defense/stretch 4 factor) and too much of an offensive load on Harden that he cannot carry when no one is hitting 3's and Lin is playing poorly.

              I agree these were problems the Rockets had all year and somehow Morey and McHale squeaked out 45 wins and a playoff birth.


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              How sweet it is!

              #11 Freebird

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              Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:34 PM

              I think we all know the Rockets have not been playing their best ball for the past 12 games or so.  They are a .500 team since that emotional win over San Antonio.  Are they tired?  Perhaps.  I find it interesting that Delfino and Parsons are playing well since taking a few games off.  Perhaps McHale needs to pull a Pop and schedule some time off for everyone to avoid exhaustion.

               

              That said, I agree with Rahat - this was a collapse.  Not a seasonal one, but an in-game one.  I felt they controlled the game well into the 3rd, but did not make the effort to put some distance between themselves and the Lakers.  When a team hangs around... well, you know.

               

              The heroball *IS* a problem, and I really hope it's addressed.  We have a motion-type offense - stopping the ball cannot happen and have things end well consistently.  However, while I doubt McHale calls it, I think condoning it is wrong, too.  Perhaps he's letting them learn the hard way?

               

              Also, the squawking is typical when under stress.  Especially when the new "star" player is under the additional pressure of trying to force a particular matchup in the postseason.  They'll work that out, hopefully.


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              #12 Mario Peña

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              Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:43 PM

              "Houston looks like they are running out of gas, especially James Harden."

               

              -Bill Simmons


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              How sweet it is!

              #13 idiotfan

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                Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:45 PM



                These Rockets are overachievers. First year together. None of the guys have ever started, really. All youngsters. They ARE NOT at the talent level of an OKC or Miami... they are like a Lakers or a Jazz or a Golden State.

                The team lives and dies with the guards. Yet this game they managed to almost win on the road despite bad performances from the guards.

                Can they beat OKC? YES, if they continue to overachieve.
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                #14 idiotfan

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                  Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:56 PM



                  this loss is exactly what the Rockets needed. Just two games ago they were all high on cloud9, spouting their mouths and saying they are clicking now and being irrationally (over)confident.

                  This team performs when they overachieve... when they recognize that they must play their absolute best to win against the playoff teams. When OKC is on cruise control, they are still a dominant team. When the Rockets are on cruise control (you know, feeling comfy with their ability and thinking MAKING the playoffs is a huge accomplishment), they are a .500 team.
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                  #15 bboley24

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                    Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:58 PM

                    I think KM should spend more time with his family.  Coaching just isn't for him.  

                     

                    Bring on Sampson.


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                    #16 tombrokeoff

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                    Posted 18 April 2013 - 05:02 PM

                    growing pains SUCK


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                    #17 Rahat Huq

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                      Posted 18 April 2013 - 05:20 PM

                      Henry Abbott on this: http://espn.go.com/b...red-the-rockets


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                      #18 bob schmidt

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                      Posted 18 April 2013 - 05:30 PM

                      The loss last evening was more the product of 'playoff style' officiating in my opinion. Gasol and Howard both benefitted from being allowed to play a rougher style game than normally permitted. Frankly, I am just glad that we apparently survived without any significant injuries.

                       

                      As to Delfino playing well (someone commented on this), he and Garcia sucked with their play last night. When we were rolling along and at our best, Delfino was deadly with his 3 point shooting. Last night, no points and Garcia managed only one 2 point shot and a pair of free throws.  There can be no question that our starters were overused and totally gassed. That was a failure in coaching.

                       

                      I hope that the series with OKC will feature more frequent rotations, and with more use of Beverly late in the game. He is so disruptive with his D late in games that he creates offense with it. (sure could have used some of that last night)  One coaching move that I hope to see in the playoffs is the designation of a 'bad boy' enforcer, maybe T-Rob, to force the officials to call fouls on the bigs so that they aren't permit the muggings that Gasol and Howard administered in LA. There has to be an antidote that our coaches can come up with to force the officials to call a reasonable game... Otherwise, our season is essentially over.


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                      #19 rzhen

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                        Posted 18 April 2013 - 05:30 PM



                        Great piece, especially in regards to Asik's defense and the Harden/Asik relationship. Harden must've gone 1 for 6 on lob passes, with the only success being to Chandler Parsons for an alley-oop almost identical to Lin's pass a few minutes prior. Sad the Spurs -> Nugs/Warriors -> OKC route didn't happen for the playoffs, oh what could've been.
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                        #20 rockets best fan

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                        Posted 18 April 2013 - 05:37 PM

                        others can continue to give McHale all the excuses you want to.......to me bottom line is it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out delfino can't guard pau gasol. that was the dumbest move of the year. McHale was exposed last night and will continue to be exposed against OKC.


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                        you can only warn a man that the bridge is out.....if he keeps driving he's on his own B)





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