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@  SadLakerFan : (01 June 2015 - 04:26 AM) I want to go to Game 2 of the Finals, but prices are really high. There are 2700 tickets (out of a capacity of 19,500) up for resale - that's a ton. Hoping prices drop a bit.
@  kidnextdoor : (01 June 2015 - 02:58 AM) I read somewhere if Atlanta get a max free agent they will have to let Millsap go.
@  Losthief : (31 May 2015 - 03:53 PM) Paul millsap is a free agent, i'd want him more than Love, but would he leave atlanta?
@  JY86er : (30 May 2015 - 12:37 AM) I wouldnt want him. Not after a Jeff Spicoli looking sorry guy was able to pull his arm outta socket.
@  majik19 : (28 May 2015 - 08:05 PM) Offensively, I have no doubt that Love would be a great fit. Defensively... not so much. I think it's more important to upgrade the 1 than the 4 this offseason, assuming D-mo is healthy.
@  Mario Peña : (28 May 2015 - 07:08 PM) I can't make it but I thought I'd post that for the Houston guys.
@  Mario Peña : (28 May 2015 - 07:07 PM) From the Red Rowdies: Do you want to greet the Rockets today as they arrive back? Go to 8402 Nelms Houston, TX 77061 around 3:30 ‪#‎Support‬
@  Cooper : (28 May 2015 - 06:15 PM) would have to strip the roster to get him, let him lose in la with 40 yr old kobe and crazy rondo.
@  thenit : (28 May 2015 - 06:08 PM) Love interested in Lakers, Rockets and Celtics. Anyone here who wants him ?
@  majik19 : (28 May 2015 - 04:25 PM) It was a great year, and I think Harden will look at Game 2 and Game 5 and strive to be better. If he had gone out on a high note (say Game 4), there would probably be less motivation. But not with a game like that.
@  SadLakerFan : (28 May 2015 - 10:01 AM) Great season. Harden looked perplexed out there, almost like Lebron in 2010. He'll figure things out.
@  Johnny Rocket : (28 May 2015 - 08:31 AM) Thanks, Rox--great season!
@  RudyT1995 : (28 May 2015 - 05:43 AM) Wonder what he'll do this year to make Cuban look like a fool.
@  RudyT1995 : (28 May 2015 - 05:43 AM) Interesting off-season coming up. Time for Morey to work his magic.
@  Mario Peña : (28 May 2015 - 04:57 AM) What a year! It's a great time to be a Rockets fan!
@  miketheodio : (28 May 2015 - 04:06 AM) many records were broken this series
@  Willk : (28 May 2015 - 04:03 AM) Morey's time not team
@  Willk : (28 May 2015 - 04:02 AM) it is now Morey's team
@  Willk : (28 May 2015 - 04:02 AM) the future is bright
@  JY86er : (28 May 2015 - 04:00 AM) If you told me this team would lose in the conf finals after losing out on Bosh and Parsons. I'd say u were cray cray. thank u Rockets

Red94

Member Since 25 Sep 2012
Offline Last Active Apr 28 2015 01:56 AM
*****

#16345 Game 1: Houston Rockets @ OKC Thunder, Sunday 8:30 PM CST

Posted by Red94 on 20 April 2013 - 02:21 PM

New post: Previewing Rockets/Thunder: The Chaos Principle and '3rd and long'
By: rahat huq

It all starts tomorrow.  The matchup for which the national media had been begging.  If the Rockets somehow pull it off, by some act of divine intervention, it would surely be the greatest upset in NBA history.  What distinguishes this from Golden State over Dallas (currently considered the greatest upset) is the storyline element of the banished son returning to conquer and reclaim disinherited lands.  Or something like that.

In my mind, there are only a few ways this series can play out.  If Houston wins game 1, either Houston or Oklahoma City will win in 7.  If Oklahoma City wins game 1, Houston's only chance at winning a game in the series is in Game 3, and the Thunder will win the series in either 4 or 5 games.  Thus, there is only one scenario by which Houston can win this series.  Note that this analysis was in no way based on any relevant mathematical data and was largely pulled out of my ass and thought up in the shower this morning.



This is basically the football equivalent of '3rd and long.'  For those of you unfamiliar with football, '3rd and long' is a scenario which, when the Houston Texans are on 3rd down and in need of over 20 yards to reach the 1st down marker, essentially calls for Matt Schaub to hand the ball off to his running back  for a gain of like five inches.  The team then punts the ball on the next possession.  This is a set of events which should be avoided in all aspects of life.



When the odds are stacked against you, to succeed, you can't play it safe.  You must introduce chaos and random variables to improve your chances at winning.  In example, Oklahoma City, by any evaluative measure, is a far, far, far better team than the Houston Rockets.  If the two teams were to play 10 times, with no variables (ie: playing the same way they played in the regular season) the probability would hold that the Thunder would win a majority, based on the historical data available (ie: everything that just happened over the last 82 games).  Thus, the logic would bear that the Rockets, to increase their odds at winning, would increase variables to escape the set probability.  Again, doing what's expected has already proven to be inferior and will bear out a predictable outcome.  (Through this, we can also hereby conclude that because this is what the logic holds, Kevin McHale will do the complete opposite.  I kid, I kid.  I won't go there for today.)

How can the Rockets introduce variables?  Well, for one, they can shoot more 3's.  By intrinsic nature, an inordinate volume of 3's always give the inferior opponent a greater chance against his counterpart just due to the greater expected value of each shot, in comparison to 2 pointers.  But this is obvious - they'll probably do this.  What else can they do?

  1. They can gamble for more steals.  If they play it safe, and play their game, they can't beat the Thunder.  The Thunder on their game are a better team than the Rockets on their game.
  2. They can full-court press: If I were Houston, I would manufacture the minutes to where every one of Beverley's minutes is against Westbrook, and then I would have Beverley trap Westbrook fullcourt the entire time.  I don't expect this to happen.
  3. I would only bench Lin when Westbrook is on the court (ie: if Westbrook is on the bench, Lin should never be on the bench.)  This has the effect of, aside from pitting Beverley's minutes against Westbrook's, giving Lin as many repetitions against inferior defenders.  Lin's opportunities must be maximized.  This too is something I have no expectation of the coaching staff doing.

Jeremy Lin, as the only player other than Harden on this team who can create his own shot, is the key to the Rockets' chances.  Asik and Parsons will likely give you what you are expecting.  Harden will probably average 30 and could be efficient but may also not be.  The rookies and Greg Smith, aside from an emotional Game 3, will most likely provide very little.  Delfino and Garcia I think will explode in at least one of the home games.  There will be ISOs in close games.  And there will be tons and tons of smallball, particularly because a) the Thunder do not have a lowpost scorer and b) as aforementioned, it is highly likely that the rookies will provide nothing.  (In fact, as I type this, I'd almost consider ditching everything and starting Delfino at power forward with Garcia as his backup and just tossing aside the rookies altogether.  That adds more chaos.)

In any event, we forget that in the one game in which the Rockets beat the Thunder, while Harden had 46, Lin had 29.  In fact, when Lin plays well, the Rockets almost always win.  If the Rockets are going to even have any chance in hell of winning this series, there will almost have to be sustained spurts of Linsanity.  He will have to be given freedom to operate.  However, aside from what we saw in the regular season, there is close to no chance of said freedom being given, simply due to the fact that, while logic may dictate otherwise during underdog settings, coaches tend to become even more conservative in the postseason. (More on this below).  In essence, they need to get Lin going but I don't expect it to happen.

The upside to this is that Beverley, a great defender, will get plenty of time against Westbrook.  Of course, this ignores the fact that Lin, against conventional wisdom, is actually a more than capable defender, having forced Westbrook into 41% shooting and almost 5 turnovers per game in their head to head meetings.

Explanation: As explained, the logic holds that the best chance at winning would be to avoid the norms and go off cue.  But conversely, coaches typically do the opposite and become even more conservative.  This is largely due to the overconfidence bias whereby the actor holds an irrational belief in his abilities.  Coaches think that to win, they have to play the perfect game, and by extension, they think that there is a greater chance of their team playing the perfect game than winning by changing everything up.

Case in point: the Indiana game at Toyota Center.  Harden was completely bottled up by Paul George, the offense was stagnant, and the team was down but not out.  Instead of bringing in Lin, the only other player that can create a shot, McHale stuck with Beverley and continued feeding Harden.  His rationale was likely that "we have a better chance of doing a good job of what we do than succeeding by doing something different."  I disagree with this thinking, but I digress as we've already beaten this point to death.

I actually give the Rockets a 50% chance to win Game 1.  We'll see what happens after that, but I think the Thunder will come out sleeping and Harden will come out absolutely pissed.  If that's enough to sustain the team for 48 minutes will be up to how the other factors bear out.

 

 
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#16067 The day after, and three days away: Reflecting upon Houston's complete co...

Posted by Red94 on 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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#15559 The Daily Blast - April 15, 2013

Posted by Red94 on 15 April 2013 - 03:49 AM

New post: The Daily Blast - April 15, 2013
By: John Eby

The Climb - The Rockets edged up into the sixth seed in the West this weekend thanks to a blowout win over Sacramento, and Golden State's not-at-all-suspicious loss to the Lakers in a game with a 50-16 free throw disparity. This is beneficial to the Rockets, so please disperse.  To be fair to the Lakers and the referees, I didn't see the (now historic) second half of that game, and Golden State is one of the grabbiest defenses in the league, so it wouldn't surprise me if 50 free throws were warranted.

Achilles - It has not been much discussed in the blogosphere outside of our forums, but Kobe Bryant's injury could have huge implications for whether Dwight Howard stays in L.A. or goes to Houston. While I still think the Lakers could be successful with a hobbled Bryant and a more Dwight-centric game plan, Howard would still be second-fiddle to Bryant in the organization even as Kobe's game declines. Let's hope he avoids that sticky situation.

Sympathy for the Devil - Perspective from an avowed Kobe hater--myself--on the injury as posted in the forums this Saturday:

Quote:

I've never felt so conflicted about an athlete before. Kobe Bryant is my least favorite personality in all of professional sports. I've rooted against him in every game he has ever played (my dad is a Celtics fan, so I inherited some sports hate). I'm convinced that for much of his career, he has been protected by the league's vested economic interest in his (Lakers) success--there hasn't been a player since Jordan that opponents tried so hard *not* to foul, giving him the space he needs to pull off his countless heroic, infuriating jumpers.

At the same time, his work ethic, fitness and commitment to winning are undeniable. If he began his career in a Rockets jersey, he would probably be my favorite player by now. He works and competes the way that every fan wishes every player on their team would do. It's nice to think that things go right for people who do the right thing. We want sports to reflect what we hope is true in our own lives--that hard work equals success. That fickle fate won't destroy our dreams. Kobe's ability to defy his age through relentless work was validation of that hope.
Last night, with poetic cruelty, Kobe's Achilles' tendon proved how naive that hope can be.

The Beverly Files - Shoutout to 2016Champions for starting discussion on this article from the Dream Shake this weekend. It's a thorough and enlightening scouting report on the Tasmanian Devil who plays backup PG for the Rockets:

Quote:

Part of why Patrick has such an effect comes from his ability to create extra possessions when he is on the court. His single game stats usually do not jump out at you, but as a collective whole, they demonstrate how active he is on the court. He steals, grabs offensive rebounds, blocks shots, and draws charges, all in limited time. Every time he gets one of those, he single-handedly eliminates an opposing position and converts it to a Rockets possession.

The article goes on to say only one guard in the NBA, Eric Bledsoe, generates more possessions for his team.

Tweet That - Daryl Morey retweeted this guy (girl?) who makes an excellent point:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/jamie0613/status/323597564479946752"]

Got any sweet links or suggestions? Email them to [email protected] or message @EbyNews on Twitter.
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#15385 Lakers believe Kobe Bryant has torn his Achilles

Posted by Red94 on 13 April 2013 - 11:02 PM

New post: More thoughts on Kobe, Howard implications
By: rahat huq

When I first sat down to write this, at 6AM this morning, the shock from last night had still not worn off.  I moved onto other priorities and in the twelve hours since, have had some time to reflect and understand my emotions.

A reader mentioned that upon hearing the news, he really felt nothing.  He speculated that this was due to his age.  I think he was right on point.

I'm 28 years old.  I started watching the NBA in 1993 when I was 8.  Jordan was gone.  I didn't even really appreciate Hakeem.  When Jordan came back and finished out, I still really didn't think much of it.  I hadn't been invested as a spectator from the start of his career.



In my viewing life, the "ultra-greats"--those guys you could put in a top-10/top-15 of all-time discussion--who I've seen from start to finish were Shaq, Duncan, Garnett, and Kobe.  The former 3, while still effective, all faded into supporting roles towards their later years (or in Shaq's case into a complete caricature of himself on TNT.)  Duncan and Garnett obviously are still playing.  The greats regarding whom I was not invested (due to my age and not having seen them from the start) were the likes of Hakeem and Barkley.  They too faded but they too had going away tours.  You knew it was coming.

The Kobe news hits so hard because it represents the fall of the most iconic player of my childhood's generation, at his supreme peak, completely unwarned.  There was no tour; we didn't see it coming; it just happened.  In the midst of what might have been his greatest season ever.  It's just shock.  Almost like the assassination of a President.

You look back on Bryant's career with amazement.  Consider: his 'peers', essentially, were Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, and Tracy McGrady, the latter two of whom now reside in China, with the former being considered a 'surprise' for his contributions as a role-player.  Bryant, at 34, will likely again make the All-NBA team.

I watched every minute of that game live and he actually got injured two other times, earlier on.  After "the injury", it still didn't click.  You saw him limping back to the bench after those two free throws but you knew he'd just come right back in later on.  You saw it happen, something that, if it happened to anyone else, you'd immediately conceptualize the severity, but with Bryant, you just assumed it wasn't serious.  There is no comparison between an injury and death.  But a quote from Notorious B.I.G. regarding Tupac's death comes to mind:

Quote:

so when they were like he got shot i was like again? ya know what im saying hes always getting shot or shot at. he gonna pull through this one again make a few records about it and its gonna be over ya know what im saying? but when he died i was just like wow..

The irony of Bryant is that he's probably the most overrated player in basketball history, or, at the least, in modern history.  It's the arduousness of his supporters (in their 'count the rings' illogicalities) which actually takes away from a proper appreciation of what the man meant to this sport.  When he's talked about as the 'greatest ever' and protected of his flaws, it dampens the certitude of the stuff that put him amongst the greatest.  He wasn't the best.  But he was the most committed and dedicated to his craft, perhaps ever.  He was an artist who put supreme diligence to the honing of his skill.  He approached his trade in a manner not humanly possible.  For that we can only revere him.

This reads like an obituary but Kobe will be back.  I wish it weren't the case.  Just like I wish Jordan hadn't come back in Washington.  He'll work his tail off in rehab and probably crack 20 points per game once again, just on the strength of his fundamentals.  But I don't want that.  I don't want to tarnish the memory of my generation's icon.  I want to see him go out on top, and I think, the way he had been playing, were he to hang it up today, it would be, in a way, leaving ontop.

**

The focus now turns to the Lakers who will have to move on to life after Kobe.  Will Dwight Howard stick around?  They had to run their best player into the ground just to squeak into the 8th; that team will surely be even worse next year upon Bryant's return.

For Howard, it now becomes a clear choice: winning vs. money.  Houston now represents his most viable option to win a championship.  Will he take the 5th year with L.A. or will he bolt?  Things now become much more interesting.
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#15263 Lakers believe Kobe Bryant has torn his Achilles

Posted by Red94 on 13 April 2013 - 05:56 AM

New post: Lakers believe Kobe Bryant has torn his Achilles
By: rahat huq

This is unreal.  I'm still literally in shock.  After Rockets-Grizzlies ended, I switched over to watch Lakers-Warriors in its entirety.  I bought League Pass two months ago, and while they were playing horrific, I picked the Lakers in my 5 just to watch Kobe play.

You can't even put the emotions into words.  You felt sadness for Rose and Rondo.  But this is something else - another world.  I'm watching the reactions come in on Twitter from various media personalities, and the entire basketball world at this moment is in a coma.  One of basketball's most iconic figures ever may have just walked off the court for the last time.  Simply unreal.

I can't even collect all of my thoughts completely right now.  First, it's almost as if, the way this guy pushed himself, you almost knew this was how he would end up going out.  Second, it seems almost more incredible that Michael Jordan somehow managed to not suffer any major injuries later in his career.

I just watched Kobe's postgame lockerroom interview and he said that he knew the injury had occurred because he heard the pop.  Not an achilles, but I tore my ACL completely three months ago and also heard "the pop."  Let me tell those of you who have been fortunate enough to have never torn any ligaments: "the pop" is the single loudest sound a person can hear in their life.  It sounds literally like a firecracker, or a bullet being shot out of a gun.

Kobe will rehab and come back.  But at 34, he will never be the same and this is not how it should've ended.  Regardless of how you feel about the man himself or even his flaws as a player, he is and was undeniably the hardest working man to have graced the hardwood and a modern day artist.  This game will not be the same in his absence and we were privileged to have witnessed his greatness over these last two decades.
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#15253 Memphis Grizzlies @ Houston Rockets on 4/12/2013

Posted by Red94 on 13 April 2013 - 03:17 AM

New post: Memphis Grizzlies 82, Houston Rockets 78 - Not long til playoff time
By: Rob Dover

Tonight's was a measuring stick game. While it is unlikely that the Rockets will face off against the Grizzlies in the playoffs (though still not beyond the realms of possibility, it would be helped by both teams winning tonight's game, which of course cannot happen), due to their style of play a game against Memphis is probably the closest you're going to get to the canonical 'playoff style' basketball during the regular season. They are aggressive on defense and have a tendency to construct slow, methodical possessions in the half court set at the other end. Much of the Rockets' success come playoff time will hinge on their ability to break the shackles of the slow pace their opponents will play and inject some speed into the proceedings, so this made for a good trial run. Everything about the game, from the crowd to the refs to the intensity of the players themselves, made it feel like a playoff encounter, and while in the end the Rockets fell short it was nice taster of what's to come.

The first quarter began with some ominously cold shooting from the Rockets. The Grizzlies were making it hard for them to get the easy shots to which they are accustomed, and when they did Harden and co. struggled to put them in the basket (Harden in particular blew several layups you would normally expect him to make). Memphis weren't shooting well either, but they were getting on the offensive boards. Randolph was fighting for inside position very hard with Smith, and while for the most part Smith did a good job of keeping him quiet, he eventually did pick up two fouls in doing so and had to sit.  It was a difficult task, but Smith really needed to keep himself on the court. As soon as he went to the bench, the Memphis bigs smelt blood and suddenly all of the possessions were going through Randolph and Gasol. Terrence Jones really couldn't keep Randolph quiet - he was fortunate that there wasn't long left in the quarter for him to be tormented.

The second quarter was more of the same offensively. Motiejunas came in and looked unconfident. His form was off and his shots weren't falling. As well as Smith and Asik have played together in the past few games, it means you have to play D-Mo and Jones together for significant minutes, and when Motiejunas is in a funk it really doesn't look good. D-Mo didn't see any more time for the rest of the game, but time is running out to get him back in a groove for playoff time. Harden sat for a few minutes and without him offense was hard to come by. The one bright spot was that despite  never quite looking right when given the ball on offense, Jones was doing a great job on the boards at both ends. His work prevented the gap from ballooning too far at the start of the quarter.

But there's only so much you can do when you can't make a shot. The starters came back and it didn't get much better - over the course of the half the Rockets only made 11 field goals, for a shooting percentage of 29.7%. They made a couple of threes late on to cut the deficit to 13, but frankly that was flattering. Harden was missing layups he would normally make and committing some bad turnovers too - he reached the midpoint with 12 points on 3-11 shooting to go with 4 TOs. When he's not playing well with the ball in his hands, it's really tough to justify his poor defense at the other end. It also didn't help that Asik was having a terrible half. He wasn't dominating the boards like he normally does and had a bit of foul trouble, but the main issue was that he could not finish around the basket. It is vital the way that the Rockets' offense is constructed that the team can rely on a big man to finish, and without that the two big lineups look awfully stagnant.

In the third quarter, we saw Harden starting to look for the outside shot a bit more. He was able to get to his spot on the left wing where he is so deadly and knock down a few three pointers, which seemed to stimulate the Rockets' offense. Lin was also finding some joy by relentlessly driving into the paint. Grizzlies were fouling a lot and also went through a cold streak of their own, and in combination it allowed the team to cut the lead to 5. After playing so poorly in the first half, it was a great achievement to get back into the game.

 

The Rockets started the fourth on a roll. Terrence Jones continued to play well off the ball. He was cleaning up the boards with aplomb (including one very nice putback jam), and shook off some of his shooting reticence to knock down a three pointer. On the back of his hustle the team was able to bring it back to level at 64 all before we were treated to the rare sight of Harden getting genuinely angry. There had been a couple of calls that hadn't gone his way, and eventually he was pushed over the edge and earned a technical, having to be held back by Lin and trainer Keith Jones. Interestingly, that anger drove him to actually play some good defense on a few straight possessions. With Harden, I really feel like the only thing stopping him from being at least an average defender is his mindset - when he's motivated, he's very capable. It didn't take long though for that fire to subside and his old habits to take over again.

 

Perhaps that momentary defensive exertion took it out of him, because as the final quarter wore on Harden started to look tired. It was somewhat understandable because ended up playing the entirety of the second half, but you could see him slowing down possessions when the ball ended up in his hands.  This coincided with the Grizzlies turning up their defense and the refs swallowing their whistles. The fast hands of Allen and Conley generated some fast break points and suddenly the lead had ballooned to 8 points. Fortunately, Jeremy Lin was able to step into the void - a couple of clutch threes and a pretty no-look feed to Asik and they were right back in the game as we entered crunch time.

With 33 seconds left in the game, the Rockets were down 80-78 with possession. Harden received the ball at the top of the arc, but the Grizzlies were able to shut off his driving options. Eventually he put up a three and missed. On the long rebound, the Grizzlies got a run out but some desperate defense by Lin and Jones forced Tony Allen into a tough reverse layup, which he missed. In the ensuing scramble for the rebound Allen was fouled, but proceeded to miss both free throws and suddenly Houston had a chance to take the final shot for a win or tie. Once again, Harden was iso'ed against Allen, and this time he pulled up from just inside the three point line. With tired legs beneath him, he missed the shot and with that the Grizzlies walked out of the building with the win.

Random Observations:

 

  • The Rockets really missed Parsons tonight. With Delfino only just back from a bad bout of flu and Garcia a non-factor, they were really lacking an additional option from the perimeter to space the floor and create secondary penetration off kick outs. Parsons' skills would have added the third option the team desperately needed against the suffocating Grizzlies defense.

  • One interesting wrinkle I noticed was that defensively McHale had Harden defending Prince and Garcia on Allen. This was the opposite to what I expected - I figured with Allen being the least threatening Memphis starter offensively it would make sense to hide Harden there. But if there's one thing worse than Harden's man defense, it's his positioning when he's the help defender. There were some possessions in the third quarter where Harden was defending Allen, and they did not end well. First Allen crossed Harden over and drove to the basket (where he had a BIG collision with Smith) and then he was able to lose Harden completely to get wide open under the basket. Harden's defensive inattention is best hidden against players who are not a threat to drive, so I think the right call was made here.

  • While I can understand why McHale left Harden in the game for the whole second half (the team looked totally unable to find a shot in the few minutes when he sat in the second quarter), he really does need to find a way to ration the Beard's minutes a bit. If you're going to rely on Harden isos to end the game, he needs to have enough gas left in the tank to generate good shots, and it didn't feel like that was there tonight.

  • Terrence Jones needs to learn how and when to pass. At the moment whenever he receives the ball it completely breaks the flow of the offense. He seems to have two modes: either he holds the ball for a split second longer than he needs to before passing back to a guard, or he goes into an expansive dribble move with multiple crossovers that goes nowhere, before eventually either forcing up an awkward shot or passing out again having wasted 10 seconds of the shot clock. One senses that he has yet to completely adjust to the shorter NBA shot-clock and the time pressures it exerts on an offense.

  • Greg Smith did a good job when asked to guard Randolph, but for a couple of possessions in the second half he was asked to guard Marc Gasol and got schooled. On the first possession, Smith got into a low stance to prepare for a post up. Gasol took one look at him, stood up straight, and tossed in what amounted to an open 10 footer - Smith was so low that he had nothing in Gasol's eyeline! On the next possession, Smith tried to body up Gasol, who responded with a quick move to the basket drawing the foul. Smith wasn't left on Gasol again for the rest of the game. I think this short sequence illustrated one of the issues that's going to arise when playing Smith at the 4 - while he does a great job against bangers, opposing players with a modicum of finesse can make him look a bit silly. He's liable to encounter a few more of those when playing the power forward spot than he would have done at centre.

  • Looking back, the growth we've seen over the course of the season from Jeremy Lin has been amazing. Back in pre-season and in the early games, he looked wild on the drives and couldn't hit a shot from the outside to save his life. He has gradually tightened things up over the course of the season and now looks like a completely different player. He's developed an excellent ability to change from a full-on drive to a dead stop in an instant that gets him a lot of short jumpers in the lane (which he has started making), and he no longer looks out of control if he does take it all the way to the hole. The outside shooting has come a long way too - without his late three pointers in tonights game the Rockets would have been nowhere near close enough to create the crunch-time situation, and generally it seems like a much safer option than it used to for him to play the role of set shooter from Harden's drives.


 
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