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A night of basketball on March 5: The non-call, Terrence Jones, and the Canaanball

First off, if you haven’t yet, check out Episode 72 of The Red94 Podcast where Richard Li and I delved into some of the data pertaining to the team.  We looked at bench usage, crunch time effectiveness, and, of course, Dwight Howard postups.

Now, to turn your attention to the real topic of the moment:


It hurts to go down like this in such an important game, with the 2 seed on the line.  (Yes, I get that #3 is probably more favorable at this point, but for bragging rights, it’s the 2 seed man!  We haven’t finished that high since I was in middle school.)  And it was clearly a foul, as shown above.  But what’s the use?  It happened, we’ll take our apology from the league and I guess wear it proudly in the standings?  But I guess the greater issue is the ramifications.  As Paul mentioned in the recap, there isn’t much evidence of a downtick in foul calls overall in the postseason.  But close and late?  One would have to imagine there would be a greater aversion to blowing the whistle for contact in the paint.  Fortunately, Harden has spent all season perfecting the art of the mid-range.  I was actually surprised he drove it in last night on that play.

It hurt to lose, but you can think of this loss, and the one against Atlanta, (as well as the win over the Cavs), in one of two ways.  First, we actually hung with or beat three of the top teams in the league, without Dwight Howard.  Actually, when you throw in wins over the likes of the Clippers, we’ve demonstrated an ability to compete with just about everyone in the league, save for Golden State, without Dwight.  That bodes well for the future, if factoring in Dwight’s inevitable return.  On the flip side, you could argue that we might not ever get the real Dwight Howard back, and if he insists on murking things up in the halfcourt with his postups, there will be an overall loss in the aggregate.  We’ll just have to see how it plays out when he comes back.  Houston could’ve desperately used Dwight’s size inside last night in the paint to contend with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.  But do they score as freely as they have been if a reduced version of Dwight is in there instead of Terrence Jones and Motiejunas?  We saw an extreme example of this late in the game last night where a lineup featuring James Harden at power forward was so offensively overwhelming that it surged the team back into the game.  As I said yesterday in the podcast, the best thing Dwight Howard can do for the Rockets, aside from getting healthy, is to embrace becoming Tyson Chandler.  I’m not holding my breath.

2.  Look at Terrence Jones’ last six games: 15 and 15, 14 and 8, 26 and 12, 19 and 7, 18 and 8, and 21 and 9.  At just 23 years old, he’s looking like a budding All-Star, taking a step even beyond the colossal step he took last season.  We see now that he’s scoring, even without Dwight, and against the best teams in the league, a valuable development over last season.  (While his splits with Dwight off the court were stellar, Jones did not fare well against the league’s top teams).  Kevin McHale isn’t having to go small to close every game anymore (and although he did last night, it wasn’t at the sacrifice of Jones).  The big question now will be whether Jones can consistently defend the paint against the top 4’s in the Western Conference.  I wanted to trade Jones, most notably for Goran Dragic, but in hindsight, perhaps Houston dodged a bullet?  It might be premature to go that far as Dragic is of course coming off an all-NBA season, but if Jones continues this trajectory, his loss would’ve been tough to swallow in the event Dragic walked in free agency.  Especially with Dwight Howard’s future up in the air.  But with Josh Smith and Motiejunas already holding down the fort, maybe a point guard would do more in the short term?  That leads us to point #3.


I wrote the day of the trade that if I could ask Kevin McHale just one question, it would be about Isaiah Canaan.  What exactly happened leading up to the banishment of a player who in theory, seemed to have every tool this team was craving for in a point guard?  There are those of course who will point to Russell Westbrook’s stat line last night, or rough nights yet to come for Canaan.  But that’s missing the point entirely.  While I thought Canaan could one day start, that’s not what this team needed.  They just needed a guy to come in and give them 15-20 minutes a night of playmaking and accurate shooting from the point guard position.  Canaan could have fit that role to a tee, if given the chance.  Instead, the Rockets traded him for a guy who, while in theory was an exciting acquisition, will probably never see the light of day.  With Houston in contention for the 2 seed, in maybe the most brutal conference in league history, without Dwight Howard, it’s tough to find fault with Kevin McHale’s coaching these days.  But after Lowry, and now Canaan, a disturbing trend seems to have evolved surrounding McHale and his point guards.  We don’t know exactly what happened, but given the facts on the face of things, the speculation seems to add up.  Maybe the tight ship McHale runs, while alienating his generals, has directly contributed to the team overachieving in every regular season since he’s been here.  If that’s the case, shedding a few bad apples who don’t want to buy in was certainly defensible.  But from what we know, which is nothing, aside from the fact that Isaiah Canaan is a baller and we let him go for nothing, the entire episode seems curious.  You’re telling me a team running the worst point guard unit of any playoff team in the league couldn’t make use of 20 minutes a game of that kind of firepower (shown above)?  Really?

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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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