Tag Archives: McHale

Houston Rockets Fall To Warriors In Game 1

Houston Rockets, Warriors playoffs

James Harden’s great performance wasn’t enough to hold off Warriors. Photo Credit: Kyle Terada, USA today sports

The Houston Rockets let game 1 slip away

The Houston Rockets had the Warriors right where they wanted them in the first and second quarters of game 1. The Rockets quickly quieted the crowd and kept them quiet as the they controlled the majority of the first quarter.

Two and a half minutes into the game the Rockets found themselves 9-2 on top of the Warriors. That momentum was killed when the Jason Terry got an offense rebound and gave a nice bounce pass to Dwight but he lost the ball and the Warrior took it for a fast break lay up at their end.

The Warriors went on to take a 14-12 lead before the Rockets regained control of the game and finished the quarter with a 31-24 lead. Up until midway through the second quarter the Rockets looked like they were the favorites in this with with having as large as a 16 point lead.

Many people believed that the Rockets were going to get their doors blown off, in large part due to the lopsided 4-0 season series that the Warriors had against the Rockets. The Rockets have a chance to win this series, no matter if their chances are slim.

Heading into game 1 I thought that the Rockets were going to win the game because I thought they were going to have a few things going in their favor. The Rockets were coming off an incredible series comeback and I thought that was a huge confidence boost for the Rockets. I thought that they would bring that over into this series right off the start and punch the Warriors in the mouth unexpectedly.

The Rockets are no doubt a different team than the one the Warriors dominated in the regular season, but the Rockets are plagued with too many stretches of bad execution. Turnovers, careless/sloppy play, and bad execution is what this series is going to come down to for the Rockets.

If the Rockets are to win this series they will have to go through every single possession like it truly matters because against a team like the Warriors it does to a great extent.

The Rockets showed that they can hang with the Warriors, and frankly they should have won game 1 but didn’t because they couldn’t play enough clean basketball. The Warriors were feasting on the turnovers and bad plays made by the Rockets and that is what cost them the game.

The Warriors and Rockets have very similar styles, but the two biggest differences are that the Warriors take better care of the ball and they have a little bit better team depth. Because of this the Rockets have to play 40-45 minutes of good basketball to beat the Warriors, that is what its going to come down to.

I think it is a little disheartening that the Rockets couldn’t capitalize on a game in which James Harden finally had one of those MVP type games that he had much of the season. Trevor Ariza also kept up his great play on the the defense end and with his shooting, but nobody else stepped up.

Dwight Howard’s injury was a big hit to the Rockets’ defense and rebounding, and perhaps they find a way to win the game if he doesn’t get his knee injured. Howard tried to gut it out but I think McHale didn’t recognize how injured he was and stuck with him for too long. Continue reading

McHale, Rockets blow last play of game

Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, nba, playoffs. Damien Lillard, Chandler Parsons

The Houston Rockets blow the final play, Lillard sinks dagger to end Rockets’ season. Photo Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer, USA Today Sports

The Houston Rockets come close, but blow the game with 0.9 seconds left.

The Houston Rockets fought valiantly and were able to take the lead 98-96 with 0.9 seconds left, but on the last play of the game allowed Damien Lillard to easily release and get off a 3-point shot for the win at the buzzer. It was  totally disheartening, crushing buzzer beating 3-pointer that ripped the hearts out of all Rockets fans.

One has to question the match-ups and the defensive strategy on the final possession of the game. Yes coach/coaching is going to take a lot of the blame when a team loses, but I haven’t been one to overly criticize McHale. However, this falls on him and the rest of the coaches.

Damien Lillard has hit a few buzzer beaters this season for the Blazers and the Rockets had to know he was most likely getting the ball. With 0.9 seconds there is no looking for the open man, the most skilled and versatile player is going to get that shot.

If Portland hits a tough 2 point shot it goes to overtime, but you absolutely cannot give up a 3 point shot to lose the game. McHale in the post game press conference said he specifically told the team no 3s. This raises a few questions about how the final played out.

Here were the match-ups at first before a timeout was called due to some confusion.

Initially Beverly is on Lillard, Lin on Williams, Parsons on Matthews, Harden on Aldridge (who knows how) and Howard guarding the inbound pass.

For some reason there was some confusion on the match-ups and Harden was on Aldridge. I think the Rockets would have been fine with the players they had on the floor. They just needed to rearrange Howard on Aldridge, Harden on Matthews, and Chandler Parsons guarding the pass.

Beverly is the best possible defender to stay with Lillard. NOT that Beverly can stay with Lillard, because he is so athletically quick and fast, but Beverly has the best chance out of anybody else on the Rockets to stick with him. The Trail Blazers had killed the Rockets, Beverly included, all series long setting screens for Lillard and letting him launch 3s. So this is something that could have been expected for Portland to do.

 

Here the Rockets are trying to get things straight during the timeout.

 

After the timeout the Rockets made a few changes, now Chandler Parsons is on Lillard, Beverly on Mo Williams, Dwight Howard on Aldridge, and Harden on Matthews.

I pointed out that all series long even Beverly had been getting caught on screens that resulted in Lillard hitting 3-pointers. And the screens were usually coming from Portland’s big men, on this particular play Mo Williams was on the screen.

Now if Beverly has trouble staying with and contesting Lillard on screens I don’t really understand the logic of putting a much slower and less agile Parsons on Lillard. I suppose the length over Lillard was why, but he has to be able to stick with Lillard first.

The second thing I don’t understand is why the Rockets didn’t switch defenders that they were guarding on the screen? The Rockets have been through these situations before, it even cost them a game against the Lakers during the season.

Mixing and matching players and having them switch would have been much easier to contest the Blazers’ player that got loose.

Maybe the Rockets were guessing that Mo Williams was going to end up with the last shot, and wanted Beverly on him? Who knows.

Lastly, McHale specifically said he told the team no 3s. So if that is the case it makes no sense that Terrance Jones is not blocking off the path to the 3-point line. Batum had a completely open passing lane to Lillard on the 3-pointer once he easily got away from the Rockets defense.

Terrance Jones is instead positioned to block a passing lane in the direction of Aldridge who is closer to the basket. So not only is there a bad match up for Parsons holding Lillard on the last play. And not only do the Rockets not switch on defense to better defend a man that got loose off of a screen. The Rockets also allow a totally open passing lane to the 3-point line to  the one Portland player who makes the most ridiculous and deflating 3-point shots.

It has been unbelievable all series long how Portland was able to hit so many incredible and improbable shots. No words.
Game footage courtesy of CSN Houston

Rockets Playoffs: Game 4

Houston Rockets, Dwight Howard, nba, playoffs, portland

Houston Rockets look to gain series momentum with a win in game 4. Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer, USA Today Sports

A Rockets win tonight will shift series momentum.

In Game 3, James Harden, despite his inefficient scoring was able help the Houston Rockets escape with a victory but is going to need to have an even better performance to avoid going down 3-1 in the series. Dwight Howard has been solid in every game thus far, and continues to be a problem for Portland’s defense.

Continue reading

Daniels helps Rockets outlast POR

 

Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets celebrate Troy Daniels’ 3-pointer. Photo Credit : Don Ryan

Houston Rockets take down Portland in overtime

The Houston Rockets had the unlikeliest of heroes on a broken play where the ball eventually ended up in the hands of rookie Troy Daniels’ who hit deciding 3 pointer with 11 seconds left in the game, giving the Rockets the win overtime 119-116.

Troy Daniels – “There was a lot of chaos in the paint, I just found myself open, Jeremy found me, and I hit the shot.”

In the moments after the shot by the rookie Daniels, longtime Rockets broadcaster Bill Worrell called the victory “one of the guttiest efforts” he has ever seen from a Rockets team. Troy Daniels who had played 16 minutes in the game, had made two 3-pointers for 6 points, before being put back in the game by McHale when Chandler Parsons fouled out in overtime with 3:40.

A lot of credit must go to Kevin McHale of having the confidence in the Rookie to be in the game over a veteran. McHale seemingly pushed a lot of the right buttons for the Rockets as he made a change in the starting lineup by inserting Omer Asik who finished the game with 27 minutes played and for Terrance Jones who played only 13. T. Jones has had trouble all series guarding Aldridge.

LaMarcus Aldridge’s incredible shooting finally made its way back to the norm as he was only able to muster up 23 points after averaging 44.5 in the first 2 games. The Rockets were also able to keep control of the rebounds having at least 4 players with 8 rebounds, Howard leading the way with 14 rebounds.

Dwight Howard had another affective game all around, he helped on defense and was able to pull down crucial rebounds. Harden was able to get him a couple buckets off the pick and roll, but Dwight was also able to assert himself again against Portland’s big men. Continue reading

Rockets Playoffs: An In-Depth Look

Houston Rockets

D. Howard, Chandler Parson. Houston Rockets
Photo Credit: Troy Taormina, USA Today Sports

 

The feel of the Houston Rockets heading into the Playoffs.

Not many of us here in Houston saw the Rockets being down 0-2 in this playoff series against the Trail Blazers. I think it is safe to say that when Harden and Howard were paired  together the minimum expectation in the first year was advancing on to the second round. Even Jeff Van Gundy was fully bought in as he picked the Houston Rockets to represent the West in the Finals.

Should we have known better?

The injuries to Howard and Beverly prevented the Rockets from ending the year on a good note. They finished the year losing 6 of their last 11 games, which is something that worried me when trying to figure how many games the series with Portland would be. I went into it assuming the Rockets would put things back together after a few days off heading into the playoffs. The bigger concern to me was beating the Spurs in the second round, and then the likely meeting with the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.

All things considered I still felt that the Rockets should have been able to handle Portland in 6 games. I suppose as Houston fans we should have known better than to overlook any opponent in the playoffs, at least since the Rockets weren’t going into the playoffs hitting on all cylinders.

It is discouraging to see the Rockets in this 0-2 scenario but they have the horses to get back in this series. Along with needing LaMarcus Aldridge’s supernatural shooting to cease, these things with the Rockets must be addressed…..

Should the Rockets double team LaMarcus Aldridge?

LaMarcus Alridge has been so ridiculously automatic on his mid-range shot that I don’t see that it can possibly continue. Game 1 the Rockets did a horrible job getting a body in front of Aldridge, but in Game 2 they did better as he got a lot less rebounds and less points off of those rebounds.

The question is how do you keep Aldridge from scoring 40 points every game. There are many that believe the Rockets need to start sending double teams at him, but in my opinion I don’t think that should be the next option. It could possibly work, but the chances of it are very small because double teaming Aldridge when he spends so much time out on the perimeter could spell more trouble for the Rockets.

Aldridge contested shots vs. Lillard, Matthews, Mo Williams, Wright, Batum open 3s

The Rockets are already bad at switching on defense as it is, and if Aldridge gets doubled 18 feet away from the basket,  he just is going to get the ball to the open man for easier buckets. Double teaming players is most effective in the post when the area is more likely to be crowded, making it easier for players to get back to their man. The Rockets one on one defense is fairly bad already, double teaming may not be the best strategy.

If double teams on Aldridge are to come when he is close to the basket and while he is backing Rockets defenders down, I would be more open to doubling him. But in any other case I rather take my chances of Aldridge’s shooting percentages to fall by keeping one defender in his face. We have to ask ourselves do we rather have Aldridge continue taking tough shots, or do we want to leave Lillard, M. Williams, Matthews, and Batum wide open for 3 pointers, which they will hit.

Footage credit to TNT, & Turner Broadcasting

Aldridge has been on an incredible run shooting the ball, and I have to believe he will fall back down to Earth. In the 4 games  the Rockets played the Trail Blazers during the season Aldridge averaged 45% shooting, but in these first 2 playoff games he is shooting 59% percent. Kevin McHale was quoted as saying that the Rockets are going to just have to live with some of the shots Aldridge has been making. And it is something that I fully agree with because Aldridge is just flat out being great, the Rockets had contested most of Aldridge’s shots in Game 2, but they were falling no matter what.

 

What should McHale have the Rockets do with Aldridge then?

The important adjustment McHale has to make is the the lack of physicality in defending LaMarcus Adridge. Although I believe the Aldridge can’t possibly keep up his lights out shooting, the Rockets can’t allow him the chance to continue it. If Aldridge starts out the game still hot from long range then there has to be 1-2 early hard fouls on him and be as physical as possible with him is hopes of knocking him out of his rhythm. If it has to be flagrant then so be it. Even though a lot of Aldridge’s shots are with a man in his face, he is getting any shot he wants and is too comfortable out on the floor. He has to be knock down and taken out of his comfort zone.

There aren’t times where there’s just nothing else you can possibly do

Comparison of the regular season to the playoffs.

I looked back at the games between the Rockets and Portland on Jan. 20th and Mar. 9th, and saw a few obvious discrepancies from what has gone on in the playoffs.

Harden was on his game.

The biggest difference is Harden’s scoring, he was hitting jumps and threes at a good rate. He was  able to help keep the foot on the throats of Portland in the January game, and was the reason the Rockets were able to make a late comeback to beat the Trail Blazers in March.

LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t shooting like a super human

The second biggest thing was the fact that LaMarcus Aldridge appeared to be in his mortal form because he wasn’t draining every shot that he threw up. Aldridge was actually missing a good amount of shots, and wasn’t able to be the focal point of the offense. Because Aldridge wasn’t hitting at a great percentage, the ball spent a lot more time in Lillard and W. Matthews hands.

Dwight Howard takes advantage of Portland’s big men.

It is no coincidence that Dwight has been able to have his way in the low post in these two playoff games. Dwight had big performances against Portland in the regular season consistently beating their big men in the post especially with his quick first step. Dwight averaged 25.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in the 4 regular season meetings with the Trail Blazers.

The team was penetrating and hitting their 3s

The Rockets have relied on their 3-pointers for a few years now, and in the regular season games they were able to hit their shots against Portland. So far through 2 games, the Rockets are shooting the worst 3-point percentage of any team in the playoffs. The Rockets in the two games in January and March had success penetrating and getting the ball to the open shooters. Parsons, Harden, Lin all had success penetrating because the Portland defense got sucked in every time trying to help on the penetration.

Rockets supporting cast has to step up.

Other players were able to pick up the scoring slack during the regular season, the Rockets need more help from the bench. In the January game Omri Casspi had an impact scoring 15 off the bench, also with Parsons exploding for 31 points, Beverly scoring 17. In the Overtime win against Portland in March, Jeremy Lin stepped up for 26 points that went along with Harden’s 41.

The 4 regular season game averages                      Shooting %       Rebounds          Points

LaMarcus Aldridge 45% 15.5 26.7
James Harden 48% 7.3 30.3

 

The 2 playoff game averages                                 Shooting %         Rebounds          Points

LaMarcus Aldridge 59.3% 13.0 44.5
James Harden 29.7% 4.0 22.5

Stats, from NBA.com

 

James Harden must value the small things to be a true superstar.

James Harden is an elite scorer in the NBA, sixty-percent of the people in Houston haven’t been able to see him consistently these past two years, but Harden is elite. James Harden is a very special player to watch offensively with the things he can do with the basketball, and can display great passing off the pick and roll. For whatever reason he hasn’t been able to get it together in these two playoff games, and when Harden doesn’t have it going offensively his deficiencies as a player are exposed.

I don’t want go too far in critiquing Harden because the Rockets need him and you can’t replace a player with the talents he possesses. But Harden has two years under his belt as a starter in the NBA and he needs to have a sudden epiphany that if he wants to be a true MVP type player, he has to play both sides of the court.

Personally for me I get a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach watching how James Harden approaches everything that doesn’t involve the offensive side of the court. I really respect scrappy professional athletes because doing the little things matter to them. If Harden cared just a little bit more, his game would be on another level.

Harden gets caught ball watching on too many occasions where he doesn’t really ever have a chance to affect the play which allows his man run loose and get open. Harden too often gambles on trying to steal the ball instead of just playing defense, which leaves others out to dry. It is confusing how Harden can be so agile while on offense but it doesn’t translate to the defensive end.

Harden is going to have the ball in his hands at the end of games, he is the Rockets best player and therefore makes him one of the leaders of the team. If Harden isn’t scoring efficiently, penetrating, or creating or for others and combines that with taking bad shots, he offers close to nothing to the team. He has to realize that as a leader he can’t play so lazily on defense and not do the little things that make a player great.

 

The glimpse of the Dwight Howard we all envisioned.

The 1st Quarter of Game 2 was a beautiful thing to watch. What we saw in that first quarter, more specifically in the first five minutes of the game when Dwight scored the teams first 13 points, is what we all thought we would see when Darly Morey signed Dwight.

Dwight is a big time mismatched for the Trail blazers, they don’t have anybody that can stop him. Dwight just can’t be the one that takes himself out of games though. He can be very good at times, and dominate but for some stretches can get in a funk where he’s getting stripped easily or commits silly turnovers trying to post up. Against the Trail Blazers that hasn’t happen too much, but that concern is there. Dwight has been doing a good job of limiting the mishandling of the ball or getting called for traveling too much.

When Dwight was getting the ball on every possession and dominating, in my opinion it was reminiscent to what Case Keenum did in that first half of the Colts game. I say that because you can have a vision of a player and the things they could potentially do on the field/court. But to actually see them do what you envisioned gives you that feeling of disbelief  in what you are watching happen. And that was the same feel watching Dwight dominate in that first quarter.

It took a while during the regular season for the Rockets to learn to play with Dwight. There were so many missed alley-oop opportunities, then there were a lot of bad alley-oop passes. The Rockets for a 3-week stretch struggled getting to the ball to Dwight in the post, because they literally had trouble passing the ball to him when his being denied. This resulted in Rockets shying away from getting Dwight the ball and was inexplicably getting under 10 touches some nights.

Despite the teams recent struggles, the Rockets have come a long way with Dwight Howard. The Rockets have to continue exploiting the mismatch problems Portland has containing Dwight.

 

Shaq, Charles Barkley past halftime criticisms of Dwight Howard

Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley have been some of Dwight’s biggest critiques over the past few years. This year we were able to see the criticism as Rockets fans a good amount as the Rockets had their fair share of TNT games. In each game where Dwight may not have been playing up to his potential you could 100% expect for Shaq and Barkley to blast Dwight. On the nights where they criticize Dwight it is usually the same thing every time.

They might say things like Dwight needs to be more dominant, improve post moves, demand the ball, etc. all of the above. Shaq is usually more adamant about it, but Barkley takes it to Dwight too. Many fans get angered by it but it is amusing, because it is the same criticisms every time. And also I usually agree with a lot of the criticism.

Shaq praises Dwight

Shaq believes that there shouldn’t be anybody in the league that can defend Dwight, and that Dwight should dominant every night. Shaq sang the praises of Dwight during the halftime show and was really upbeat about Dwight’s play after clamoring to see that dominance out of him. One thing I disagree with Shaq is that he doesn’t like Dwight leaving the post to run a pick and roll. But running the pick and roll with Harden, Parsons has shown to be a successful play for the Rockets.

Charles Barkley’s BAFFLING opinion

Charles Barkley apparently doesn’t like what Dwight Howard did because of how it conflicts with the Houston Rockets’ usual run n’ gun style of play.  Chuck acknowledged that Dwight was playing great but said,

“That’s not the way they play, it makes their offense stagnant, it takes James Harden, who’s their best player out of the game, it takes Chandler Parsons out the game.”

“Dwight Howard played very well, but that’s not the way the Rockets win, and they are not going to win.”

Based off of recent years of criticisms of Dwight, Chuck on a night where Dwight is being dominant, contradicts himself saying that Dwight’s dominance not best for the team to win. Barkley’s number one reason for having this opinion was the the fact that the Rockets weren’t winning at halftime.

Chuck feels that feeding the ball like they were in Game 2 takes the Rockets out of the way they like to play. But the Rockets can still get out and run even with giving Dwight all of his touches. They just have to be active on defense, get pass deflections, steals, blocks, or get the long rebound,  and they will still be able to get points in transition.

 

The Houston Rockets need Dwight to be dominant and to keep feeding him the ball, others need to hit their shots.

Chuck was looking at things in sort of a vacuum by using the fact that the Rockets weren’t winning as a reasoning for not liking the way the Rockets were feeding the ball to Dwight. If Dwight can play like he did in the first half and the rest of the team can actually shoot a good percentage, the Rockets will be very hard to beat.

The Rockets weren’t winning at halftime and eventually lost because the shooters couldn’t get the ball to go in the basket. The Rockets didn’t lose because they were feeding Dwight the ball so much that it caused the team to lack flow or offensive rhythm.  Portland’s shooters had their shots going in, none more important than LaMarcus Aldridge’s. When the Rockets have clean looks they have to hit, at the end of the day that is the bottom line

When Parsons, Harden, etc. have looks, that’s all the “rhythm” they need, even if Chuck doesn’t see that, or agree.

 

How else should the Rockets approach the game?

I want to see the Rockets continue to give Dwight his touches, why should Rockets do Portland a favor by not getting the ball to him. Dwight may hit a stretch where he can’t get the ball to go in, in that case he needs to get good position and look for teamates cutting to the basket, or the open man.

More pick and rolls with Parsons, Harden and Lin, the Rockets have proven to be successful penetrating with these players against Portland’s defense before. Instead of all the ball handling isolation that lead to step back jumpers or 3s, they should run pick and rolls to get better looks. When long range shots aren’t falling, the Rockets can’t look to shoot themselves out of it, digging themselves a bigger hole.

I don’t understand why the Rockets ball handlers don’t attack the basket looking for an opening but if they don’t see one, just dribble the ball back out instead of taking a bad shot. Steve Nash had a lot of success doing this, and there isn’t much downside to it.

The Rockets did a better job rebounding the ball in Game 2, and they need to continue that. Rockets must be stuck on the man they are defending like magnets. Backs are against the wall and everything is riding on these next 2 games, the Rockets need to play like it. Mental mistakes in defensive assignments, and silly turnovers must be eliminated.

 

“Game 3 is our season.”- James Harden

Yes it is.