Rockets lose in gut wrenching fashion. Series over, and season over.
It hurts so much.
It really seemed that our luck had changed. The Rockets had caught two lucky breaks at the end of regulation that put them up 98-96 with .9 seconds left; what could possibly go wrong? Instead, Damian Lillard reached inside Houston’s chest and ripped out it’s heart with Stockon-like precision, as he hit a buzzer beating, totally legal, fall away three pointer.
A Recap…with lots of feels.
October 5th, a preseason show down between the Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans. Finally Houston has a team that it deserves. The Astros are the Astros, the Texans are the Texans, but the Rockets, they are now a contender.
Nothing about the events that transpired tonight makes me feel that my early exuberance was unwarranted. Tonight was game 6 of a series that pitted two heavy weight contenders with similar styles against each other, and despite the outside world preferring it never end, someone had to emerge the victor.
As far as instant reaction goes, casual fans like to talk about how sports doesn’t matter that much and you shouldn’t let yourself get worked up over it, but wow, this hurts. I’m not sure I could imagine a worse way for this game to have ended. I guess maybe if Mo Williams hit the shot, but that’s really just splitting hairs. An outcome like that does two things to the human mind, first it looks for reasons why it happened, and second it looks for a way to fix it.
The reason it happened? Houston was playing against a Portland team with two GREAT players on it, and really no matter what we did, Lillard and Aldridge refused to let the series slip away. Secondly, and more importantly, the Rockets as a team, didn’t approach this series with a sense of urgency. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that some of the Houston players didn’t realize it was a win or go home scenario until the second half of game 5. It’s hard to ask much more of the Rockets in this game 6, but when considering the entire series, there was a lot left to be desired.
How about a way to fix it? Who knows. There are so many different possibilities including keeping the team exactly how it is. Literally seconds after the conclusion of game six, folks were already diving into Melo acquisition or how would Rondo fit in, but before getting lost down that rabbit hole, we’ll spend some time talking about the last of the 2013-2014 Houston Rockets’ season.
The Rockets played with poise, maturity, and intensity tonight and truly gave Portland their best shot on the road. Watching them play with so much aggression and urgency really makes me wonder how things would have turned out if they had carried this mentality through the whole series.
Game 6 Bullet Points
The Return of James Harden
Well at least James has one game he can hang his hat on. After struggling his way through the first 5 games of the series, Harden finally regained the form that brought on MVP chants from the Houston faithful the last month of the regular season. He even played a little bit of defense. After averaging about as many shots as he was averaging points, Harden went 9-15 for 34 points and managed to carry the offense for stretches last night.
Playing on Their Terms
The Twin Towers lineup was a success last night, but you know what would have been a true success? If Houston didn’t have to change everything about its game in order to compete with the Blazers. Houston never played well enough with it’s regular season starting lineup to make Terry Stotts even think about adjusting to our style. Instead Houston was forced to play Portland’s style and pace, but with personnel that isn’t as good at it. I don’t necessarily think this was McHale’s fault, I think had his team played with the same confidence it showed in the regular season, he might have been able to tinker with the lineups more and get his team moving at a faster pace. Instead Houston had to play it’s Twin Towers under reactionary circumstances, and that kept the Rockets on their heels for most of the series.
I don’t know where it went, but it was nice enough to show up for last night’s game. Hesitation was a thing of the past as Chandler Parsons, James Harden and most of all Jeremy Lin refused to take no for an answer when it came to getting to the rim. Jeremy Lin’s stat sheet wasn’t impressive but his aggression was the catalyst for numerous easy buckets in the paint. His drives would drag the majority of the defense towards the basket and allow for Asik and Howard to get in position for offensive rebounds and put backs.
Chandler Parsons was absolutely dicing the Trailblazer’s defense, but fate cruelly swatted away many of his layups with unlucky bounces and unfriendly rolls. Seriously though, Parsons must have pissed off some other worldly being, because he had SO MUCH bad luck on his drives.
When transition opportunities arose, Houston pounced on them, pushing the ball up the court and getting Harden into open space where he is at his best. Last night’s game how it had been a while since I had seen Harden breaking down a defense in transition. A lot of Harden’s time in this series had been spent driving a lane packed full of people, off of pick and rolls, then flailing and hoping for a call. He got the calls last night but I think a huge part of that is the refs could actually see him, as opposed to an amalgamation of red and black jerseys that usually occupied the lane. But regardless, last night the perimeter players finally came to play.
Handle With Care
LaMarcus Aldridge apparently earned himself a seat next to Lebron, Durant, and Kobe during this series because it seemed like the refs believed he could walk on water, and they’d be damned if any of those dirty Rockets would lay a hand on their chosen one. When you play like a superstar, you get treated like a superstar but I imagine even Aldridge was surprised at some of the calls he was getting. Omer Asik once again proved to be the closest thing to an Aldridge stopper that the Rockets can offer, but if you are a post defender, and you’re not allowed to touch the dude you are defending, that can make it kind of tough.
So because of the kid gloves approach the refs were taking, Asik and Howard had to play with foul trouble the entire night. And eventually Asik, boasting the best +/- on the team (+16), fouled out of the game with 48 seconds left and the Rockets up 96-94. It’s hard to say it was a crippling blow since Aldridge isn’t the guy that beat you, but at the end of the game, you would prefer to dance with the girl that brung ya.
Post-up vs. Pick and Roll
I’ve harped on this all season so it will be brief, but the offense is not at it’s best when we are posting up Howard in ISO situations. Last night Howard performed relatively well and hit a majority of the free throws (55%, majority-ish?), but unless I see a dramatic improvement in Howard’s post execution, those possessions are still going to do more damage than good. There are so many questions I would like to ask McHale but my first one would be, who is mandating all these post ups? Does Morey approve of this or is this you trying to prove the post game is still the best way to win? I don’t know, my guess is that it’s coach mandated, not a theory that can be backed by data. The data that is available to public shows that our PPP on post ups are lower than on pick and rolls but you know Morey has a treasure trove of advanced statistics that us normals can only dream of understanding, and who knows what they might prove.
Well thats about all I had to say about this game. I’ll probably put some more thoughts together for a series wrap-up since there really is too much to cover in a game recap.
The statistical nitty gritty is here.
The Rockets do it again this preseason in October of 2014, but until then remember, Mo Williams is an asshole.