The Rockets opened up their title chase with an OT win over the Mavericks. James Harden led the way but the teams overall performance leaves me with concerns.
Thanks to James Harden the Rockets took the W last night, but there were several warning lights flashing in the victory. Dallas is a solid team but they’re definitely a notch below the true contenders in the west. Last night’s performance begs the question of whether or not the Rockets are as well.
Kristaps Porzingis again dominated the undersized Rockets frontcourt to the tune of 39 points and 16 rebounds. Houston had no answers for him and Clint Capella is long gone. The question of how Houston will fare using their smaller lineup’s in the playoffs with tighter rotations against teams with real size is very much open.
Another concern was Robert Covington’s poor performance. Covington has begun to develop a reputation as a player whose stats and metrics don’t measure up to his on court performance. Counting on him to be more than a useful role player is a shaky proposition.
The Rocket’s also were lucky that Luka Doncic had a poor shooting night from beyond the arc. If he had hit on even two of the eight three pointers he missed last night we would be looking at a Houston loss. Poor shooting or not he still had a triple double, another ill omen for Houston as they weren’t able to slow down either Mavs superstar.
Houston also got a best case performance from Austin Rivers, Jeff Green and Ben McLemore. The trio shot over 50%, and provided some scoring. That was just barely enough to offset the lack of help from starters Covington and P.J. Tucker. If Houston needs 80 points a night fro. Harden and Russell Westbrook it’s going to be a tough road ahead.
Last night was just one game, and the first after a long layoff, but these issues are all recurring. Eric Gordon returning is not going to help defend bigs, make Robert Covington reliable, or P.J. tucker an offensive dynamo. He will help with perimeter defense, and hopefully be a consistent shooter.
Three things have killed the Rockets the last few postseasons. Injuries to key contributors, nights where the entire team loses it’s shooting touch at the same time, and James Harden playing with both hands wrapped around his own neck. Covington, Jeff Green and Ben McLemore have never been the models of consistency so that is still a concern. Gordon is already hurting, but the rest of team is healthy so hopefully injuries won’t be an issue. As far as James Harden…time will tell. Last night was one game, but one game raised many questions.