game recap hiatus

With impending travel and the Rockets team looking worse than ever, I’m going to take a break from watching, analyzing and writing about each game and instead just concentrate on the watching (and hopefully devoting the freed up energy to prevent myself from breaking things around the apartment).

Today’s loss to the Thunder was tough to watch, which is why I did not watch a lot of it, instead choosing to play (and suck) at basketball myself and cook and eat dinner. The tilapia turned out pretty good if I say so myself.

Anyways, hoping that the Rockets turn it around but things look gloomy until we get some health back. A lot of people, including me, were quick to say that Aaron Brooks’ injury may have been a blessing in disguise, but as it has played out so far, we need his offense worse than ever. Our team’s offense currently consists of Martin and Scola. That’s it. Budinger, when he is not injured and not out of rhythm is a poor man’s third option. Yao coming back next week (or the week after) will help, but this team is digging a hole out of which it will be difficult to grab a Western Conference playoff berth without a massively long run.

rockets review: game 10 vs. bulls

Today’s recap is going to be a bit different. It’s going to be a combination of a recap and a soapbox-speech of the state of refereeing in the NBA.

The Rockets ended up going down by 3 to the Bulls after a stellar performance from Derrick Rose. The match see-sawed the whole way, with each team alternating between good and bad as the game progressed from quarter to quarter. In the end, the Bulls were on the upswing when it mattered and managed to pull out the victory.

Derrick Rose was in prime shooting form today, connecting on four of his five attempted three pointers. If a guy like Rose, who is a career 24 percent three-point shooter, starts knocking it down from distance, teams are going to have a hard time controlling the Bulls defensively. Of course, Rose’s fine shooting may simply be a reflection of the Rockets poor perimeter defense. It was certainly aided in large part by Lowry’s stubborn decision to go under every single pick-and-roll, even when his man was en fuego.

For the Rockets, Kevin Martin had a very poor game offensively, struggling from the field and padding his stats with garbage-time points and free throws. He took a lot of questionable shots in the first half instead of working the ball around. Scola was good—very good, in fact—and kept his match-up quiet on the offensive end, for the most part (Deng went 6-for-21 and Gibson went 1-for-9). He was very active offensively and was the only guy who seemed to be playing with any consistency. Brad Miller was also very good in the nearly 40 minutes that he clocked today.

In the end, though, we lost this game ourselves with a major contribution from the referees. Yahoo! Sports’ box score says Houston only committed 19 turnovers in the game, but I’m pretty sure the real number is in the mid-20s. We were completely careless with the basketball save for the first quarter, where we had only two giveaways. Our bench was apathetic and abysmal today. They had no rhythm and no chemistry and couldn’t even put up a shot in what seemed like one in three possessions. Granted, the Tom Thibodeau-led defense was stifling, but our bench has to come to play if we are to make any sort of mark this season.

Now, soapbox time.

About 10 months ago, I blogged about why I thought the offensive rule foul in the NBA was an extremely poor rule. Even though the Rockets have two of the most flagrant offenders—Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes—and get a good production from Jared Jeffries, Kyle Lowry and Shane Battier from that front. The offensive foul, like so many other rules in the NBA, is implemented so subjectively. What annoys me more than anything else is the referees are constantly attempting to balance calls out. What this means is that if you get a call at one end, you usually end up getting the same call at the other end. This is particularly true in the case of moving screens, where I would venture that most calls happen in back-to-back possessions.

Also, there is the fact that the NBA has a definite leaning towards star players. The brand needs the star players, for sure, but the rules should be equal for everyone. Star players routinely get to the line (Kobe is the most obvious example) whereas lesser known players may get hacked but don’t get as much love from the refs. For example, the leading free-throw shooters this season have been Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Westbrook’s status as a star player is definitely questionable, but KD gets to the line with such regularity that it is a bit absurd.

The NBA has also tried to integrate technology into the game, which I think is a good thing, because it exposes the cunning gamesmanship exhibited by many of the players. Today, the Rockets were at the wrong end of that a couple of times and it cost the team five points that had already been put up on the board. In the case of the first offense—a three-pointer knocked down by Lowry as the clock expired, the refs overturned the call a full three minutes later, since the rules dictate that you can only overturn a call at a stoppage in play. In the second instance, it was slightly better because the ball was deflected out of bounds by a Bulls player a couple of plays after the questionable shot happened.

In the case of the Rockets, the first offense meant going from one possession down to two, at a time when the Bulls were building a run to begin the fourth quarter. This completely changed the dynamic and momentum of the team. While I think the correct decision was made, I think the rule needs to be modified so that the refs can immediately check out the questionable decision. After all, these sorts of situations don’t happen all that often, and if a 24-second shot clock violation has indeed occurred, it necessitates a stoppage in play anyway.

One other issue I have is with the inconsistencies of calls such as carrying, traveling, lane violations, inbounding balls, etc. The NBA is bereft with traveling and trying to weed it out would probably result in teams averaging 20 turnovers a game. The most common instance of such traveling is when an offensive player, who hasn’t yet started his dribble, shuffles and takes two steps before putting the ball on the floor. If you watch an NBA game closely, you would notice that players commit this offense probably half of the time. How does a referee then decide when to call it and when not to call it? It becomes so subjective. The rule either has to be applied unilaterally or not at all—or you will always have people questioning the referees.

The same thing goes with lane violations on free throws. Today we saw a lane violation called on the Rockets late in the fourth quarter. Ronnie Brewer missed the extra free throw, but lane violations occur, I would guess, greater than 80 percent of the time a contested free throw is taken. What led to the refs deciding to call that specific violation? It becomes absolutely subjective and furthermore, it could drastically alter the end result of the game, in a close game such as this encounter.

Finally, I’d like to formally voice my concern with the “new” technical foul rule that David Stern announced over the summer. Folks, this is probably one of the most hideously implemented rules in the game. While I agree with it in principle—prevent players from arguing with the refs—the actual wording and implementation of it by the referees is broken. Players can get a technical called for vociferously arguing with the ref or even just walking away with what the referee determines as being “contempt”. As with any rule in the NBA, further leniency is shown with star players and teams. For example, in the opening game of this season (Rockets-Lakers), Martin got called for a technical for disagreeing with the ref, and not even doing so ostentatiously.

Late in the fourth, with the game really close, Lamar Odom did not get a foul call and screamed at the ref with an obvious show of disagreement. No technical there, because who would dare have the Lakers lose on the same night they were given their championship rings?

Like the traveling rule and other offenses players routinely commit, the technical foul rule is completely subjective and hampers the momentum of the teams. I do not agree with some former players who claim it is taking the emotion out of the game. Emotion is not displayed by abusing the referee. Historically speaking, I would presume less than one percent of calls have been overturned after arguing with the referee, and one hundred percent of those calls are probably overturned only if the group of referees has made different calls to begin with.

In short, the NBA needs to take a good, long look at how refereeing is done in the game to prevent losing viewership. It is almost a Catch-22 system, because calling star players for offenses they commit will put them on the bench, decreasing viewership. At the same time, if weaker teams do not get calls just for being weak, small-market franchises will eventually erode away. Personally, I’m much more in favor of a hands-off approach. The referees should only really be blowing their whistle if players are starting to get chippy with each other or if an obvious offense has been committed. The NBA is not a perfect implementation of basketball rules, so there’s no point in making a half-assed attempt to call violations such as traveling and carrying. Let the players play and the fans will watch.

Back to the Rockets, our next match-up is tomorrow against the offensively superior Oklahoma City Thunder, led by scoring leader Kevin Durant and gifted point guard, Russell Westbrook. Given that our starters nearly all played 40 minutes tonight and we couldn’t get the win, tomorrow is not a lot more optimistic as the guys will all be tired. The Rockets bench really needs to step up tomorrow. Here’s hoping that Chase Budinger is back in the mix. With Yao out for another week and AB’s injury quite serious, it’s looking a little shaky for the Rockets, now.

That said Houston played a good game of basketball tonight for the most part. Turnovers were the downfall. Oh, and that one guy named Derrick Rose.

a few thoughts on nba 2k11

I’ve been playing NBA 2K11 for a little over a month now and thought I’d share some thoughts on what I think about the game, especially from the point of view of someone who played a lot of NBA 2K10.

First of all, the learning curve for this game was a lot higher than that for NBA 2K10. In fact, its slope was probably emphasized because I came from playing NBA 2K10, where it was pretty easy to play in a very cheap fashion. The predominant gameplay issues I had to deal with coming into the NBA 2K11 fold of things were turnovers and getting adjusted to the new control scheme.

NBA 2K11 is not a pick-up and play game with your friends. It’s a game that requires a serious investment in time to learn the controls, learn how to call plays, learn how valuable an open shot is, etc. This is good and bad. It is good because it allows you to understand the nuances of the game better and actually become better as you play more of it. It is bad because it builds a fanboy-army of people who are able to flourish under the system and hence think they have the right to call anyone who has trouble with the gameplay a “cheeser”. Oh, and it’s also hard to play a casual game. This is not the kind of game you can sit around and play while waiting for a few people to show up at your place or to kill a quick 20-30 minutes.

Anyways, I haven’t played too much team mode because I got frustrated pretty quickly by how many turnovers I was making. It wasn’t out of the question to record about 30 turnovers on average in the first few games I played. While this is understandable because I was making difficult passes, I also think the AI plays the passing lanes too well. In the real NBA, you would think that most teams could pass the ball around the perimeter in a semi-circle and back despite how good the defense was. In 2K11, you will struggle to be able to do this unless you happen to call a play that lets you do this, in which case the defenders will strangely stop playing the super-aggressive passing lanes. While this does result in more careful passes being made, it severely dulls the reactionary skill of a gamer. When I see a lane open up or about to open up, I press the pass button only to have the defender, whether he is facing the ball or not, deflect the ball away.

While I’m on the topic of passing, let me go ahead and comment on the default passing mechanism. To put it into context, there are 3-4 different ways you can execute a pass in NBA 2K11. There is the default passing mechanism, where you point the left stick at the player you want to pass to and press the A (or X on PS3) button. There’s the icon pass, where you press LB (L1) and then select the icon over the player you want to pass to. There’s an icon lead pass, which I am yet to figure out how to use, which supposedly allows you to send a player on a cut and then pass to them. Finally, there’s a mode called total control passing which I have also not tried, which allows you to use the left stick and one of the bumpers to make passes. Many people have claimed that this is the way to play the game. Perhaps this is what I need to do to end my frustrations about passing in this game.

Even after a few weeks of diligently working the 2K10 passing mechanics out of my system, I’m averaging about 4 turnovers a game in My Player mode (which I will come to later). It is, in fact, almost impossible to be able to record a decent number of assists (between 6 and 7) without turning the ball over at least 4 times a game. While this is somewhat realistic (the best passers in the real NBA tend to have high TO numbers–case in point is Steve Nash) the numbers are not nearly realistic. Steve Nash, for example, has averaged 8.3 assists and 2.8 turnovers per game during his career. If he was playing this game from a user’s perspective, he would be averaging around 5 turnovers per game for those assist numbers.

The passing lanes are simply too well-guarded, which is not realistic in an NBA where a good defender is one who can guard the passing lane well. To go with this is the fact that players can deflect balls in the passing lane with their backs to the ball. While this may happen in the off-chance in an NBA game, I doubt you will see people swat passes away or make steals as if they had eyes in the back of their head. Finally, another problem I have is with deflections. In the NBA, you see a lot of deflections with passes. Very rarely, however, do you see a deflection that goes straight up in the air and lands in the hands of the player who deflected the ball. Deflections do cause turnovers, yes, but the deflector has no control on the angle of deflection. In 2K11, every deflection results in the ball being turned over to the deflector. Well, 98%, at least. There have been a few times where the deflector has been unable to gather the ball and someone else recovers it.

Anyways, I was about to talk about passing and got distracted. So of the four passing schemes available, one is completely unusable. The regular passing scheme is absolutely broken. It worked better in NBA 2K10 and was very useful for things such as fast breaks or dumping the ball off after a shot fake. Or, you know, hitting players on cuts and things like that. Here it is nearly impossible to get the ball to the player you want using the regular passing scheme. Which is understandable for things such as half-court offense where you should be using icon passing anyway (which is what I do), but once again the game penalizes a gamer who has spotted a play developing. Imagine, for example, that Steve Nash (I guess he has become the official example player for me) dribbles into the lane and waits for Lopez or Warrick to make a cut. He wants to just hit the player on the cut and allow him to finish. Requiring icon passing here is like requiring Nash to figure out who the player cutting in is and what position he is playing on the floor (SG, C, PF, SF, etc.). While Nash is smart enough not send someone like Dudley into the paint for a jam, he certainly wouldn’t be thinking whether the cutter is a shooting guard or a power forward. In this game, you pretty much have to know what position the player you are passing to is. Which sucks if, for example, your PF is filling a few minutes at the C position, because that means you end up making a pass to an out-of-position player, usually resulting in a turnover. What should be a simple basket at the hoop becomes a turnover just because the passing system is broken.

Like I said, I still haven’t tried out icon lead or TCP, but I am quickly realizing that if I want to keep my controller in one piece and my blood pressure low, I will have to figure out some solution to this scenario. Right now, it isn’t working for me.

So, like I alluded to earlier, I am playing a lot of the My Player mode. In fact, the Association mode that I have started hasn’t advanced a single game and I’ve played a few of the Jordan Challenges on Casual/Rookie (limiting those quarters to 8 minutes is absolutely nuts). My Player feels a lot more entertaining and harder than last year. For one, Draft Combine is included so you can actually train your player with more than drills before going into training camp. Secondly, the grading system has had a major overhaul and you now get points for many useful things you do on the court, such as setting screens and making good passes. 2K sports has also overhauled the match-up engine. As a player of 2K10 I was many times forced to play bad defense since I got penalized every time the player I was supposed to guard scored. This meant hanging back on opposition fast breaks to make sure it wasn’t my match-up scoring the points.

What 2K has done this time around is a lot better but is still very glitchy. 2K11 tries to, in transition, figure out which guy you should be guarding based on the position of your teammates, your opponents and where the ball is. On pick-and-rolls, if players switch, it switches your match-up on the fly. While these are good in theory, the implementation has a ways to go.

For one, in a fast break situation, as a guard you are responsible for seemingly everyone running the break. It is not uncommon for me to see blue circles (that’s the symbolization used to denote who your match-up is) around 3 or 4 players on the opponent’s team on a break. My player is apparently responsible to guard everyone. Which is pretty stupid because it invariably means my “match-up” gets an assist and a bucket, which counts an “Allowed Inside Pass” and “Allowed Match-up to Score” penalties against me. Also many times in transition, when I have an unfavorable match-up (defending a forward or center for example–I’m a PG) the AI will suddenly decide to switch match-ups. This usually means that I effectively get picked by not only the guy I was originally guarding but my teammate who was originally guarding the guy that I am now switched to. This basically results in an open jump shot, usually from three-point range.

One other issue I have is bumping. In NBA 2K10, you could break the system by just running around the paint and the court until you ended up open, asking for a pass and draining an open jumper. That was obviously not ideal. 2K11 “solved” this by making your player stick to the guy guarding you every time you try to move. This is super-annoying because it is quite clearly a holding foul. There have been several instances where a teammate has passed me the ball where he expects me to be, but I can’t go because I’m stuck to my defender. That would most definitely be a foul in the NBA. 2K sports has some work to do to solve that problem effectively.

Finally, going back to passing again for a bit, another annoying thing is that teammates are incredibly stupid when it comes to making cuts and running fast breaks. In 2K10 you could pretty much dribble the ball until someone made a cut and then find them. In 2K11, the only way you can get people to move is pretty much by calling a play. It is entirely possible to bring the ball up to the top of the three-point line and dribble out the shot clock without anyone moving more than 1-2 feet away. While calling plays is how a lot of NBA teams do it, there are many times that teams are running a more unstructured play. Granted, most all offense in the NBA is structured, but I find it hard to believe that a player won’t be making cuts if the PG/coach hasn’t called a play. It is also impossible, as far as I am aware, to ask a teammate to make a cut in My Player mode. As floor general I can do things such as call plays, do a heat check on my teammates and change what style defense we are playing but I cannot apparently send players on cuts. Which means it is nearly impossible to score points without trying to iso your defender and getting open (plays are more often than not broken up by teammates or the opposition… the one game where I tried to run a play every time down the court, I went down 40-20 in the first quarter itself).

There has been a lot of negativity in this post when in reality I think NBA 2K11 is actually a really solid game. Today was the first time that the game actually froze for me, which was okay because I (playing for the Jazz) had just lost to the Thunder by 2 points after Jeff Green knocked down the go-ahead bucket with 0.7 seconds remaining. In the post-game interview I was asked about the trade deadline and chose to answer indifferently. So indifferently, in fact, that the game decided it wasn’t worth continuing. Haven’t brought up the game since but I assume I’ll probably be re-playing that match.

My Player has added a lot of depth with endorsements, Jordan shoes, trade finder, etc. While I’m still playing on Default/Pro, I think once I get comfortable with the system (and probably learn how to use Total Control Passing) I’ll consider moving up to Sim/Pro or Default/All-Star. The game is a lot of fun… after all, I wouldn’t be able to write over 2000 words about how I dislike it if I hadn’t played it for long periods of time. Once the NBA season gets seriously underway and if the Houston Rockets start sucking a lot, I’ll probably switch over to association mode and try to make the Rockets champions in the virtual world. Until then, I’m going to continue learning and getting better at this quality game!

rockets review: game 9 vs. knicks

The Rockets have their first official winning streak of the season, after knocking off a New York Knicks team that looked good in patches 104-96. This is the Rockets third win in the last four games and a nice way to end an East Coast road trip where they went 2-1. Rick Adelman and the Red Nation would have been hoping for a perfect 3-0 trip featuring many of the weaker teams in the Eastern Conference, but after a 0-5 start, I think the Rockets fan would take more wins than losses.

I didn’t take notes today, which is good because it will limit the length of my recap, which has been growing steadily over the course of this season. Instead, I will revert back to my original format, where I recap the game in summary, to begin with, and then going into the positives and negatives and a general game summary.

Houston was out of the gates early in this one, being led by Lowry, who got his first start of the season over Ish Smith. The shooting was slightly below par at 39 percent, but the Rockets made up for it by controlling the defensive glass well. Amar’e Stoudemire was off to a terrific start, making something like six of his first seven shot attempts and generally beasting his way through Brad Miller, Luis Scola and whoever else we threw at him.

At the half, Houston had a slim six-point lead over the Knicks doing very well on defense as well as offense. The Rockets had just four turnovers in the first half and also limited the Knicks to just five offensive boards. Of course, the Knicks aren’t the best of rebounding teams (readers are asked to refer to Kevin Love’s recent 31/31 night) but it was good to see us active on the glass.

The second half got off to a more tenuous start for the Rockets, as Houston started turning the ball over with regularity. Personally, I also thought the Knicks ended up getting a lot of calls going their way that disrupted the Rockets’ momentum. The calls did even out in the fourth quarter, though. In one particular foul call, Lowry was thrown in the inbound pass at around the half-court line and turned right into a Knicks guard (I think it was Felton). Lowry was charged with an offensive foul, which was totally ridiculous since he apparently should have had eyes at the back of his head to avoid the Knicks guard.

The visitors bench eventually got into rhythm and the third quarter quickly turned into a barrage of dunks as Ish Smith hooked up with Courtney Lee as well as Jordan Hill. New York also had a few transition dunks that were added to the highlight reel. The fourth quarter began with the Rockets holding on to an 8-point lead, disappointing given that they had grabbed a rather significant double-digit lead earlier in the quarter. Five straight free throws to end the quarter, including one off a Kyle Lowry technical for disagreeing with a call, got the Knicks within touching distance going into the fourth.

Playing consistently in the fourth quarter has been the Achilles heel for the Rockets this season, so it was with bated breath that Rockets fans, including myself, watched the fourth quarter unfold. Luckily for us, tonight New York did us a massive favor by completely imploding. The Knicks started throwing up stupid shots from all over the floor to begin the quarter, as well as blowing lay-ups at the rim. The refs did let the players play a bit, which probably annoyed Stoudemire more than anyone else.

At the half-way mark of the fourth quarter, the Knicks had only two points in the quarter compared to a bunch by the Rockets. Houston stretched the lead to 19 points before relaxing a bit and almost letting the Knicks make it back. However, the Knicks still couldn’t hit their open looks and the Rockets managed to hold on to a well-deserved victory.


Kevin Martin—Martin was off to a good start today and ended up putting in 28 points in the game. He had the touch from three-point range and also got to the line a lot of times. He played well through the first three quarters and as usual took a backseat in the fourth. If we are to win against the tougher teams, we need to figure out how to integrate Martin into the offense in the fourth, since he is the primary scoring option.

Chuck Hayes—I seldom give Hayes a mention in this column, but I thought he did an awesome job on Stoudemire after Scola was unable to stop him in the first half. In the first half, Stoudemire used his strength to move defenders out of his way and finish at the rim. Scola was solid in the low-block and immoveable, even by Stoudemire. Amar’e ended up taking and missing jump shots or being unable to finish at the rim with a big body, and good help defense. Stopping Amar’e from getting his shot was as key a defensive strategy as any.

Courtney Lee—Courtney was great off the bench today. He was hitting his shot within the offense and even had a couple of pretty posters, one in particular off a beautiful Ish Smith dish for an alley-oop. Lee also had two makes from long distance. If he can put in these performances consistently, he’ll be a wonderful counterfoil when Martin is resting.

Luis Scola—The guy who calls himself “El Luifa” according to his Twitter account had another consistent game, getting 24 points off 9-for-18 shooting. Scola played well in the post; so well, in fact, that the Knicks began doubling him pretty early. He was impressive passing out of the double-team and had 5 assists on the night.

Kyle Lowry—I thought Lowry played really well today, despite his ugly stat line (he went 1-for-6 for 7 points and had 5 turnovers to go with his 6 assists). I thought he got the offense going very well in the beginning of the game and marshaled the team very well. His active hands on defense also limited the effectiveness of the Knicks’ guards.


There were actually not that many negatives today, even for someone like myself, who likes to scapegoat players. As a team we only had two players with a negative plus/minus rating—Brad Miller and Shane Battier, who had minus-5 and minus-1 respectively.

The one blip in the Rockets’ play today was turnovers in the second half. After protecting the ball very well in the first half to give away the ball only twice, the Rockets had ten giveaways in the second half, including six in the third quarter. Luckily for us, the Knicks were unable to take advantage of these turnovers—something that our other opponents this year have managed to capitalize on.

Free throw shooting is also something that the Rockets should continue to work on. They started off the season very hot from the line, but have cooled off significantly since. Today, the Rockets missed ten free throws to go 72 percent from the line. Lowry was the main culprit, going 5-for-8 from the line, but even the usually dependable Kevin Martin and Luis Scola had four misses between them.


The Rockets went a long way in fixing their issues in this game and got a well-deserved victory at the Madison Square Garden. Although the victory was against the struggling Knicks team, watching the second half one actually felt confident that the Rockets would hold on, unlike in previous games where Houston has had the lead going down the stretch.

The key areas I had identified in previous recaps were as follows:

Limit turnovers—The Rockets had 14 tonight, still higher than where they want to be, but they played a very good first half. A few of the turnovers in the second –half can be credited to poor officiating for offensive foul calls, but the Rockets still need to make sure they take care of the basketball for the entirety of the game.

Limit offensive rebounding—Houston only allowed the Knicks nine offensive boards today and many of those were in the fourth quarter during garbage time. Overall, the task of keeping the Knicks off the glass was well executed. As I mentioned earlier, the Knicks aren’t an elite rebounding team, so this isn’t necessarily the end of this issue.

Play good team defense—I thought the Rockets played good team defense today. Granted, the Knicks missed a lot of open jumpers, but in general I feel like we did a good job. Scola, who was getting abused in the post by Stoudemire early, was given some reprieve by Adelman who decided to put the athletic Jordan Hill and the stocky Chuck Hayes on Amar’e as the game progressed. It was a good defensive adjustment on the part of the coaching team.

It appears that Adelman has grown a bit more comfortable with his rotation, although it is missing  Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks. Chase Budinger was also unavailable today, going by many comments. As these guys start to return to the line-up, it’ll be important for the coaching staff to rotate the players efficiently. I feel like that was one of the bigger issues with having such a deep team.

All in all, this was a good win for the Rockets, who can head back to Houston knowing they are just three games away from .500. The Rockets do have a challenging week up ahead, though, so they can’t let up the intensity. Next up is Chicago at home on Tuesday followed by a road game in Oklahama City in the second night of the back-to-back. The Rockets then head to Canada to take on the Raptors in a Friday night match-up.

I’m going to go ahead and predict that we will be 5-7 at the end of the week, with victories against Chicago and Toronto, and a big loss to the Thunder. The optimist in me, though, is hoping that at this time next week the Rockets will have pulled back to .500 and will begin building a winning record.

rockets review: game 8 vs. pacers

They hustled. They flowed. They played amazing offense interspersed with very questionable possessions. Their defense ranged from marshmallow soft to extremely physical. The Houston Rockets played the whole range of styles through this tight game against the Indiana Pacers and managed to come up on top thank to some unexpectedly good defense in the fourth quarter and some questionable refereeing.

And, of course, some very valuable minutes coming from the most unexpected of players.

Houston picked up their second win of the season, this one against the Pacers against an Indiana team that put up 54 points on the Jazz in the 3rd quarter a few nights ago. In doing so, they broke a four-game losing streak against Indiana and went a long way on putting their season back on the right track.

I took notes again, so here is the breakdown.

1st Quarter

The first quarter was well contested, with Houston ending up with a slender three-point lead. Scola started off hot and we worked the ball to him early. It was particularly good to see that we didn’t settle for low-percentage jump shots but tried to get into the paint early. Scola worked well to get, I think, 7 points in the first half as the Rockets played good offense and defense for the most part, at least to begin with.

Brad Miller was active early, knocking down a jump shot and his trademark running-through-honey drive into the paint. This was, I believe, his first start in a Rockets uniform in the regular season as he got the start over Jordan Hill following Yao’s injury.

While we started off well, it wasn’t without the same mistakes as before. Scola, in my opinion, has a major weakness on pick-and-roll defense that opposition after opposition will exploit this season. The defender that he is helping and he don’t communicate effectively enough how to handle the offense and someone ends up with a wide open shot with no close out.

Kyle Lowry checked in with four minutes left in the first quarter and Rockets fans worldwide breathed a collective sigh of relief as he took it into the paint and finished for a couple of easy layups. It looks like he’s finally getting healthy. That, or someone talked to him about his contract and how valuable it actually is.

Houston did screw up the last minute or so of the first quarter, letting the Pacers get back in with a few consecutive turnovers off their last few possessions. They ended with four turnovers in the quarter—definitely on the higher end of the spectrum.

2nd Quarter

Instead of consolidating our slim first quarter advantage, we began the second quarter in much the same fashion that we ended the first—with sloppy turnovers. Jarrett Jeffries did stem the tide a bit, taking a nice charge and Brad Miller continued to impress with a beautiful spin move to the hoop—looks like the Indiana native was excited to be playing at home.

Danny Granger, mostly quiet up to that point, began heating up as he hit consecutive jumpshots over Budinger and Jeffries and followed that up with a three pointer very early in the clock. Granger was looking to took over the game at that stage but the Rockets threw a lot of different looks at him and kept it from becoming unmanageable.

Brad Miller, meanwhile, impressed on defense as well, giving Hibbert some trouble with his height. That said, Miller also had his share of poor possessions on defense, letting Hibbert go around him for easy layups after Miller committed for a steal or was just too slow and unathletic.

Kyle Lowry continued the good work in the first quarter—driving into the lane at will and either finishing at the hoop, drawing a foul or kicking out to an open guy on the perimeter. In one particular play, he drove down the right side of the baseline and found a wide open Budinger in the left-wing, who knocked down the first of his two three-pointers for the game.

The Rockets still couldn’t wrest control and a wide open Posey three pointer near the end of the half was a bit of hindsight of what was to come in the third quarter.

3rd Quarter

The third quarter started out in impressive fashion for the Rockets, with Miller finding a slicing Kevin Martin for an easy dunk in our opening play of the half. He hit a few other players during the half and even had a few more lumbering drives into the lane and managed to finish or get to the line.

Kyle Lowry’s defense was class today, with his hands extremely active and causing the likes of Collison and Ford a lot of trouble. Kevin Martin used his quick first step to open up some room and drive to the basket a few times as the Rockets opened up a smallish lead to begin the third.

Indiana did not waste too much time to fight back, with Dunleavy catching fire from the field, curling off screens to hit a few shots from downtown and mid-range. James Posey, though, was the story of this quarter as he hit three of the Pacers’ six three-pointers in this quarter, as Scola blew the coverage over and over again.

The Rockets, who had opened up a double-digit lead at one point in the third, ended up going into the last quarter tied up with the Pacers at 78 apiece.

4th Quarter

We started off the fourth quarter much in the same way as we did the second—making poor decisions on offense and not moving our feet on defense. The Pacers took a quick lead on the back of a turnover and two contested jump shots from Lowry and Lee. Even when our defense did well, getting a block, the loose ball seemed to inevitably land up in the hands of a Pacers player for an open shot.

The lead fluctuated back and forth as the Rockets took the ball in while the Pacers kept connecting on difficult jump shots, many of which were contested. James Posey hit another three before he was inexplicably benched—probably to save him for the end of the game, but in effect surrendering the momentum that he had manufactured.

Something had to give, and that something was the Pacers’ defense of the Lowry-Miller pick and pop. Yes, Lowry and Miller. Yes, Lowry was the guard and Miller was the guy popping. Brad Miller had two three pointers in consecutive possessions off of identical pick-and-pop plays executed by Lowry, followed by another pick-and-pop where Miller faked the three and found Lowry in the paint for what ended up being a foul on the floor.

With Miller’s two back-to-back threes, the Rockets tied the game up at 93 apiece, and Miller gave the Rockets the lead for good after hitting 1-of-2 free throws late in the fourth. The Pacers stopped running their offense, instead settling for pick-and-rolls and difficult shots—the same shots that had been following earlier but stopped falling when it mattered.

When Kevin Martin hit his only three off the game in the next score of the game, the Rockets went up 97-93 with three minutes to go, and for the first time it seemed like we might actually hold on. A few possessions and a McRoberts technical foul later, the Rockets were up by five points—100-95.

Then the game of basketball took a backseat as the Rockets-Pacers seemed to get into a wrestling game as Granger was absolutely hacked under the basket and didn’t get a foul called. Keep in mind, the Pacers probably also had a loose ball foul as Miller tried to control the board, but the referees kept their whistles firmly in their pockets. The entire play ended with McRoberts being called for a foul and the Rockets getting the ball back. The refs called a very loose game today, something that was good to watch, but there probably should have been a call there in the Pacers’ favor.

Houston managed to hold on to a three-point lead despite a near turnover and a Lowry air-ball from three-point land with 15 seconds left on the game clock. Dunleavy screwed up for the Pacers as he advanced the ball before a timeout, before the Pacers strangely ran the clock down before attempting a three-pointer after solid perimeter defense from Shane Battier and Kyle Lowry. The ball didn’t hit iron and Martin ended up controlling the board and giving the Rockets only their second victory of the year.


There were a lot of positives today for the Rockets, which should be expected on a day when we win. Brad Miller was unquestionably the player of the game for the Rockets with Kyle Lowry putting in some high-value minutes in easily his best performance of this season. If today was anything to go by, it looks like Lowry has finally recovered from his spasms and may be looking at the starter spot this Sunday against New York.

Brad Miller—the other gentle giant was 9-for-16 from the field today for 23 points, including 3-for-3 from three-point range. He also grabbed his share of boards and more impressively was a very good teammate, dishing out five assists, many of which have been recalled in this recap.

Kyle Lowry—after his poor performance on Wednesday against the Wizards, where he tried to shoot his way out of trouble, Lowry went back to what made him a valuable player for us last season. When he drove into the paint, more often than not he had an uncontested layup or set someone up for an easy shot. Lowry had 13 points today on 5-of-10 shooting and although he had four turnovers, he also had seven assists and ran the offense very well. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets the start on Sunday.

Shane Battier—Battier tied the highest plus/minus today for the Rockets team and deservedly so given his great defense today against the likes of Granger and Dunleavy. Although these guys got their points, Battier did an impressive job of keeping Granger to 7-for-18 shooting, including just 1-for-6 from beyond the arc.

Courtney Lee, Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger also deserve honorable mentions here. Lee was nearly unstoppable when he managed to get the first step on his defender, freeing up for an easy jumper. Jordan Hill had a couple of exciting dunks, including an athletic put-back off an Ish Smith floater that missed the hoop as usual. Budinger hit two threes today and looked to be shooting better, although still very hesitantly.


The negatives weren’t too bad today, but I feel it worth calling out a couple of guys who didn’t play up to their highest level. It’s hard to single out two guys who combined for 36 points on 13-for-27 shooting but I’ll do so any way just to keep this column balanced.

Kevin Martin—Kevin struggled today as he didn’t get the calls that he relies on to get into shooting rhythm. He did end up bagging 20 points but his shooting was just a little off today. He went 1-for-6 from three-point range, although the one that did go in was arguably at the best time—down the stretch to give us a 97-93 lead.

Luis Scola—the Argentinian missed a lot of shots in the paint today, but that’s okay since many of his shots would probably have got him to the line with a different officiating crew. Anyhow, Scola is being singled out once again because of his defense. Posey scored most of his three pointers when Scola was guarding—or rather—supposed to be guarding him. As I identified earlier in this piece, Scola has a lot of work to do when it comes to pick-and-roll defense. I haven’t seen the Knicks extensively this year, but I do know that Stoudemire flourished as a pick-and-roll player in Phoenix.

Turnovers were again bad today—at 15, about 50 percent higher than we should be hoping for. This included six turnovers in the second quarter, but we tightened it up when it mattered by throwing the ball away only once in the fourth quarter. Offensive rebounding was once again a concern, but a lot smaller than it has been in the past. The Pacers grabbed 11 off the offensive glass today which is just a few more than we should hope to be evening out at.


This was a badly needed win for a wounded Houston Rockets franchise. Our record is now 2-6 and it looked like we were playing with some passion today, especially veteran Brad Miller who put in probably one of his best performances in his last few seasons. One can only hope that the Rockets don’t let this momentum fall away and use it as we finish off our East Coast road trips with games coming up at New York and Chicago.

Also, a special shout out to the announcers at Indiana Pacers. You guys weren’t nearly as bad as the Warriors crew but were still painful to listen to. One of you guys actually claimed that the “54 points against the Jazz didn’t just happen” and that was a result of practicing “rhythm” and “momentum” in the gym. That’s so absurd that I’m not sure you were being serious. I guess most other NBA players just go to practices with the goal of pleasing their coach, not building momentum and practicing with their teammates. If you could practice a lot and get 54 points a quarter, I guarantee you every single coach in the NBA would be mandating it.

This is a nice way to go into the weekend for the Red Nation. Lowry looks great and Brad Miller looks like a good emotional leader for this team. We finally played good defense in the fourth quarter and forced turnovers. If we can play great defense in the first quarter and fourth quarter and limit turnovers throughout the game, our offense is good enough to win a few games.

rockets review: game 7 vs. wizards

We suck.

Not only are we making the same mistakes game after game, but we’ve now also been gobsmacked with injuries, with Yao Ming joining Aaron Brooks on the list of injuries, after tweaking a tendon in his left foot in the first quarter of the game. Kyle Lowry returned from injury today, but his play today showed that either last year was a flash in the pan, or he is still recovering from his back spasms. The Rockets once again managed to keep it close for three quarters before resorting to the same problems as in past games to end up losing to a weak Wizards team that was made to look extraordinary.

Also, for once I took notes on the game so I will be able to kind of single out every thing I noticed during the game.

1st Quarter

Instead of starting with the energy we should have got from getting our first win of the season a few nights ago, the Rockets started out with no energy whatsoever. It didn’t help that we allowed the Wizards first out of the gate, throwing the ball away 3 times in the first 4 minutes of the game. Our offensive execution was very baffling. I can’t recall more than one pass being attempted at Yao to see how he worked against the tall JaVale McGee. Instead, we worked it around the perimeter and settled for jump shots.

The Wizards, meanwhile, took advantage of the situation and the turnovers by executing their break. As usual, the Houston defense was non-existent and a bit of passing around eventually found someone open somewhere, and they knocked their shot down more often than not, at 60 percent for the first quarter. It didn’t help the Rockets, either, that we got continually outmanned on the offensive glass, giving up 4 in the first quarter alone.

Things picked up a bit late in the quarter with Ish Smith and Chase Budinger both knocking down three-pointers. Unfortunately, this bit of good luck was counterbalanced with the inevitable happening—Yao Ming went down about halfway into the first quarter. Yao successfully drew a charge against JaVale McGee, but replays indicated that McGee brushed his foot on the continuation, whilst Yao was on the floor. The great wall left for the locker room and did not return. Reports haven’t indicated the seriousness of the injury as yet.

2nd Quarter

As a whole, the Rockets played slightly better in the second quarter of the game, but the first quarter was honestly an easy compare. The Wizards did what the Rockets should have done—abuse the paint. Instead of settling for contested jump shots, Wall and company drilled the ball into the paint, where Blatche and McGee pretty much scored at will. Yi’s production from the elbow was identical to Jason Smith’s performance a week ago—just a slight bit of rotation and Yi was left wide open to knock down jump shots and he made more than he missed.

The second quarter also saw Kyle Lowry play a number of consecutive minutes and today he was absolutely atrocious. He ended the game shooting 2-11 with 2 turnovers and this was primarily because the majority of his shots were coming from outside the paint. Today, it seemed that Kyle Lowry was trying to emulate Aaron Brooks. Too bad, because Kyle Lowry isn’t even half the shooter that Aaron Brooks is. Lowry needs to put the jump shot away and look to create for his teammates. He was not re-signed because of his shooting ability, he was signed for his ability to get his teammates into rhythm and to hustle on the glass and on fast breaks. One example that clearly demonstrates how Lowry hurt us today was evident in a sequence where Scola was given the ball in the post and hit a nice hook shot for a score. The very next possession, instead of trying to get the ball back to Scola to exploit the match-up, Kyle Lowry pulled up for a three in transition. WTF, man?

Other things I noticed was that Kevin Martin is a beast at drawing the foul. Unfortunately, he doesn’t draw too many fouls down the stretch so he ends up taking awkward looking shots that hurt us. Early in the game, though, we should look to exploit the foul drawing and get the opposition into foul trouble. Also, Chuck Hayes needs to be cognizant when he’s handling the ball near the top of the key with his back to the basket. Against the Spurs the other night, Tony Parker got the steal and took it to the hoop in the game-changing moment. Today, John Wall pulled off almost the same thing. It’s obvious that the Rockets aren’t talking to each other on offense either, or someone would be telling Chuck that someone is coming from his blindside for the steal.

3rd Quarter

This was Houston’s best quarter and we even ended up taking the lead for a while before the Wizards gabbed it back. Shooting-wise, this was our best quarter as we went 9-21 for 43 percent shooting. We also only had two turnovers in this quarter and defensively, we forced the Wizards to commit 5 turnovers. The Wizards did play good defense, however, and their energy in this quarter led nicely into good defense in the fourth quarter. The Rockets couldn’t convert on all the turnovers and their defense was still below average at best.

JaVale McGee in particular played very intelligent defense against Brad Miller. For that matter, he played good defense against Yao, as well, fronting him and limiting him to 0 shot attempts in his short night. Going back to his defense against Miller, McGee hangs back, enticing Miller with an open lane. Unfortunately, Miller drives to the basket about as quickly as Shaq swims, so McGee recovers with more than enough time to record a thundering block. This is good for my fantasy team, which contains JaVale McGee, but not very good for the Rockets tonight.

Anyhow, Kevin Martin gave us our first lead, knocking down a pair of free throws (after missing a pair of free throws earlier in the quarter to do exactly the same thing). The Wizards started doubling Scola in the post as soon as he started backing in, which resulted in a few turnovers and also a few ugly looking shots missed from about 2 feet that should have been knocked down. It’s even worse that I felt like we got bailed out by the refs a bunch in this quarter, after getting ticky tack fouls called in our favor. On defense, meanwhile, Scola continued to play the defense that worked so fabulously against Jason Smith (not) against Yi Jianlian.

4th Quarter

We managed to keep the game close for most of the fourth quarter, forcing the Wizards to turnover the ball and scoring off those turnovers. However, Lowry kept playing pretty poorly on offense and it seemed like we couldn’t buy a layup. The Wizards, to their credit, played good defense in the paint. But an NBA caliber team shouldn’t be getting blocked so regularly at the hoop.

At one point, it appeared that Kevin Martin was heating up, hitting a two pointer at the end of the quarter followed by a three-pointer followed by a trip to the free throw line in three consecutive possessions. However, our defensive rebounding, or lack thereof, once again bit us on our backside as the Wizards grabbed 7 offensive rebounds to push home an advantage with second-chance points. Once the Wizards pushed their lead up to around 7 points, I knew it was over because our defense has been pathetic. Washington, in contrast, played some really good defense in the fourth, and definitely deserved to come out on top.

The Rockets ended the night shooting 39 percent from the field, compared to 45 percent by the Wizards. The Rockets defense did get better continuously for the first three quarters before fizzling out again in the fourth. The Wizards pushed their defensive intensity up several notches in the fourth and were able to outscore the Rockets despite turning the ball over 5 times by getting offensive rebounds.


Kevin Martin—Continues to be a beast at scoring but not much else. He did well against his defensive match-ups today, but then Kirk Hinrich and a trigger-happy Gilbert Arenas aren’t the most potent of opponents to guard. Unfortunately, Martin still cannot create his own shot down the stretch, which is keeping us from utilizing his offense when the game gets tight.

Umm… that’s it. I can’t think of any other player who made more positive contributions than negative.


Kyle Lowry—Lowry was the biggest disappointment for me today. We couldn’t expect Ish Smith to play all 48 minutes and Lowry was a pretty big contract for us this offseason. So far this season, he has shown only shades of what he did last season (active hands on defense, taking charges, running the break, taking it to the hoop and drawing fouls) and has instead settled for a barrage of silly jump shots. Hopefully this is related him to being unhealthy.

Shane Battier—Battier struggled once again today. After decent offensive performances the last two nights, he missed a couple of open shots. More disconcertingly, he simply did not show up to guard Al Thornton and Andray Blatche. Both these guys had 20 points on the night and had their way in the paint and from mid-range. Battier’s plus/minus today was -18.

Luis Scola—Although he put up 24 points on the night, he only had 6 boards and missed several shots from less than 3 feet away from the basket. It seems Scola has one of two nights—nights where he can’t miss from any where in the paint and other nights where his shot is off by just enough to make him look average (the World Championship semifinal was one of those nights).

Coaching—The coaching was bad today. While we were struggling to grab boards (it seemed like if the Wizards even attempted to get an offensive board they succeeded) Adelman continued to keep Jordan Hill on the bench. Courtney Lee, who had a great game against the Timberwolves only had 11 minutes today. Adelman has struggled to find his rotations this season and the Rockets continue to drop games. With Yao out, presumably Jordan Hill will start and this will definitely help our presence in the paint a lot.


Today was a very bad game. The team lacked energy and lacked chemistry. It doesn’t look like this team enjoys playing with each other very much. We have made the same mistakes 7 games in a row now—poor defensive rebounding and over-reliance on our jumpshots. Turnovers can also be added to that list. Some may say that missing Yao was key today but this season thus far has showed that Yao has been about average for us. The fact is that our team has almost no defensive presence in half-court sets and even less in transition. Hence, every turnovers is pretty much a guaranteed basket for our opponents.

The Rockets have now dropped to 1-6 and as much as it pains me to say this, it feels like that is now an accurate measurement of how our team has played. While we were close in our first five losses, we never looked we were in control and we definitely never had a biggish lead. Today was more of the same. With Yao out, our frontcourt rotation becomes slightly weaker, but I think that may actually be a good thing as it means more minutes for Jordan Hill, who is the only tall athletic guy on our team.

Indiana, our next opponents, had a field day against the Nuggets last night, going 20-21 in the third quarter, with Dunleavy filling it up from beyond the arc. Dunleavy is a big man who can shoot and our forwards (Scola and Battier) so far this season have been leaving their defensive match-ups with wide open shots. I’m kind of afraid that we’re going to get ruined by jump shooting one more time this season.

Come on, Houston, play like you actually want to go out there and win.

rockets review: game 6 vs. timberwolves

It is with great pleasure that I write this game recap–the first, of hopefully many, of the season following a Rockets win. As I mentioned in yesterday’s recap of the Spurs game, I wasn’t yet worried, but would be very worried if we dropped a game to the Wolves, who lost their last 4 games by an average of 26 points. Thankfully the Rockets took care of business, beating the Timberwolves by exactly that margin.

The game started out with both teams ice cold. The Rockets managed to get an early lead by going to the line frequently whereas the Timberwolves were continually throwing up rocks from all over the place, instead of pushing it to Darko and Kevin Love. The Rockets picked up the pace in the second quarter, with Ish Smith being a great facilitator in the first start of his NBA career. In particular, Smith’s lightning speed on fastbreaks got us a number of easy points in transition.

By half-time, the Rockets had opened up a 60-37 lead and were well on their way to blowing out the Wolves. Solid play in the third quarter ensured that the Timberwolves did not make a comeback and we were able to allow our bench to close out the game without too much trouble.


There were a lot of positives today, which can be expected when you blow out a team by 26 points. All of these positives have to be taken with a massive lump of salt, though, given that the victory did come against a struggling Minnesota Timberwolves team. That said, a win is a win is a win, and it is especially appreciated when it is the first of the season.

Ish Smith is the first name to mention. A few weeks ago, Ish Smith was on the verge of getting cut from the roster or being sent down to the Rio Grande Vipers of the NBA D-League. Instead, Morey elected to keep Smith on the roster, probably because of Lowry’s injury issues last season and also because he played some really good minutes during the preseason. As Brooks went down yesterday, the decision came into fruition as Lowry was also out with recurring back spasms. Ish, in his first start as an NBA athlete, demonstrated why the management had put faith in him by putting in an electric performance.

I daresay that Ish Smith is a few knots faster than Aaron Brooks. And not only is he faster, he has got superior ball handling skills. Smith managed to initiate fast breaks even after the Timberwolves had scored. As someone pointed out on the Red94 chatroom, Ish Smith seemed to move with extra pace whereas everyone else appeared to be caught in a slow motion replay. His stat line does not look impressive–7 points, 6 assists and 4 boards in 42 minutes of action–but his +/- of +24 demonstrates how well he ran the offense. Not only that, but Smith would easily have a few more assists if Jordan Hill had knocked down fastbreak layups after getting fouled.

Yao Ming looked as comfortable as he has this season on offense, putting in a good performance against the legitimate(ly overpaid) Darko Milicic and getting to the line with regularity. His defensive rebounding was still short of average but hopefully that will improve as his conditioning improves. We only needed Yao for about 16 minutes today, which is good in the long run, I suppose.

Kevin Martin and Luis Scola were as consistent as ever with getting their points, finishing with 21 and 24 points respectively. Both also played under 30 minutes given that we were dominating the Timberwolves. In particular, I was extremely happy with one particular play involving Kevin Martin and Yao Ming. Martin passed the ball into Yao in the low post. Yao, having dominated Milicic, drew a double team from Martin’s defender. Yao drew the secondary defender in and then kicked it back out to Kevin Martin who knocked down a smooth three pointer. That play epitomizes how our current roster full of good perimeter shooters (Brooks, Martin, Budinger, Lee) is built for an offense involving a dominant big man. Here’s hoping we have more of that in the next few weeks.

Jordan Hill was also very impressive today. One particular play sticks in mind, where he had a ferocious block in the first quarter that led to a simple fast break score. Jordan Hill definitely gives us an athletic defensive presence in the paint, something which has been missing from our frontcourt the last couple of seasons.


It is difficult to look for negatives in such a rout, but there were still a few there. For one, we allowed 19 offensive rebounds. That is about double of how much we should be targeting. Our offense was clicking today and the Timberwolves were pitifully bad at executing their offense, which is why this did not have as much of an effect. But we can’t expect NBA teams to pick up 19 offensive boards and still end up losing by over 20 points on a regular basis. We need to clean up the glass on the defensive end. Scola did a good job; Yao not so much.

Chase Budinger continued to struggle from the field, his only jump shot coming late into garbage time. He missed another couple of wide open shots from beyond the arc that we were accustomed to him knocking down. We didn’t need those shots today, but we will need them on other days (such as yesterday, when we could have consolidated our lead in the fourth quarter against the Spurs). He will need to keep practicing that shot and hope he eventually gets into rhythm.


All in all, it feels really good to get that first victory under our collective belt. If we had not been able to knock off the Wolves, that would have pushed us into red alert. As it happens, we took care of business and demonstrated to our fans and the rest of the NBA that we are a good team that just got hit by an unfortunate schedule to begin the season. There are still opportunities to improve, of course, particularly on defense, but we’ve made good strides. I’m confident of this team being led well by Ish Smith during Brooks’ and Lowry’s absence and if he keeps up his level of performance, he could be making a serious push for the starting spot, even when everyone is healthy (even if it is just a pipe dream!).

We have a relatively easy week coming up, playing Washington and Indiana during the week on Wednesday and Friday respectively. The Wizards have started their season 1-4, disappointing for them after acquiring John Wall in the draft. The Pacers, a traditionally tough rival for the Rockets (too many times has Granger beaten us from beyond the arc), have had a marginally better start and are currently placed at 2-3. After these weekday matchups, we take on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. The Knicks have looked pretty good this season and are currently placed 3-3 but look like they are playing with good chemistry.

AB is going to be out for at least 2 weeks and Lowry is still day-to-day so we have a good shot at using the same rhythm generated by Ish Smith as teams begin scouting him now. Here’s hoping that the Rockets can build on this momentum. Every winning streak begins with the first victory.

rockets review: game 5 vs. spurs

In a thrilling game that went into overtime, the Rockets once again came out on the wrong side of the victory in an intense divisional match-up in San Antonio. Unfortunately, this loss doesn’t hurt any less even if I was expecting it. We were very close to finally getting off the zero-win mark. Instead, we went down by three points and remain the only winless team in the NBA this season.

I missed most of the first quarter while I was busy playing some real basketball myself. By the time I first flipped on the television, the scores were tied up at 21 apiece. Both teams were shooting extremely hot. I think the Rockets went into the second quarter shooting 68 percent compared to the Spurs’ 58 percent. The Rockets ended up cooling down a bit in the second quarter while the Spurs continued shooting hot and took a 57-52 lead into half-time. Brooks also ended up injuring his ankle in the last play before the buzzer and did not return to the game.

In the third quarter, the Spurs began to pull away, expanding their lead into double digits. The Rockets started making the same mistakes from previous games again. Missed defensive assignments, inability to get defensive rebounds, and the like. I began resigning myself to another expected 10-15 point loss and coming in here and writing the same things I have in all the other recaps.

Then, something changed. Kevin Martin twisted his ankle and left the game. This meant Courtney Lee got big minutes and it was essentially our second unit out there. We managed to stay within fighting distance to end the third, down 84-91 going into the final period. Ish Smith was now running the show, with both Brooks and Lowry not available. Also on court were Courtney Lee and Chase Budinger. Don’t remember if the Chuckwagon was in yet, but he played a good part in the 4th.

We ended the 3rd quarter with a 4-0 run and we began the 4th with a 10-0 one. Ish Smith was all over the place, knocking down a three, setting up assists and generally being a beast. Courtney Lee hit three pointer from the corner to give us our first lead in a while. Unfortunately, Chase missed a wide open opportunity to extend the lead, but this was a great come back from our team, which had seemed down and out.

Skip forward to the end of the fourth. The Rockets were up by 2 with less than a minute left. Courtney Lee went to the line with a chance to ice the game but ended up choking on both his free throws. At the other end of the court Manu Ginobili hit an absolutely clutch shot. The Rockets had a few seconds to win the game but ended up with an Ish floater hitting the back of the rim. The Spurs grabbed the board with a little more than a second left to attempt a game winner. In the ensuing play, Ginobili managed to get open and barely missed a wild fadeaway. We were going into OT.

In OT, Ish Smith was once again very active and set up Scola for several great looks from the elbow. Every time the Rockets looked to pull away, however, the Spurs managed to strike back. The game was lost, in my opinion, when Tony Parker grabbed a steal from an unaware Chuck Hayes and took it to the hoop at the other end. Tim Duncan had a chance to ice the game with about 15 seconds remaining but missed a free throw. The Rockets took a timeout and three desperation three pointers later, the buzzer sounded and the Rockets moved to 0-5.


Our bench played awesome today. Special mentions go to Ishmael Smith, Courtney Lee and Chuck “The Wagon” Hayes. Ish played 35 minutes and had 7 assists to go with 4 boards and 11 points. Courtney Lee played 30 minutes today and had 11 points, including the clutch three pointer I mentioned earlier. The Chuckwagon was a beast inside, grabbing 13 rebounds, including 4 off the offensive glass. Unfortunately, Chuck Hayes was also involved in the swing play of the game.

Martin and Brooks were shooting very well in their limited minutes. I’ll list them as positive for now, but I think the team was playing in a much better rhythm when their replacements were out there. If it wasn’t for the start these guys gave us, we may have been out of the running a lot earlier.

Shane Battier was very active today on offense. He finally hit his open threes (2-3) and had some good moves in the post late in the game.


The obvious negatives would be losing Brooks and Martin to injury. While our second unit did gel together very well, I think we will need Brooks’ and Martin’s shooting to keep us in the game early. I don’t know how consistent Courtney Lee can be and while Ish Smith is a great playmaker, he can’t shoot at all and we may have lost the game to the Spurs today because they just gave him the space to throw up his array of shots and floaters.

Chase Budinger had another disappointing game, getting no points in his 15 minutes despite taking a bunch of open shots. Again, if he had been knocking even a small percentage of them down, this result could have been very different. In particular, a wide open shot from the corner at the end of our 10-0 run could have ruffled up the Spurs coaching staff and bench.


All in all, this is another rough loss for the Rockets, but one that gives me hope. Our second unit played well once they were given minutes. We played good defense in the fourth quarter–definitely better defense then we’ve played at any other time this year. We just came up against a team that had too many weapons on offense. Ginobili and Parker are clutch-shot veterans, Timmy D is having a second coming and RJ has finally slotted himself into this offense. We needed just one of these four guys to be off today to pull out the win, despite playing almost 20 minutes without our starting backcourt. That is a good thing.

That said, a loss is still a loss and we are now down 0-5, the same record that we started out with about a decade ago. We didn’t make the playoffs that year. Let’s hope that history doesn’t repeat itself in that fashion. We saved Yao for tomorrow so we should have a post presence going up against the 1-5 Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves have been blown out in their last 4 losses, losing them by an average of 26 points.

I was preparing myself for an 0-5 start after dropping the game to the Hornets (who, by the way, recorded the mighty Miami Heat, which gives me more hope about this Rockets team). However, we absolutely cannot lose to the Wolves tomorrow–our first Eastern Conference opponent and a struggling team. And we’ll be playing at home. If we don’t get our first victory tomorrow, then I’ll finally accept that we are a lot worse than I thought we were.

Until then, I still have hope!

rockets review: game 4 vs. hornets

Okay, this is getting very frustrating. Today’s game was very winnable. In fact, we should have won this game. Once again, we made small incremental in defense but they just weren’t big enough. Turnovers were better at 12 but there were still a lot of unnecessary giveaways from the Rockets that led to CP3-led fast-breaks. It was a good team performance from the Hornets, with CP3 scoring 25, most of them in the fourth quarter to ice the game.

I mentioned the referees being impressive in their calling in the Nuggets game, letting the players play the game. Today was the complete opposite for me. There were a total of 48 fouls called today, including a couple of the ludicrous “complaining against the official” technical fouls. As a Rockets supporter, I obviously thought most of the calls were going against us. I mean, the Hornets did get to the line 42 times compared to just 18 free throw attempts from us. Unlike the other day against GSW, when the Golden State announcers were mocking the disparity in free throw shots, we did take the ball into the paint very consistently.

There were also some wacky foul calls called today. Scola was called for a bogus call on the first play of the game. Later Yao was turned away from West, who ran into his hip and then stumbled out of bounds. Yao got called for the foul. Every time Okafor got the ball in the paint and hoicked up an ugly shot and missed, he was rescued by a foul. Every time CP3 ran the pick-and-roll with David West, West would slide over after the pick had been set. He got called only once. I’m not even exaggerating. I watched West in every pick and roll for a stretch and he would keep moving over.

In contrast, it appears that the referees had some sort of referendum against calling fouls on Kevin Martin’s plays. Both him and Scola have been getting to the line consistently this season by getting to the paint. Today they shot a total of 11 free throws between them. Probably a good thing for Martin, since he went from shooting 31 straight free throws this season to missing 3 out of 9 attempts today, to end with a Shaq-esque 67% from the line.

Let me quickly recap the quarters. The first quarter was played at a fair clip with both teams looking good out of the gates. Yao was shooting decently. CP3 was getting into the paint at will and dumping it off to his trees in the low post. The second quarter was played at a much slower pace and the Rockets actually seemed to thrive in it. We were running our offense well and our bench contributed some important minutes. The second half was once again a let down. After giving up only 43 points in the first half, we gave up and inexcusable 64 in the second. Even accounting for garbage-time free throws, this is unacceptable. Especially with CP3 sitting out large periods.


It’s hard to find very many positives from this game, even though we played okay. No one really stood out too brightly. Yao was good in periods, but he should have shot way better than 5-11 when he was being guarded pretty much in single coverage in the high post. He wasn’t aggressive enough and as usual his rebounding and boxing out was non-existent. Jordan Hill, I thought, provided a spark off the bench that may him see bigger minutes in the coming games. In his 26 minutes he had 9 boards, including 4 off the offensive glass, as well as 3 monster blocks. Unfortunately for him, these blocks seemed to ricochet straight to wide open Hornets players who dutifully knocked down open jumpers.

Budinger’s final numbers look okay but he missed a couple of very open jumpers and made a few bad shot decisions during his time in the game. Definitely not his worst performance. He’s getting to be a little more consistent off the bench, but he does take a lot of shots.

Kyle Lowry’s three-point shooting today was a surprise. He ended up taking 2 quick, contested threes early into his minutes that had me groaning. He did make his next two threes so it’s obvious that he’s been working on that part of his game and is eager to showcase it to league. However, I don’t think he’s consistent enough to be isolating his defender and hitting it from range.


Scola was all over the place today, both offensively and defensively. He was 4-15 today and was missing a bunch of hook shots that were falling against the Nuggets earlier this week. He wasn’t getting any help from the refs, either, and it’s pretty hard to make a shot when you’ve got defenders all over your arms. His rebounding is still beastly (he had 16 today) but his defense today was very, very bad.

There was a stretch in the third quarter, when the Rockets had pulled close and were playing good defense with most of the Hornets’ starters on the bench, where Jason Smith hit three straight mid-range jumpers where he was wide open. Our help defense on pick-and-rolls was good for the guy handling the ball, but we were showing too hard and failing to pick up the rolling defender. We weren’t playing the angles well, either, and it looked like our guards and forwards were always confused on pick-and-rolls as to who they were supposed to guard following the pick. When it’s all said and done, if you’re giving a guy like Jason Smith 14 points on the night, it’s probably from open shots (which was in fact the case) which means that our opponents just need to move the ball around a little more than normal to get their shot.

I thought Shane Battier was also disappointing today. He’s made a career out of making corner threes (or wide-open threes, in general) but so far this season he hasn’t been connecting all that consistently. The fact that Bud ended up playing more minutes than Battier off the bench makes me think that that may be one of the areas Adelman is looking to change it up in the coming games. This is obviously not working for us right now, with our team down 0-4.


I’ve complained about the officiating, but I will give the Hornets some credit for playing a tight, albeit boring, game. They were very careful with the basketball and didn’t try to make any highlight plays. Against a defense like the Rockets, which is struggling in transition as well as in half-court sets, all they needed to do was move the ball around and eventually you would end up finding an open man. As has been the case throughout the season, our opponents have been hitting open shots while we have been missing them.

Down 0-4, the warning bells are ringing very loudly. I think before the season started, the worst case we thought we would be in today was 1-3. Most people expected a 2-2 or even a 3-1 start. Only the optimists were expecting a 4-0 start. I don’t know what RA and his crew can do in the short-term. Our next match-up is another tough defensive team in the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve made a few athletic off-season pick ups and have looked good running the break, too. Tim Duncan has looked like he is winding the clock back to the Spurs’ championship days. I hate to say it, but it looks like an 0-5 start now. With that kind of start, even the Timberwolves have a chance against players who will definitely be low on confidence.

I’m not sure what Erick Dampier’s status is or when he will be joining the team. One certainly hopes it is this weekend because Yao will not be playing against the Wolves and lack of a proper post presence will be making Kevin Love salivate. Speaking of the Wolves, even they have managed a win this season. In fact, the only remaining winless teams in the league as of today are Detroit, Houston and the LA Clippers. Not exactly fine company.

We need to turn it around and we need to turn it around quick.