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.
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.
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.
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.
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.