If you woke up this morning asking yourself why Houston Rockets got blown out last night you aren’t alone. The Rockets had arguably their poorest effort of the season last night getting trounced by the New Orleans Pelicans 111-83.
Did you ever have one of those days when nothing goes right? I believe they call it Murphy’s Law; when everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Suffice to say I felt a certain kinship with the Rocket players as nothing I did yesterday resulted in moving forward with my task at hand. To those who went looking for the Rocket Fire post game grades I apologize as it inadvertently got wiped off my computer and in hindsight I decided the scores were all so low I’d just marry my thoughts into today’s Rocket Science post. To be fair only Donatas Motiejunas scored above a B in my grades as the team played with zero effort or energy.
The fact the Rockets lost really wasn’t the point to take away from last night, it’s how they lost. None of the starters had any zip to their game including James Harden who has been nothing short of MVP candidate worthy this season. What stung was it wasn’t Anthony Davis who did in the Rockets on another crazy stat filled evening as he gathered 7 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists, rather pedestrian by his standards. Davis’ 3 blocks and 2 steals tell more of the story as did his team mates who routinely beat Houston on effort and energy.
Shortly after the teams began the second half coach Kevin McHale had seen enough removing his entire starting line-up, but even the reserves had no zip on this night as New Orleans’ bench outscored them 59 to 47.
I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s time to panic given the Rockets are still integrating new players Corey Brewer, Josh Smith and Alexey Shved into their system. More accurately this may be a result of absolute physical and mental fatigue. The Rockets were playing their fifth game in nine nights and had also fit a practice session into that time frame.
The Pelican Brief:
While Davis registered stats well below his season averages (as per above) the Rocket killers on this night came primarily from the bench with Ryan Anderson leading the way. His 22 points and 50% shooting behind the line (3-6) were the catalyst for the Pelican bench who added the extra shovels of dirt to the Rockets who had already dug themselves a 15-point hole. Anderson led the reserves to a 30-18 third quarter which ended the Rockets hopes and resulted in the white flag being raised.
As I noted in the Rocket Pregame Countdown Tyreke Evans is having his best season in 3-years and he delivered on that promise again Friday scoring 21 points, grabbing 4 rebounds, dishing 5 assists and a steal. He accomplished this in 27 minutes, shot 75% from the field (10-15) and was a plus +20 in the game. None of the other Pelican starters broke double digits.
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The Turning Point:
The Rockets began the second half trailing by 15 (44-59) and coach Kevin McHale promptly pulled all of them in favor of the bench when he saw nothing had changed over the break. Unlike recent evenings this season the tandem of Corey Brewer, Jason Terry, Donatas Motiejunas and Joey Dorsey were unable to make a dent in the margin of the lead and even they appeared weary for the first time since this group was reformatted.
This is no time to panic however the team and the coaching staff do need to recognize some alarming trends:
- Field goal shooting has been down and shooting 39.8% isn’t going to win you many games even when your defense is humming
- Houston live and die by the 3-point shot, however on an evening when you can’t break 21% (20.7%) perhaps it’s time to attack the basket especially when you have the personnel to do it.
- At times this season we’ve seen the Rockets display sharp ball movement and passing (Charlotte being a perfect example), but in games like last night iso ball and heaving 3-pointers became the driving force. The team needs to make a concerted effort to establish ball and player movement right from the start of games and develop that consistent habit.
- To that end, Dwight Howard is not getting enough touches and this needs to change immediately. Over the past 3-games he’s had a grand total of 24 field goal attempts or an average of 8 per game: Wizards: 6-11, Charlotte: 5-5, New Orleans: 6-8. Howard is still considered one of the premiere big men and yet Houston either aren’t involving Howard enough in their offense or he isn’t presenting himself in the post enough. This is a major concern that McHale needs to address immediately.
- Personally I think the Rockets need to rethink their three-point strategy. On night’s its falling great, but the fact the team is making more 3-point attempts than the number of assists they register is a bad trend. Last night they got 22 assists in the game, but only 8 of those came from the starting line-up, yet this unit put up 13 three point shots. Looking at the lack of shots Howard is getting it makes sense to me that adjusting the offensive variety to involve the big man more should result in a better percentage shot and simultaneously make the Rockets more difficult to defend.
The Rockets will have an opportunity tonight to address these issues as they face the Miami Heat at home. The Heat arrive having been idle since New Years Eve and are on a 3-game losing streak.
Look for our pregame Rocket Countdown prior to the game and check back later for our post game Rocket Fire player grades.