Houston Rockets Game Summary: Warrior Sweep Highlights Rocket Issues

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Jan 21, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) is escorted off the court past the referees by guard Patrick Beverley (2) after being ejected during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors won 126-113. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We can look back at the past few games and still use the excuse the team is adapting to the new players and healthy returns yet it’s been close to a month and 16 games since Josh Smith joined the Rockets. Given the team has had big wins versus solid teams like Oklahoma City and Memphis we know they are capable of raising their level to meet the competition.

They’ve also been in dog fights losing close battles (San Antonio and Washington) and at other times they seemingly lose interest or lower their level to meet the standard of the team they are playing which has resulted in loses to Orlando and New Orleans.

At this point there has been ample time to establish a flow within the offense and defensive sets which we are seeing in specific games, so the easier answer appears to be a lack of focus or energy. At times during the game Wednesday we saw players literally running into each other as Smith and Brewer did. There were also a number of careless passes and perhaps this can all be written off as being a lack of focus or fatigue given the level of competition. Regardless they are all areas that should improve with time.

What can’t be fixed simply by hours spent in practice or on the court however is a mindset. I’m referring to two specific players and their actions. Dwight Howard should be working in concert with James Harden to lead the team especially in games that require a playoff type intensity. The fact Houston lost twice in five days isn’t the issue with Howard it’s that he didn’t take a leadership role in the second game. Several times he went off on tangents regarding the calls, took silly unnecessary fouls and was seen on the bench joking around. He needs to be conducting himself as a leader on and off the court, especially for the younger players to recognize what type of intensity is required to win these types of games.

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The other player who adversely affected the team was Josh Smith whose actions can only be described as selfish. The main infraction occurred when he ran into David Lee, bumped knees and didn’t get a call.

The play could easily have been deemed a foul, however it could have been called an offensive foul just as easily as defensive. Instead of attempting to run back down court Smith chose to stay on the offensive end berating the referee until he obtained two techs and was tossed from the game. The message this sends the team is his feelings take priority over the entire team.

He wanted out of this embarrassing game and he made sure he found a way to exit. Hey, the team knew they were taking a flyer on Smith and these types of situations will happen just like the bonuses will. The question is will his selfish actions end up hurting the team over the long term.

Seeing how Corey Brewer and Jason Terry chose to continue to fight it only served to highlight Smith’s selfishness further. McHale has been noted as a player’s coach, so we’ll hope he has the ability to fix this situation, but I’m starting to wonder if the combination of Howard and Smith will be more of a deterrent than a positive.

During his playing career McHale was a team player who excelled in an environment of many great leaders like Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish and Danny Ainge. I guess we’ll find out if those skills translate to his coaching acumen and ability to get his star players to function in the same cohesive manner.

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