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Dallas Sweep Averted As Houston Rockets Defense Is Still On Hiatus

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Top Performers:

Josh Smith: 23 Pts, 3 Asts, 6 Rebs, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Monta Ellis: 31 Pts, 3 Asts, 6 Rebs, 1 Stl

Houston Rockets’ fans brought brooms to the American Airlines Arena to see Dallas get swept and the Mavericks brought every ounce of fight they had left in them. You’d think that the Rockets would match their potency but instead, we’re heading back to the Toyota Center for Game 5.

The Rockets’ defense took a second day of vacation and allowed six Mavericks to score in double figures. Rick Carlisle made the adjustment to insert J.J. Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu in the starting lineup and it paid dividends. Both players collected double-doubles and steered the Mavericks away from the dustpan. Barea had an effective 17 points and 13 assists and Aminu scored 16 points and grabbed 12 boards while limiting Harden’s production. Richard Jefferson and Raymond Felton were previously starters in Game 3 and only combined for three points, five rebounds and two assists.

169. 121. 79. . 109

The Good:

  • It’s now a 3-1 series. Getting the sweep was primarily for resting purposes and bragging rights. Houston will have a chance to close their tab with Dallas on Tuesday on their home floor. The energy will help maintain momentum as they had in the first quarter of Game 4.
  • Luckily, the Spurs-Clippers series isn’t as lopsided. Their series will extend at least to Thursday so if the Rockets win Game 5, they’ll still be granted an ideal resting period. We don’t want them to be too relaxed when they face their second round opponent AND we don’t want them completing the first round with little to no rest in between (especially with their injury history).
  • Arizona product Nick Johnson saw some tick after Kevin McHale finally realized how futile it was to have Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni chase Ellis and Barea to the rim. Maybe McHale will utilize Johnson’s speed and youth for more than 10 minutes in the near future.
  • The Rockets took care of the ball (10 turnovers) as they’ve done all series. Ball security had been a season-round defect but it appears (knock on wood) that they’ve eliminated their bad habit.

  The Bad:

Rockets fans bring brooms, immediately have them taken up by Mavs staff (photo via @Adna_xoxo) http://t.co/WjgML12uJW pic.twitter.com/uxtDav2H6H

— SportsDayDFW (@SportsDayDFW) April 27, 2015

  • For the fans, they’ve wasted a few bucks to buy brooms that were meaningless by the end of the night. For the Rockets, there were bundles of regrets that I’m sure will haunt them on their way back to Houston
  • Josh Smith went 4-5 from beyond the arc. The rest of the team made less three pointers than him (3) on 26 more attempts. After the first quarter, Houston got trigger happy with jumpers. They relentlessly attacked the rim and scored 24 points in the paint in the first 12 minutes. But it was so successful that they had to find another way to make the game more difficult. In the second period, they scored 10 points in the paint and by the end of the third, they scored four. Houston continued to shoot jumpers as if there was an electric fence surrounding the paint. That’s one area this game was lost.
  • As far as I know, the Rockets’ defense doesn’t make road trips. They’ve allowed 124.5 points per game in Dallas in the first round. If their defense doesn’t take the court on Tuesday, this series may be up for grabs.
  • The Hack-A-Rocket tedious strategy has finally (sort of) worked. Dwight Howard shot 3-13 from the line, Smith shot 3-6 and the Rockets ended the night shooting 65 percent from the charity stripe. It’s not something you can normally get away with and win the game, however if your opponent shoots 42.9 percent in the same game, there are bigger issues than free throws.
  • In Game 3, the Rockets was the team to pioneer offensive rebounding but the tables turned in Game 4. The Mavs snatched 16 offensive boards versus the Rockets seven. In addition, Houston shot a worse percentage than Dallas from the field on 13 fewer shots. Second chance opportunities are imperative in the efficiency perspective (especially with good three-point shooting teams such as Dallas).
  • When Terry and Prigioni aren’t making shots, they’re absolutely useless. They don’t provide defense so they’re basically a walking turnover (missed shot). They finished with a combined three points on 1-9 shooting. They get just as many open jumpers as anyone on that team. It’s paramount they shoot well to level the playing field.
  • Trevor Ariza continues to drown in his shooting slump. In the past three games, he’s shot 2-13 (15 percent) from deep. His defense is appreciated but on nights like this, his offense may have been more valuable.

The Game:

The Rockets and Mavericks battled back and forth to kick off the opening quarter. There were glimpses from Houston that inferred a sweep would prevail. Terrence Jones got active with a few easy layups and there was another Smith to Howard alley-oop connection. Late in the first, the Rockets went on a free-throw frenzy. If they weren’t at the line, they were attacking the basket as 20 of their first 24 points came around the rim. They shot nearly 70 percent and led the Mavs by 9 to end the period.

That was as good as it would get for Houston. The Rockets lost their momentum as Dallas continued to send them to the free throw line. Dallas dictated the pace, converted fast breaks and rallied a 14-4 run to tie the game at 44. A compilation of second chance buckets, Houston missed jumpers and Barea swift baskets helped extend the Mavs lead to 8 to enter halftime.

The second half was more of the same. Barea and Aminu both assembled double-doubles by the third quarter. Dallas generated great, open looks while the Rockets struggled to put the ball in the iron. Houston did not make their first field goal in the second half until there were four minutes left in the third. Harden could not get into a groove as Aminu did an admirable job defending him. The fourth quarter allowed Brewer and Smith to season their point totals but the Rockets inability to grab a rebound offset their efforts.

Next: Who is MIP?

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