Losing streak over.
In the first game post Kevin McHale, the Houston Rockets received the Portland Trail Blazers at Toyota Center this wednesday and got a much needed overtime win to kickstart the JB Bickerstaff era in Houston.
The Houston Rockets are currently the center of attention in the NBA due to management’s surprise decision to fire Head Coach Kevin McHale. The decision was made early today with Assistant Coach J.B. Bickerstaff taking over the role. Despite the big change there weren’t many innovations used in Bickerstaff’s first game at the helm – aside from Jason Terry replacing Ty Lawson in the starting line-up. For the most part the game repeated many of the same mistakes and the team displayed the same lack of interest they have during the 4 game losing streak.
Obviously it’s too soon for Bickerstaff to imprint his style on the team, however we were able to see glimpses of changes he’ll make to the team. Defensive awareness being primary among them.
Yet, something still feels off with the team this year. Though it’s impossible to control efficiency it’s like the ball refuses to drop into basket and the team’s body language is of a defeated player. Even the simple intangible of energy is missing, no one appears to be bringing it consistently and the team inexplicably stop trying when things don’t go their way.
By the end of the first half the Rockets had scored just 35 points. Last year this would be a first quarter score for Houston.
Jonathan’s Feigen following tweet summed up the feelings of many Rockets fans:
If J.B. Bickerstaff gets this thing turned around at all, even if not enough to keep this job, he will be a guy to watch for many others.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) November 19, 2015
This is nothing new as it’s like pulling teeth to get any effort or energy from this season’s Rockets. It’s become painful to watch. Listen, if you caught the beginning of the game, it was bad. If you didn’t see it, you didn’t miss much. Both teams couldn’t find any rhythm and were clearly struggling through the first quarters. The difference: One of them is in a rebuilding process, the other was supposed to be competing for the championship.
Despite that, the Blazers took advantage of Houston’s recent instability and opened up a 17 point lead in the third quarter. But then something amazing happened. Fueled by Corey Brewer and an inexplicably intense James Harden the Rockets managed to cut the lead and get into overtime.
Once in overtime James Harden just turned it up a notch and took the game over. This team needed this win. A boring, opponent-controlled game turned upside down by hard-work and effort. Not a bad start to the coach Bickerstaff era. The talent is there and everyone knows it.
Here’s the player grades:
Rockets Player Grades
3 Things We Saw
Defensive Intensity: There was definitely more awareness as they contested at the rim specifically from Dwight Howard and Clint Capela. Harden finally started deflecting back door passes, the team even managed to draw some charges. While the Rockets limited the Blazers to 21 first quarter points it’s hard to measure the improvement given how bad the Blazers are. Defense of the perimeter continues to be a problem.
Slower Pace on the offensive end: This may be circumstance or part of Bickerstaff’s new offensive scheme. Initially it was unsuccessful though the Rockets were patient attacking and used the shot clock in an effort to move the ball to an open man with the best shot opportunity.
Sense of Urgency (Finally!): This was beautiful to see. Though the team still seems to wait until their backs are against the wall, finally they displayed hustle, applied pressure and the results speak for themselves. Bottom line, this was a much needed win, but there is still a ton of work to be done to turn this season around.
Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.