Last night against the Atlanta Hawks it all seemed to work well for the Houston Rockets’ until halftime when the home team let a 16-point advantage go down the drain and actually finished the match losing by 6 points after an amazing run led by the Hawks front court duo of Al Horford and Paul Millsap.
While for a moment it looked like the players had absorbed head coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s heated speech after the Pelicans loss, it may just have been an illusion as Houston once again displayed that old sloppy, careless basketball, filled with turnovers bad calls and poor decisions.
Conversely, it’s obvious that Tuesday’s game had positive features, such as Ty Lawson’s best game in a Rockets uniform, Houston’s 71-point and 69.2% shooting half, and some great plays by the Twin Towers Dwight Howard and Clint Capela. Unfortunately, it all seemed to be for nothing when you lose a game in such a fashion.
Especially now that the Rockets are back to their losing ways and below .500.
To that end, here are three takeaways from the Houston Rockets disappointing home loss against the Atlanta Hawks.
Start Strong, Finish Slow – Houston Rockets newest motto?
For the second consecutive game the Houston Rockets went on a scoring flurry to open the game, this time with an incredible 41 points in the first quarter and more than 60 points in the half. But, differently from Saturday’s game, when the team went to the locker room losing by 1 point, this time the Rockets mounted a 15-point lead advantage.
Still, not even the Rockets 69.2% shooting half and their 9-of-13 three-point shooting – also good for 69.2% was enough
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) December 30, 2015
And that much is due to Rockets inability – or borderline incompetence – to score down the stretch. As it turns out the Rockets spent the last 8 minutes of both games shooting aimlessly, playing hero-ball and working up iso plays for James Harden and finishing the game on a 1-of-11 shooting.
Whereas our adversaries also took advantage of Rockets issues with the ball when Houston turned over the ball another 11 times on the second half (20 for the game).
And consider the Hawks did this with sharp shooter Kyle Korver having an off night from the field going 0-of-11. The Hawks managed to burn the Rockets from everywhere on the court after they could only score 36% of their second half shots.
It only goes to show that down the stretch, percentages and great shootings don’t really matter if you can’t execute and hold down your lead.
In my opinion the Houston Rockets are officially suffering from a lack of talent in the small forward position. And while I do believe that Trevor Ariza is still a useful player, great defender and hard-worker — In my mind he can’t be our starting winger anymore.
It might be that the minutes he is putting up every night have finally caught up to him or it might be that he simply lost some of his athleticism. Either way many times last night I saw Ariza awfully sliding backwards trying to catch his guarded man who slashed his way up to a layup.
That’s not all, as he tried to guard everyone on the Hawks team and failed consistently. Jeff Teague ran circles around him, Paul Millsap and Al Horford bullied him inside the paint.
Perhaps we are asking or wanting too much of Trevor Ariza when expecting him to guard the opponents best players every single night… (or all the best players, or Ariza waiting for his team mates to help) or maybe it was just an off night.
One thing is for certain though, the Rockets once most reliable player is being overloaded with too many tasks and minutes and that is definitely hurting the team’s defensive standards as well as their overall offensive quality.
The situation becomes disheartening when he goes to the bench though, as his replacement Corey Brewer is having a shameful season. Once again Brewer spent 17 “quality” minutes on court where he registered a total of 0 points and committed 4 fouls and 2 turnovers.
Brewer was also easily manhandled by Paul Millsap in one of the most important possessions of the final quarter last night.
A Talented Team
After solving a couple of issues at the beginning of the season mostly related to DeMarre Carrol’s departure it looks as if the Atlanta Hawks are ready to pick up where they left off last season.
Mike Budenholzer even handicapped himself last night by benching Dennis Schroeder. It’s well worth noting that the talented German point guard presented several issues for the Rockets on previous encounters.
If you missed last night’s game, well…you picked the wrong one to miss. Fortunately we have highlights for you: https://t.co/CkUwUw5Ooh
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) December 30, 2015
Take a look above and appreciate the Hawks beautiful ball movement as their big trio Teague, Horford and Millsap go to work.
The Atlanta Hawks are a great example of a talented squad that still manages to exceed expectations by having great teamwork and trust in each other. After Kyle Korver missed 10 three-point shots take a look at Al Horford’s statement:
"“ Kyle (Korver) was very instrumental in letting us know to stay strong and keep playing and not to get discouraged. I honestly thought that was what put us over the top because we could have very easily folded. It speaks a lot about our group. Kyle is such a professional that he is going to do other things. Put it this way, I’ll give him 10 more 3’s to make and I’ll live with every single one of them. This was just a bad game”"
Perhaps the Houston Rockets are missing some (or all?) of this team spirit.
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