Before we get going with today’s Daily Rocket Science, I’d like to add a bit to yesterday’s article: to continue the trend of not being able to catch a break, Dwight Howard has been ruled out of tonight’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks due to the ankle injury sustained on Wednesday as the Houston Rockets lost to the Detroit Pistons. Ugh.
Okay, now to today’s post. It’s pretty ridiculous that after a game where James Harden dropped one of the gaudiest triple-doubles of the season, his stat line wasn’t even close to the biggest story from the night. Yep, 33 points, 17 rebounds, and 14 assists weren’t enough to take attention off of the nine seconds of infamy where KJ McDaniels fouled Andre Drummond five times to start the second half. It’s been a trending video on all media platforms, and the public’s opinion isn’t in favor of how Coach JB Bickerstaff‘s employed the poor benchwarmer.
The Rockets have been known to play in a lot of ugly basketball games, but they usually are not the instigators of the ugliness. However, Wednesday night’s game featured the most blatant and obtuse usage of the Hack-a-Shaq strategy that I’ve ever seen. It did help the team gain their first lead of the game during the third quarter, but ultimately did not help enough for Houston to come out victorious. There have been countless assessments and discussions about the effectiveness and watchability of the strategy in recent past, and the past couple of days are no exception.
Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web
If you, dear reader, are in despair about the atrocity that is the Hack-a-Shaq strategy, there may be good news for you. In an postgame interview Wednesday night, Bickerstaff seemed very aware of the ineffectiveness of hacking Drummond so much in the loss. Veteran Rockets, including Harden and Trevor Ariza, voiced their own disapproval of the strategy and why it isn’t good basketball. Calvin Watkins of ESPN covered the team’s thoughts on the subject and provided some inside knowledge on how the decision to hack came to be made last night: GM Daryl Morey: Rockets always talk being more aggressive.
"But this time around, Rockets players didn’t seem happy with the strategy and even complained to the Pistons bench about it. “They understand what was going on,” Bickerstaff said of his players after Thursday’s film session. So, it’s over with. We move on and try to beat Milwaukee [on Friday.]”"
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Watkins mentioned in the previous article how owner Daryl Morey mentioned that the hacking might not have taken place if Howard wouldn’t have gone down early. With only Clint Capela left to try and handle one of the league’s most dominant centers, the team had to reassess the game plan. Things would have been different had Howard not exited the game because, according to Houston Chronicle‘s Jonathan Feigan, Rockets’ Howard [has been] in monster mode recently. I know I’ve shared a lot of articles on Howard recently, but his play is worth writing, reading, and getting excited about.
"“Just out there playing basketball, playing with confidence,” Howard said. “We work on our game every day. It’s going to show up sooner or later. Can’t worry about what’s being said about you. Just have to continue to stay focused, continue to work hard. Our guys, especially our bigs, the last two months put in a lot of work in the gym. All of us at that time put work in with no injuries and practice days to put shots up. That flow was coming in the game. We have to continue to do that.”"
Other than Harden and Howard, I think KJ McDaniels might be my favorite Rocket. I hate that he doesn’t get any real minutes; I think he deserves them. However, I love the way he handles the frustration that surely comes from riding the bench night in and night out. He genuinely has the team’s best interest at heart, and that’s a trait that’s hard to come by. It seems like everybody just wants to get theirs, but McDaniels really does just want to help his team however possible. Jeff Caplan of Fox Sports wrote about how Bickerstaff tosse[d] out little-used K.J. McDaniels to do the dirty work on Wednesday night, and how well he responded to the interesting and embarrassing task.
"McDaniels committed five fouls as Houston coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s chosen hit man. Bickerstaff started McDaniels in the second half for the sole purpose of fouling Drummond. And he did. Five times in nine seconds. McDaniels, who assumes end-of-bench duties under Bickerstaff, took the high road afterward."
KJ McDaniels on his five intentional fouls in nine seconds: "Anything for my teammates. I know they'd do anything for me. "
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 21, 2016
Perhaps we’ve seen the end of the Rockets doing the whole Hack-a-Shaq thing. There’s another Bickerstaff quote in the last featured article that could point to that being the case. I’ve written and argued with friends about how much I dislike the strategy and think it isn’t good basketball from an effectiveness as well as an entertainment standpoint.
Houston will face a streaky Milwaukee squad tonight while dealing with absences from several key players. The last thing I want to see is for the Rockets to do the thing where they answer a five game winning streak with a losing steak to undo all the good that came the week before.
Come back tomorrow for more Daily Rocket Science. Hopefully I’ll have something encouraging to write about.
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