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Three things we learned from Houston Rockets loss vs OKC

Jan 29, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) passes the ball in front of Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 29, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) passes the ball in front of Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
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Tough loss last night for the Houston Rockets.

After being largely in control for a good part of three quarters, the Oklahoma City Thunder eventually managed to get the lead back from Houston, especially after Rockets’ center Dwight Howard was ejected for picking up his second technical foul in the third quarter.

Thunder’s one-two punch of Westbrook and Durant as always had a monster game but honestly, Bickerstaff’s team left Chesapeake Arena with the feeling they could’ve had better luck.

Despite claims of biased referees (mostly with Russell Westbrook’s foul on Corey Brewer) the fact is the Rockets once again showcased the same issues that have been tormenting this team for a long time now: rotation inconsistencies, three-point dependency and defensive fragility.

I’ve got some nice gifs that might highlight this problems for Space City Scoop readers, so with no further delay let’s jump into The Three things we learned from Rockets loss to the OKC.

The Corey Brewer Conundrum

I think I finally figured it out.

Houston Rockets system is hurting Corey Brewer’s basketball. After a strong season last year, Brewer became  one of NBA’s most coveted top sixth man. However, after too many poor exhibitions by Houston’s swing man, the Greyhound has quickly become from the fans point of view an expendable piece of Bickerstaff’s squad.

And despite enjoying complete trust from the organizational staff, one was left wondering how long Brewer could still hold down this confidence without any faith from Clutch City’s supporters.

In the last couple of weeks, especially after Corey Brewer got promoted to the starting lineup, he seems to be finally reacquiring last year’s form, playing at a high pace, leading fast breaks and scoring easy layups from drives to the basket.

But take a look at the following play:

When Marcus Thornton first finds Brewer open at the wing he has two options, going for the pump fake and getting an easy drive, or shooting the three-pointer. He obviously goes for the open three-point shot, but now watch it again and look what happens immediately following his flawed shot and Thornton’s offensive rebound.

See what I mean? Why does Houston Rockets and Corey Brewer keep insisting on shooting a three-pointer that clearly isn’t working this year? Especially a player with this kind of special skill like Brewer has. Why not go for the drive to the basket? Get the easy layup and the two points.

Last night Corey scored 17 points for an overall good game. Want to know how many of those points came from shots beyond the arc? None. He was 0-for-5.

His overall field goal percentage was 7-for-15. So if we were to take out all his 3P shots away, Brewer would have a 70% FG average last night. I’d live with that all night. I’d still live with 7-of-15 but why not maximize his production? Last year when the team wasn’t struggling and things worked out better the Rockets could live with the inevitable flat three-point shot from Brewer or Josh Smith.

Differently: this year what the Houston Rockets need is a change of culture. In order for this to happen the coaching staff must understand the team, its issues and needs. But I wonder if that’s something possible with Bickerstaff, take a look at the second thing we saw last night:

Bickerstaff out coached.

For the Houston Rockets last night the name of the game was attacking the paint. With Serge Ibaka having an off night, the Thunder kept having trouble defending Harden and Brewer’s drives and leaving the lanes open. The one player who couldn’t take advantage of that was Dwight Howard who arguably had one of his worse nights ever as a Rocket.

Another issue for the Thunder was Harden’s defender: Dion Waiters. Had Billy Donovan not corrected these two problems, James Harden might have gone for 60.

But he did. He switched the Beard’s defense from Waiters to Kevin Durant and started hacking every one who got near the paint. Especially Howard. After Dwight clearly got angry with the eventual uncalled foul it all amounted to frustration and led to his  inevitable ejection.

That was when Donovan really shined. He put on court offensive specialist, center Enes Kanter. And that’s when Bickerstaff once again proved not ready to be a NBA coach yet.

Instead of clogging the paint with Josh Smith or Terrence Jones alongside Clint Capela, he benched all his power forwards in the fourth and tried exchanging baskets with OKC, thus leaving sophomore center Capela responsible for all defensive duties inside the paint.

Here’s one of the plays that annoyed me the most last night:

After Capela bravely stuffed Westbrook’s drive, amazingly three Rockets players were left hoping for the best while Kyle Singler bizarrely lost a layup and finally Kanter scored with the tip. No box-out, no help and no height advantage also. I wonder if Bickerstaff and players on court were expecting Capela to get back on his feet and grab that rebound fast enough?

And what hurts the most is that the Rockets were actually still in the game at that point.

Also, do you know how many points Kanter had until Howard was ejected? Two. After that he ‘only’ scored 20 more. It also goes without saying that Howard was ejected halfway through the third quarter! Is that on Capela? Absolutely not. Is that on the coaching staff? I’m pretty sure it is.

Now, what  could Bickerstaff have done? Exactly what Billy Donovan actually did! Take a look at my final point

Bickerstaff out coached – Part 2

Just to complement my point above. You might be left wondering: Why didn’t Capela do the same thing and took advantage of Enes Kanter’s struggles on defense?

Because Westbrook couldn’t care less about Patrick Beverley and instead helped Enes Kanter any way he could. And do you see any movement, any attempt by Beverley in order to try to help Capela, get Westbrook’s attention positioning himself in a better angle for a pass and an open shot? Nope. Nothing.

Finally, the conclusion of the same play, Kanter boxes Capela out and grabs the rebound. But just in case he missed the board tere he was (Westbrook) by his side once again.

Is that incredibly great defense?

No, that’s basketball I.Q. and good coaching decisions.

Something that is lacking more and more in Houston.

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