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Houston Rockets Fall 2 – 0 in Series to Curry-less Warriors: Player Grades

Apr 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) passes the ball away from Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) in the second quarter in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) passes the ball away from Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) in the second quarter in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
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An hour prior to tip-off the Houston Rockets learned Stephen Curry would miss game 2 due to his sprained ankle. Despite Curry’s absence the Warriors proved why they are the NBA’s best team taking a 2-0 series lead.

Red Nation fans hopes rose with news of Curry’s absence meaning the goal of splitting the series via a win at Oracle just became an easier task.  To that end, in an effort to get the Game 2 player grades up expeditiously this is a joint effort between Andre and myself (Tamberlyn). We invite you join other fans in the comment section for a interactive chat about the game, the grades and your thoughts on your beloved Houston Rockets.

While the result is the same the Houston Rockets played a far different match then the lack luster effort displayed in Game 1. Sure, there were still miscues on defense, especially on the boards early. That said, the fact the Rockets doubled their output from a 15 point first quarter vs 30 points in Game 2.  James Harden still doesn’t seem to want to play with Dwight Howard who went without a field goal attempt the entire first quarter.  Harden finally connected on a lob pass to him half way through the third quarter.

Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff also finally seemed to understand part of his job requires adjusting from one game to the next as well as within the game itself. Still, his stubborn refusal to tweak his substitutions to incorporate players who could be a factor are infuriating. Um hello J.B. meet K.J. Geesh. There were some strides made in this regard however as Motiejunas was reinserted in the starting line-up. Finally, J.B. was trying to force Kerr to respond instead of reacting to everything the Warriors do.  The move should have been accompanied by several other moves, but hey Rome wasn’t built in a day.

As the Warriors attempted to pull away in the second quarter a predominantly bench heavy crew worked to keep the Rockets in the game. Both Houston’s stars had their issues and while James Harden did have solid productivity levels he continues to also be a frustrating player. The inability to find a cohesive working relationship with his co-star is literally pulling the Rockets apart. Harden also had copious turnovers yet again (5) and there were those extended dribbling sets, iso plays and small periods in the game where he either goes into a trance or just checks out. I hate to say it, but there’s a certain

Melo

mellow  man he’s resembling more and more.

Although it was a much more competitive contest than Game 1 the Rockets seemed to be much more cautious on offense as if they were trying to implement a strategy just recently learned. Understandable given the team has played the majority of the season without emphasis on player and ball movement.The problem was eventually it was going to catch up to them which it did when they inevitably collapsed in the fourth quarter.  The Dubs kept the Rockets belted to the back seat, but at least it was a loss which came after putting in a better effort.

Sadly the Warriors will take a 2-0 series lead to Houston with the benefit of resting Curry yet again now that they have a stranglehold on the series needing just 2 more wins.

169. 115. 41. . 106

Rockets Starters Player Grades

C. I’m not entirely sure why but Trevor Ariza looks clumsy in this series so far. He keeps doing funky moves, shooting air balls, stepping on the line, losing easy possessions – – It’s by no means the Trevor Ariza we’ve become so accustomed to seeing. He is still productive on defense, but as far as his offensive game goes, he is a no show. 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals. . SF. Houston Rockets. TREVOR ARIZA

C. The jury is out: Donatas Motiejunas CAN take Draymond Green in the post. I have to acknowledge that J.B. Bickerstaff did something I didn’t expect him to do, but he saw exactly what D-MO did in the final quarter of Game 1: Motiejunas posting and bumping Green and getting the hook shot. And even though Motiejunas couldn’t knock down his shots he got pretty great looks. If nothing else it draws Green to him and keeps him occupied and at least it forces Kerr to react. 7 points, 3 rebounds.. PF-C. Houston Rockets. DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS

D. Once again Dwight Howard had to work hard to create his own shots. With the exception of a couple alley oops thrown his way Howard was simply forgotten in the offensive end: again. That said by the half he was a team worst minus -16.  It’s difficult to watch the continuing disintegration of the on court relationship (or lack thereof) of Harden and Howard. Like Shaq said at the half it wouldn’t take much to do a few fundamental things to make this team work and one of those would be Harden working the pick and roll with Howard.  <span style=. C. Houston Rockets. DWIGHT HOWARD

JAMES HARDEN. B+. Kudos for the Warriors for their defense on James Harden, they are denying him the ball thus limiting Rockets offensive potential and when Harden actually gets the ball he is immediately double-teamed. Therefore Harden had to adapt his game a little on the first half and find his teammates with the pass instead. Besides that Harden only found success in the first quarters by drawing fouls on three point shots. Note: Andre and I see this differently, because as much as I believe Harden is a top talent it isn’t translating throughout his team. His lack of leadership or unwillingness to assume the responsibility for me is a major problem. In a career you might only get a few opportunities to win a title, so why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to make things work? That alone costs him a downgrade in my opinion. Of note, Harden’s first connection with Howard came at 6:56 of the third quarter and even the lob which Howard made work wasn’t a great lob. In the second half Harden insisted on his infamous ISO plays and forced three-point shots. Once again ‘Hero Ball’ was in play, but mostly the Beard found success when driving the basket or when drawing fouls. The majority of his points came from the charity stripe. 28 points, 11 assists. . SG. Houston Rockets

PG. Houston Rockets. PATRICK BEVERLEY. C+. Seriously if Patrick Beverley wants to bring Tony Allen type defense on a nightly basis I’d probably ease up on him, but his antics have worn thin. Tonight was one of his better outings in terms of offensive contributions with 9 point and 5 rebounds at the half. However, on defense he got absolutely dominated by Shaun Livingston who did everything he wanted with Beverley: the height advantage was just too much for Beverley to handle and perhaps a double team or a bigger defender would’ve come in handy. 13 points, 7 rebounds. 

Rockets Reserves Player Grades

B. I’m glad that coach Bickerstaff at least identified <em>some </em>of the things that worked in the last game and tried to use them in the second game. Josh Smith’s performance was one of those things. Now, even though Josh wasn’t favoring the inside game (his specialty) – as he did last game – he instead focused on the dangerous (in his case) three point shots. However, he didn’t disappoint as Josh started the game extremely hot knocking down every trey he fired in the first quarter. Further his presence on the floor offers versatility and another capable play maker, something the Rockets are in shortage of. 9 points for Josh. . PF. Houston Rockets. JOSH SMITH

C. Corey Brewer was probably advised to take it easy on the three-point attempts and instead focus on attacking the basket with his drives and guarding Klay Thompson. Brewer still had a poor performance, turning over silly possessions and leaving Klay Thompson open a lot of times. At least it wasn’t an infuriating or unbearable performance like his last ones. 2 points and 4 fouls in 9 minutes<span style=. SG. Houston Rockets. COREY BREWER

KJ MCDANIELS. INC. Seriously, with Brewer not doing a good job on Klay why not give McDaniels some run? Bickerstaff continues to drive the Space City Scoop insane with his brutal distribution of minutes. 3 points in 1 minute!  . SF. Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets. CLINT CAPELA. INC. Wash, rinse, repeat as per McDaniels… 3 minutes.. THREE minutes in the first half and THREE more in the second. 2 points, 2 rebounds for Capela. . C

JASON TERRY. B-. The Jet nailed a three and wasn’t as much of a defensive down grade as many of his counterparts. He brings a certain paradox of calm and energy to the court which speaks to his leadership skills. I’ll say this much though: one thing about Terry he still has a great ability of knocking down timely jumpers. He does have that veteran experience of knowing exactly when the team needs him to shoot the basket and when to drive the offensive game. That he can still do that, and did it this night is commedable. 13 points for The JET  . G. Houston Rockets

MICHAEL BEASLEY. B-. Though he scored just 2 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in his 8 first half minutes he was a team high plus 7 on the defensive end. In garbage time Beasley got some quality minutes though and ended up with more points than two starters! 10 points, 5 rebounds for Beasley. . PF. Houston Rockets

Rockets Head Coach Grade

D. To be fair Bickerstaff did make some adjustments for this match: He narrowed his rotations, fixed the first game starting lineup issue and promoted Donatas Motiejunas again to the starters. That all is Bickerstaff fixing the problems he created for himself though. He still cannot understand or find answers for the Warriors, and this was a Curry-less Warriors team. Bickerstaff’s Rockets are just not a unit, they are confused players, nervous, that all is a reflection of what they see on the bench. If Kevin McHale had a problem holding players accountable for their mistakes, Bickerstaff  has a problem simply communicating with them. They don’t care and Bickerstaff can’t make them care enough to play for him. No K.J. McDaniels tonight. He keeps holding Clint Capela to a strict diet of playing time… It’s just not enough. His rotation tonight consisted of Jason Terry and Josh Smith. That was it. No one else got more than 8 minutes until it didn’t matter anymore.. Head Coach. Houston Rockets. J.B. BICKERSTAFF

Best Opponent:

Golden State Warriors. ANDRE IGUODALA. A+. Last Year’s Finals MVP Andre Iguodala knew that without Stephen Curry, the team would rely heavily on him, and he didn’t disappoint. Iguodala probably got the green light to shoot as much as he wanted and he was amazing: especially from the three-point line. He played both ends of the court, defended bigger guys on the post, drew the double team and made things easy for Klay Thompson. By the half he had a bench high 14 points (second only to Klay overall) and offered plenty of goodies: one rebound and assist plus nabbed 2 steals and had a block. On many nights Draymond Green takes the leadership role, but on this night the Warriors needed both Green and Iggy. 18 points, 3 assists, 2 steals and 3 rebounds for Iggy<span style=. SF

A. I just had to go with a third player tonight. Shaun Livingston completely murdered Houston Rockets point guards with his reach and height. He kept going for the fade away jumper against Terry and Beverley all night. He did absolutely all he wanted and then some. It’s just something that Houston hasn’t learned which is  how to fight back. K.J. McDaniels might’ve been a good option, but Bickerstaff opted against it. Finding an answer to Shaun Livingston is as important as Stephen Curry in the equation if the Rockets want to anything out of this series. 16 points and 6 assists for Livingston. PG. Golden State Warriors. SHAUN LIVINGSTON

Okay I think we should just rename Draymond Green the swiss army knife because the guy does everything. His DNA should be frozen and used to create leaders. Granted, Klay Thompson was the leading scorer, but that actually doesn’t matter, when you play alongside Draymond Green, Iguodala and Livingston, players that are able to facilitate your job, take away your defensive worries and find easy looks for your shots. 12 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists. . PF. Golden State Warriors. DRAYMOND GREEN. A

Again, please join us at the bottom of this post. We’d love to develop a place for post game chat among Red Nation for everyone to discuss the game, the players and most importantly the future of the Houston Rockets.

Make sure you check out Space City Scoops end of season Rockets Round Table:

Next: Houston Rockets SCS Roundtable Part 1

Next: Houston Rockets SCS Roundtable Part 2

Next: Houston Rockets SCS Roundtable Part 3

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