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Top Goats and G.O.A.T.s from Houston Rockets win over Knicks

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after a play during the second quarter against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after a play during the second quarter against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) dribbles the ball as Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) defends during the third quarter at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 130-103. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets put on another offensive exhibition delivering their second consecutive 130 point drubbing of the preseason.

Houston Rockets may have found a way to quiet Derrick Rose and his proclamations of the New York Knicks super team.  Simply show them how far they have to go by drubbing them for close to 30 points!

Many will cite this offensive explosion stating that’s all the Rockets have. Again I’ll direct you the facts: Through two games the Houston Rockets have held their two opponents to an average of  41.5% from the field and  26.45% from the perimeter.

Sure, it’s easy to continue to error on the side of caution citing preseason, and lower level opponents, but  the mounting enthusiasm is palpable.

Regardless of the small sample size there are commonalities between the two games.

To that end, here’s the goats and the G.O.A.Ts from the Houston Rockets win over the Knicks (with a little continuing offseason plea thrown in for good measure):

Next: Game 2 goats

Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) celebrates with forward Carmelo Anthony (7) after a play during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 130-103. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Game goats:

New York Knicks Defense:  Although Joakim Noah was missing from the starting rotation clearly the New York Knicks have a ton of defensive homework. Especially poor was their effort on transition and perimeter defense.

Adding salt to the wound is Kyle O’Quinn isn’t that much of a downgrade defensively. Even on last seasons Knicks he was their top plus/minus player in the defensive box almost twice as high as his closest rival.  So the fact the Houston Rockets starting 5 outscored the Knicks ‘super team’  starting 5 by 20 points is disconcerting.

Next: Searching for Bermuda

Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek reacts after a play during the second quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson’s Triangle: rumored to be in the mix there were occasional glimpses of the triangle. Rose said he basically had it down and there were 50 some odd options just on one side of the floor. Based on that answer it looks like major home work sessions are required

Next: Time to 'Power Forward'

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Sep 29, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey poses for a photo during media day at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Rockets Power Forward Reserve Role:

Suffice to say I’m grouping  a number of individuals into this category.  These players have done more right than wrong. But this situation although not having a direct effect on last night’s game it can and will become one if not handled

  • Daryl Morey

Morey has to be commended for the overall selection of new recruits he brought in this summer. Certainly  Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon are proving the analytical theory correct from an eye test and from a pure statistical observation. Give James Harden shooters and players capable of creating their own shot and voila – see a jump in offense and efficiency.

Pablo Prigioni and Tyler Ennis offer the spectrum of a veteran and a malleable youth at the point. With Beverley already on his second injury 2 weeks in those pick ups could play a factor. And in what may end up being the most under the radar signing of the offseason Nene Hilario is looking the fittest of his career.

So you read the above notes and think wait, wasn’t this ‘the goats’ section? Well yes, it is. and the reason I’m saying Morey is because the one major issue on the roster is the back-up power forward. Montrezl Harrell isn’t the answer, Trevor Ariza can’t be put in the position too often or he’ll tire and lose something on the defensive end.

Apr 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) holds his neck as a timeout is called against the Golden State Warriors during the third quarter in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Morey made a point of saying Donatas Motiejunas back wasn’t an issue when Stan Van Gundy vetoed the trade more because he landed Tobias Harris (in my personal opinion).  When D-Mo returned he played in a slew of games, so the franchise obviously wasn’t worried.

Then the dog and pony show happened this summer. Motiejunas had to miss the Olympic experience because the contract was unresolved. Motiejunas has sat back and watched these huge contracts being handed out while Morey has remained resolute in not moving the bar.  Now he’s expected to acquiesce to take what Houston is offering and just suck it up.

Not only is this disconcerting because D’Mo’s missing out on practice and running the new sets with his team. But, the longer this impasse continues it could hurt the chemistry which is currently mile high.

  • Harden and D’Antoni:

Whether you want to call them contract negotiators or an arbitration committee Harden and D’Antoni need only look over to Cleveland to see how a team leader deals with making their feelings know.  Again, I’ll give Harden high praise, but having Donatas Motiejunas available would be the one piece that could push this team over the top.

D-Mo’s return would give D’Antoni more flexibility and would reduce the stress of putting extra minutes on players who have a history of injury. If we are being frank Motiejunas got injured in the first place because of overuse 2 seasons ago. Harden, Ariza and Motiejunas were the men who kept that team afloat while they suffered copious injury setbacks.

Harden tell Morey and Alexander you need D-Mo back.

D’Antoni support Harden and tell Morey you need D-Mo so you don’t over utilize Anderson, Ariza and Capela.

Last but not least, just give Motiejunas the extra $1.6 million and 3 years Daryl.

Next: Game 2 G.O.A.T.s

Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Game G.O.A.T.s:

James Harden

Harden reminded all Houston Rockets fans  in attendance why some are jokingly referring to him as a POINTs guard. The Beard scored at will showcasing great in game management while simultaneously dishing dimes and lighting up the scoreboard. Harden left defenders in his wake while his defenders saw more changes ups than the Blue Jays and Orioles last night

28 points, 6 rebounds, 11 assists. Harden shot 63% from the field  (7 of 11), 83.3% from the line  (10 of 12) and hit 50% of his deep balls (4 of 8). Most impressively, he was a plus +28.

Next: The Unicorn

Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) shoots the ball over Houston Rockets forward Ryan Anderson (3) during the third quarter at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 130-103. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Unicorn continues to evolve showcasing an ever improving 3 point shot mixed in with (occasional) defensive ability. He’s just a sophomore, but I couldn’t help salivate at the thought of seeing him share the floor with Joakim Noah. This unicorn’s ceiling is high, and he’s only just scratched the surface.

22 points, 4 rebounds (1 offensive), steal and 2 blocks. Most impressively he shot 72% from the field and blistered the basket going 5 of 7 from deep for 83.3%.

Next: The Next One?

Oct 4, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard K.J. McDaniels (32) scores a basket during the second quarter against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Not sure if this nod should go to Mike D’Antoni,  KJ McDaniels directly or if the 2 should share it.  Since his arrival in Houston his under utilization has been a source of frustration for yours truly. Finally the Rockets have a coach who recognizes how to utilize the small forwards defensive and offensive skill set.  Hallelujah! (new favorite target of Harden)

9 points, 3 rebounds (2 offensive), 1 steal, and 2 blocks. He shot over 50% from the field and even hit a three pointer. Best though was his plus +15 with his closest bench rival garnering +5 in almost a third of the playing time.

It’s been an ongoing refrain for KJ McDaniels to get consistent playing time. His incredible dunkathon notwithstanding KJ’s become Harden’s favorite target, is among  D’Antoni’s first picks off the bench and this writer couldn’t be happier.

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Next: Motiejunas contract expires - now what?

The Rockets are currently en route to China for 2 games versus the Pelicans.   Sunday, October 9th and Wednesday October 12th are the game dates.

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