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Houston Rockets lose season opener to Lakers – Player Grades and Recap

By Tamberlyn Richardson
October 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) celebrates the 120-114 victroy as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) walks off the court following the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
October 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) celebrates the 120-114 victroy as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) walks off the court following the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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October 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) celebrates the 120-114 victroy as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) walks off the court following the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
October 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) celebrates the 120-114 victroy as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) walks off the court following the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

October 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) celebrates the 120-114 victroy as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) walks off the court following the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

All preseason the Houston Rockets preached how they were committed to both ends The loss to the Lakers in the season opener should serve as a reminder to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

James Harden showed up to showcase his passing skills early, dishing 14 first half assists. As expected offense wasn’t the problem and perhaps the Rockets fell victim to playing down to their competition. In the end, the Rockets got what they deserved (a loss) for allowing a young team with nothing to lose to stick around.

If you listened to the pundits and analysts heading into the regular season it was a common opinion the Rockets would suffer on defense.  More concisely, that the Rockets wouldn’t make the effort on defense or didn’t have the manpower to succeed.  Throughout the preseason the Rockets players delivered the message they were committed and were keen to perform.

Those messages went out with the dish water last night, and certain players did nothing to silence the critics. Ryan Anderson and Corey Brewer were particularly bad. And while there were moments of man on man defensive stands the team on a whole simply didn’t communicate.

Additionally no effort was made to stop the Lakers in transition. Although the LA squad did hit some well defended perimeter shots the overall defensive effort should keep Jeff Bzdelik busy for hours reviewing film.

Next: Starting 5 Player Grades

B. It wasn’t an especially efficient shooting night from behind the arc (1 of 7), but it’s hard to put this on Harden’s back. Yes, he is now the leader, so it’s up to him to get the team communicating which they were not. But, he did virtually everything else. By the half he had 16 points and 14 assists (yes, you read that correctly). By night’s end Harden had 34 points, 17 assists, had been to the line 16 times connecting on all free throws save for one and collected 8 rebounds. In an ongoing story line Harden turned the ball over 7 times (half of the teams’ total). As great as Harden’s offensive output was the fact he has claimed the leadership mantel means the onus is on him to make sure the team is working as a unit. When he was dropping dimes all over the court but they weren’t pulling ahead he should have assembled the squad and made sure they locked down defensively. You can live with a team who is scoring in spite of solid defense, but not putting in any effort and allowing a team like the Lakers to score 63 first half points is unacceptable. Does it all fall on Harden? No, but as the leader with the team revamped to suit his desires means he’ll get the accolades in success, but also carry the burden in the defeats. That and his 7 turnovers cost him a full grade.. Point Guard. . James<br /> Harden

B-. Gordon has delivered (at least in my opinion) so far. He’s looked much better on defense than I expected. He was far from the worse offender and at least attempted to stop his man and communicate, which is more than a few of his counterparts. D’Antoni ideally wants Gordon coming off the bench and I wonder why he didn’t stick with that choice. KJ McDaniels should have started as it could have at least put another defender on the court. Curiously D’Antoni barely used McDaniels, and by the time he got in the game the Lakers were already comfortable. In 34 minutes Gordon scored 19 points adding 5 rebounds and a steal.. Shooting Guard. . Eric<br /> Gordon

Trevor<br /> Ariza. C-. Another poor shooting night for Ariza, who at least attempted to be active which resulted in 2 steals. He also had 5 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Clearly Ariza needs help especially trying to make up one of his teammates deficiencies (see below).. Small Forward.

D. In the category of it’s only 1 game BUT – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –<br /> Ryan Anderson got paid the big bucks to offer assassin type outside shooting. On this night he failed, shooting 2 of 7 from outside. His box score is not indicative of how poorly he played defensively. Repeatedly Anderson required his teammates to provide help defense, but was poor at communicating that. Inevitably it put Capela, Ariza, and whoever shared the front court with him exposed. He finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assists and 2 steals. Also of note Anderson had just 1 personal foul. I’d rather see him take 3 or 4 more fouls. At least if he’s going to get beat, do something to stop your man instead of allowing easy scores. <p>comfortable in the Rockets system. That said, it’s still early and<br /> Anderson will have time to adjust given this Rockets’ juggernaut on<br /> offense. There are moments he seems a bit lost on defense, so we’ll hope<br /> he adapts on that end quickly. To that end, tonight he was far better<br /> on the opponents side of the court posting a team high plus<br /> 15</p>. Power Forward. . Ryan<br /> Anderson

. Clint Capela. A-. For a while Harden and Capela were running the pick in roll to such perfection I was confused why the stopped running it. Certainly it wasn’t because the Lakers stopped the set. Hard to knock Capela either, as he played well and his effort was clear on the defensive end, but again Anderson forced him to have to defend more than his own yard. He shot 8 of 11 from the field for 16 points, fell 1 rebound shy of a double-double with 9 rebounds (3 offensive), had a block and was second only to Harden with a plus +8 differential.. Center

Next: Best Reserve, Best Opponent, Coach

NBA: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers
NBA: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers

Best Reserve:

B. Why D’Antoni elected not to start McDaniels is beyond me. What everyone I spoke to during the game kept asking was why he didn’t play more and didn’t start. And, this is not directed at Gordon, rather it would have allowed the Rockets to start the game with more intensity defensively with Ariza, Capela and McDaniels. In spite of his few minutes (12) he was perfect from the field (5 of 5) scored 11 points, added a rebound and was the only reserve with a plus differential.. Small Forward. . KJ<br /> McDaniels

Best Opponent:

Jordan Clarkson. A+. I’ve long said Clarkson would be the ideal 6th man for the Lakers and apparently Luke Walton is of the same school of thought. Clarkson exploded in the fourth quarter collecting 12 of his 25 points hitting some ridiculous shots with Rockets in his face and draped all over him. The dagger came at 1:48 of the fourth quarter when Clarkson hit a three to put his Lakers up by 4 points. That said, if the Rockets had played any defense in the first half arguably his fourth quarter never matters.. Shooting Guard.

Mike D’Antoni: part of the blame has to fall on D’Antoni’s shoulders for the decisions he did or didn’t make.

  • McDaniels should have started
  • D’Antoni took one time in the first quarter at 7:20. When it was obvious no one was communicating defensively or attempting any semblance of defense he should have called another immediate time-out to sell the point. To reiterate the Rockets lost this game int he first quarter by playing the style the Lakers wanted, at their pace and worse allowed them to gain confidence.
  • Even if McDaniels didn’t start there was no reason not to insert him for more minutes given Corey Brewer was brutal on both ends of the court.
  • Allowing teams to shoot over 50% is unacceptable unless it’s the Warriors and everyone is having a highly efficient night. Again, D’Antoni should have burnt more time out early and kept calling them until the players on the court got the message.

I’d give D’Atoni a D for this night’s game because he had the ability to stop the bleeding early and chose not to.

Next: Final Thoughts

NBA: Preseason-New York Knicks at Houston Rockets
NBA: Preseason-New York Knicks at Houston Rockets

While the box score shows Houston lost the game in the fourth quarter, the reality is the Rockets lost the game in the first quarter. Specifically in the first frame Houston allowed the Lakers unfettered access all over the court resulting in 38  points. If nothing else this game serves as a painful reminder not to get too arrogant because giving a young team confidence will come back to bite you.

More from Space City Scoop

In fact, the Houston Rockets allowed the Lakers to play their game, at their speed which any veteran team knows better than. In the second half the younger Lakers legs won the marathon hitting shots and out scoring the Rockets by 12 points (30-18).  Houston’s perimeter shot was particularly bad in the second half as they connected on a single three point shot out of the 16 they attempted.

Now the Rockets will travel to Dallas to face a team who is desperate for their first win having lost their own shoot out in overtime to Indy. Harden will need to regroup the squad and instead of talking the talk about being “all in” defensively, they’ll need to walk the walk.

Next: Dallas Mavericks 2016-17 Team Preview

Next: Houston Rockets 2016-17 Team Preview

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Next up the Rockets play a home and home series versus the Mavericks. Friday the first of the two games is on the road in Dallas with the tip at 8:30PM ET.   In preparation, check out the team previews as per the above links.

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