After an inexcusable loss in Miami, the Houston Rockets will look to get back on track against the .500 Milwaukee Bucks.
I wrote recently that a large part of the Rockets’ struggles last season were due to attitude issues. After a horrible loss to a terrible team yesterday, they’ll have to work hard to keep from being down on themselves going into tonight’s matchup. Houston has looked like a different team from last year in almost every way, but they haven’t had many hard times to go through.
If they aren’t able to take down the Milwaukee Bucks, they’ll go into a back-to-back against the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies on a two game losing streak. It could make for a 1-4 week, which would do no good for Houston’s locker room morale or spot in the standings. That being said, tonight’s game is one of the most important of the season thus far.
The issue with tonight’s game being so important is that it won’t be an easy one. Giannis Antetokounmpo has solidified himself as a top tier player in the league, and the Rockets will struggle to find an answer for him. Believe it or not, the Greek Freak leads his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals per game. Not even James Harden can say that of himself.
Trevor Ariza will most likely get assigned the tough task of keeping up with Giannis, and will have his hands more than full. It will take an entire team effort to slow him down. The issue with that is that Jabari Parker is another player who cannot be ignored. He averages 20+ points per game and shoots better than 41% from three. Assuming Ryan Anderson is back after missing the Heat game with the flu, he’ll have a hard time chasing around the 21-year-old on the perimeter.
Speaking of players missing games, Eric Gordon reportedly tweaked his ankle during last night’s performance. At the time of writing, it’s unclear whether or not he’ll play tonight. Either way, coach Mike D’Antoni said the game will be tough.
Mike D'Antoni says Eric Gordon tweaked his ankle and lacked lift on his shot (3-17 FG). He implies injury makes tomorrow's game "tough". pic.twitter.com/FOjQJXRWhZ
— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) January 18, 2017
The Bucks are obviously not a perfect team. They sit at just .500 despite having the Greek Freak and Parker on the roster. Every season, there’s that one confusing team in the NBA, and this year’s is Milwaukee. They’ve beaten teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs, yet have lost to the Dallas Mavericks and the Philadelphia 76ers.
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Last season’s confusing team was the Rockets, so tonight’s matchup could be interesting. If Houston can figure out their three point shot, things should be fine.
When they pour in around 40% of their long bombs, they’re darn near unbeatable. However, just as the saying goes, they could die by the three just as easily as they could live by it.
The Bucks are 11th in the league in opponents’ three point percentage, but it seems at times that those kinds of stats don’t matter against Houston. If they’re going to hit their shots, they’ll fall no matter the defense. If they can’t figure it out, any team could beat them.
Tonight is a perfect test for the Rockets. A loss could spell the beginning of a very rough stretch if the morale gets too low. On the other hand, a win could give them the confidence boost they need to hold on to their undefeated record against the Warriors this season.
Tipoff is 7:00pm Central Time, and the game will be showcased on ESPN. I hope the Rockets realize how much tonight’ game matters.