I'm conflicted about last night's game.
On one hand, the third quarter was highly entertaining. If I didn't have a rooting interest in the game. Golden State simply did not miss when they attempted to put the ball in the basket from behind that arbitrary semicircle painted 24' from the rim. The midget wearing red/white did his best to answer right back - and was admirable in his attempts - but the Warriors turned a 7 point halftime deficit into a 6 point 4th Q lead. The Rockets' 3rd Q defense was non-existent. As a Rockets fan, this is bad. Very bad.
On the other hand, the Rockets showed heart and grit by overcoming a 10 point deficit with 9 minutes and change left to go in the game. At times it even seemed like it was 5 on 8... with Brooks and Lowry getting pushed around but no whistles to follow. (An argument could also be made that it looked like it was 4 on 9 given that Trevor Ariza did whatever he could to kill the Rockets' momentum with turnovers and bad shot selection.)
In the end, the Rockets pulled through... made timely free throws, and escaped with the all-important W. I guess that is all that matters. So there's your game recap. But then..........
This Rockets team is troubling to me. They simply are not that good.
There. I said it.
Coach Sleepy employs a typical 9 man rotation. Of these 9 players, none would be a first or second option on offense for any of the other likely playoff teams. Don't get me wrong -- I love the contributions made by Brooks, Scola, Landry, Lowry, Ariza (sometimes), and Battier. I'm also really impressed by the Albino Shadow's first 19 games as a rookie. But this is an 11-8 team that often looks out-of-sorts on the court.
Yes, the Rockets can beat teams like Golden State. And the Clippers. And the Durants... blah, blah, blah. When faced with legitimate competition, however, the Rockets simply cannot match up. The one win against the Lakers came only after Artest challenged the power of karma. Beyond that, there are bad losses to the Spurs, the Mavericks, the Hawks and the Suns. And a totally unexplainable loss to the freakin' Kings.
90% of the time, the Rockets' offense consists of the following: Brooks or Ariza takes ill-advised shot... Scola/Landry/Hayes or Lowry gets offensive rebound and a quick put-back against a surprised defense. 2 points. Very rarely do I see much of a set-play being run. I see a lot of running and a lot of hustle and energy. But I don't see much in the way of organization. This is why the Rockets simply can't match up against the Spurs or Mavericks. Those teams have a gameplan, and they execute it. They know exactly what they are doing when they get the ball. And on defense, they are far less likely to allow the Rockets to get offensive rebounds (the Rockets' #1 ranking in offensive rebounding has been acquired by beating up on bad teams.)
In contrast, does anyone really think Brooks or Lowry has a "plan" when they set up the offensive possession? To me it seems they just want to run, create chaos and hope that they find someone open. This often results in turnovers. (Which is how the Warriors built that 10 point lead to begin with.)
Basically, the Rockets look like a high-school JV team looking to impress the coach of the varsity team by playing hard. This works periodically... and the Rockets have just enough talent to compete against mediocre teams. It especially works early in the season when everyone is happy and healthy. I'm enjoying it while I can.
What concerns me is when the grind of the 82 game season starts to set in. This is when the bumps and bruises begin to add up... players stop hustling 100% of the time... mental errors become more frequent... and the inability to have a fundamentally-sound offensive set comes back to bite you in the rear. This is also why I still think the Rockets finish 35-47. If this keeps up, when they start playing more division rivals and the elite teams of the East - the Rockets are going to be exposed. And this makes me sad.
... it's not like we expect Battier to block six shots every game. Or do we?