With playoff seeding predetermined the Rio Grande Vipers fell 100 - 105 to the New Orleans Pelicans in Louisiana.
I meant Rockets.
James Harden didn't travel. Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin were in suits. Omer Asik was in warmups but off limits. The Rockets shuffled players over the last week to keep enough bodies around for the game, even signing former Laker Josh Powell from the Philippines to play considerable minutes.
Let's be honest here... Tonight's game has no bearing on what the Rockets will look like in the playoffs. The usual free flowing and spontaneous Rockets offense lacked even the basic pick-and-roll sets or post looks we rely on. The Rockets that took the court are primarily angling for some playoff minutes and playing for the coach, not the win.
On the defensive end... Luke Babbit did not set a career scoring high and Austin Rivers did not threaten a triple double. So we did better than the close win against the Pelicans two nights ago.
The two outstanding questions coming into this game:
1. Is Dwight in sync after sitting out eight straight games?
2. Can Troy Daniels walk his way into a playoff role with a hot shooting hand?
The answer to both questions - Unclear.
Dwight logged an unexpected 26 minutes we can refer to as "going through the motions." He played most of the third quarter and checked out in the fourth after missing a three pointer. The Pelcians doubleteamed Dwight in the post and he didn't bother being too aggressive when being guarded by the less-than-seasoned Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey.
The collective hope of Rockets fans is that Dwight is saving his fuel after a long season and will return to his February/March form at the first tip of a playoff game.
Troy Daniels is still a mystery. He set a D-League record for threes made in a season and averaged 23 points through 32 games for the Vipers. Tonight he came out very flat in the first half going 2 - 7 from three. He whitewashed that performance by going 4 - 4 from three in the second half. The Rockets are still lacking bench scoring to get us through the "long minutes" when Harden and Howard are not carrying us. A solid question is what Daniels can contribute.
Let's run through the faces we saw tonight:
Terrence Jones - His offensive game is different when Dwight is on the floor. Now that Dwight is back I expect Terrence Jones to be an important part of winning playoff games. Tonight he scored 9 of the Rockets first 10 points and ended the game with 17 points. We saw a mix of his down low ability to score off offensive rebounds and his ability to move down the court on a fast break.
Omri Casspi - This has been a missing man for the last month. He's trying to make a living by slashing to the basket from the three point line. Problem - He misses nearly every lay up when he gets to the basket. Terrence Jones has nearly entirely supplanted him in a healthy lineup.
Patrick Beverley - I don't see Beverley being hampered by his most recent knee injury. Right now our fear is the injury increases the likelihood he gets more seriously injured. His offense looked on point tonight with lots of contact on drives to the basket and he's shooting the basketball better than I've seen in the past.
Troy Daniels - Second half Troy Daniels please. Dude went 6 - 11 from the three point line tonight. I think we all see what Daryl Morey sees. An important note, he puts in a good defensive effort. He's no Beverley, but he has the skills to be a pest.
Josh Powell - Dude just got off an airplane from the Philippines so I won't be hard on him. His shot selection looked out of place for the Rockets, but he did solid work being a big body in the middle and setting screens.
Donatas Motiejunas - D-Mo picked up 10 rebounds, but was defended by the much smaller Al-Farouq Aminu during much of that run. His timid relationship with the rim continues as he misses layups and put backs from failures in aggression.
Isaiah Canaan - His shot has disappeared over the last few weeks. Beverley looks ok, so I wouldn't expect to see much from Canaan in the playoffs.
The Houston Rockets end the season with 54 wins.
The bar was set at the start of the year: The team needs to win a playoff series to be considered a success.