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Thoughts on Heat 115 - Rockets 106 - Game 40

There's no question that the Rockets are in a rut right now.  106 points should be enough to beat the Miami Heat, regulation time should be enough to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves.  

Unfortunately, Miami put up 115 on a blistering 54.6% shooting performance, and it took 3 overtimes to beat the Timberwolves.

Tonight's game itself does not suggest much to me at the moment.  Dwayne Wade reminded me why he's considered one of the best players in the league. Sometime you forget, but tonight we got a harsh lesson. The play where Wade scooped a tipped pass and threw it down in one fluid motion was sort of astounding.  There are very few guys in the league who could do that.  Instead of a steal its a dunk for Miami.  37 points on 15-24 shooting, 7-7 FT, 3 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals - that's impressive.


Also F.U. Rafer Alston.  Why couldn't you do that like, 10%, of the time you were here?

I think the question foremost in my mind, and possibly yours, is:  what's going on? Are the Rockets in trouble?  Here is a list of leading contenders for "What's Wrong With The WRockets?" 

Reason #1: They're tired.  

Response: That seems plausible to me.  The schedule has been a bear, and frankly, you don't get over that as soon as it begins to resemble a normal NBA schedule.  For a team that relies on precision, intensity, and effort being exhausted is the kiss of death.  Will it get better, or will we limp into the ASB barely hanging on to a winning record?  That remains to be seen.  I am worried right now.  The Rockets need a long weekend, 40 hours of sleep, their favorite foods, time with their loved ones and generally space to recharge.  They aren't going to get that for a while.

Reason #2: The Rockets lack the crucial mojo that only a really well-paid or famous player can bring.  Stars win games!  Daryl Morey, go ye and get us some famous guys!

Response:  Good players on good teams win games.  There are lots of overpaid guys not contributing much to their teams.  Some of them are famous.  We don't want those guys.  When you get a guy who has star-quality, which I will define as the ability to produce far above the norm for a position on a consistent basis, well you don't let those guys go very easily. Going out and getting someone to replace healthy/happy/younger TMac production is nearly impossible at the best of times.  This is a strange year from a money standpoint in the NBA though, so I still have hope we might turn The TMac Tariff into something worthwhile.

Reason #3: The Rockets simply lack talent.

Response: You know who has talent?  Philadelphia.  There's a lot of talent on that team.  

Longer Response: I think the Rockets have a great deal of talent, but not a lot of high-usage guys.  When you get a team-wide slump this can hurt you.  But can it hurt you worse that say, losing Melo, LeBron, Wade, Roy or Kobe could do to their respective teams? How many of those teams could start the year without those guys and make the playoffs? That's the flip side - the Rockets have been winning without a high-use workhorse.  We already lost Yao and TMac and here we are.  

Thing is, we're scoring pretty well, anyway, though the difficulty level of our scoring seems to have increased.

Reason #4: The Rockets aren't big enough.

Response: They were big enough to win 22 games.  But yes, its a real problem, especially against a fairly big and athletic team like Miami.  What's to be done, though?  Is there a talented 7footer going begging right now?  Maybe, but what would he cost?  Here's a sad thought - in most ways the Rockets are built around Yao.  I think Houston would have shredded Miami and the Bobcats with Yao.   I don't honestly think Yao's 20-10 really precludes any of the scoring we're getting right now, with the exception of a few drives and breakaways.

Reason #5: The league has adjusted to Houston trickery.  It won't work any more.

Response: The league adjusts very quickly to almost anything.  It's true, though, teams are having to really gameplan and prepare to stop the Rockets.  Double teams are folding in on Landry.  Brooks is getting his driving lanes blocked off. Scola is getting moved out of his comfort zone somewhat. Some teams are heavily defending the perimeter against 3pters.  There's an answer to all that - passing and motion, finding the inevitable open guy.

An opponent can't guard everything.  The Rockets offense is effective when it is working and reasonable shots are falling.  But it can't be run on jelly legs (see #1).  And remember, in the two recent losses, we've scored 106 and 94.  This is not a putrid 75 point output against pretty good defensive teams in Charlotte (very good) and Miami (good when it cares). 

Reason #6: Adelman is asleep.

Response: I don't think he is.  Just what do you suggest he do right now?  I'd play the bench more, but when the bench is getting pushed around by Miami on D (as they were early on), you can't really leave them in.  And that just adds to the exhaustion from the starters.

Reason #7: The defense has fallen apart.

Response: I agree, it's looked very shaky.  I see two problems.  One - the Rockets are tired.  The Rockets' D, like its offense requires a high level of awareness and effort.  I think the spirit is willing, but the legs are cooked at the moment. Two - No Yao.  When our wing defenders lose their guy, Yao isn't there to alter shots.

The one thing I wonder about is - I rarely see a double team from the Rockets.  I'm fairly happy to take my chances that someone on Charlotte other than Jackson beats us, or someone other than Wade on the Heat does us in.  I have little fear of those other guys. 

Do you have more?  Disagree?