The Rockets, somehow, almost won tonight, but that's beside the point.
Through three quarters, I was going to discuss the Rockets' inability to guard the San Antonio Spurs, and then relate it back to our problems on defense in broader terms. How they can't stop the screen and roll if their lives depended on it; how they can't guard in transition and get back to prevent the break; and how they have no clue what it truly means to close out on a shot. If the Rockets somehow lucked into a defensive stop here and there, it was probably because the Spurs did something wrong. While that somewhat changed for the better in the second half, I credit that more to a timely adrenaline boost than a strategic improvement.
It's kind of funny that the Rockets' best defensive possession resulted in a Tim Duncan layup with twenty-five seconds left in overtime. Really, it was fantastic defense, but Duncan got the ball with a few seconds left on the shot clock, got fouled and put the ball into the basket.
Ironically, we saw the same result from both tenacious defense and pitiful defense, as Duncan had plenty of lay-ups throughout the game. The difference? He was fouled on this last play, which I think is better than seeing him left wide open under the glass.
Okay, moving on.
In my mind, little about tonight's game - technically speaking - matters in comparison to the injuries. I liked the aggressiveness I saw from Ish Smith (who turned a crappy start into a productive night), though I'm not sure why he took the inbounds pass instead of Courtney Lee on those last shots of the fourth. Kevin Martin looked fantastic on offense, as did Brad Miller. Chase Budinger continues to be an empty body on the floor, and it took two injuries for Lee to stick his nose into the pie. Chuck Hayes played the "Papa Bear To The Rescue" role rather impressively. Luis Scola still can't guard, but the Spurs still can't guard him. DeJuan Blair couldn't be stopped on the offensive glass. Richard Jefferson looks like a revelation, generally speaking. Somehow, the Rockets made this a game, primarily because they're deep, potent offensively and are governed by a coach who is really good at this whole "make good from what little you've got" thing.
That said, I've lost interest in those things right now. Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin are hurt. For how long, we don't know. But out of all of the numerous weaknesses we've seen from this team to start the year, durability wasn't a concern that anyone expected to get any worse. Kyle Lowry is already hurt, and Yao is doing his Yao thing.
But for the injury bug to strike Brooks and Martin? That's cruel.
God, suddenly we're back to last year, which was fun because of low expectations. Compare those expectations to this year's and it goes from fun to headache-inducing. Complete uncertainty abounds, and we're back to expecting the worst. I thought we had graduated from that over the course of the offseason, but apparently, the Basketball Gods didn't think we'd had enough. The wins and losses are at the back of my mind right now.
This season is about to get annoying and frustrating - if it wasn't already at that point - if we think it's bad for us, imagine the cruddy feeling hanging over the front office and the coaching staff. Even once Martin and Brooks eventually return - even if it's in a week or less - there's still the worry of an ankle to re-roll or do something else unruly. I didn't want to have to think about those things, but now I do.
Also, Ish Smith shouldn't have to play this much. As good as he looked tonight, it should be about Brooks/Lowry. That's what it needs to be.
If anything, this could potentially give the Rockets their edge back, because they haven't had their swag for quite a while now. I mean, with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, the totally depleted, defensively helpless Rockets were up by three points. Later, with sixteen seconds remaining in the fourth, they were up by two. They managed to take a healthy Spurs team to overtime and kept it close the whole way through. How is that possible? How can the first unit play worse than the scraps, minus their scrappy captain, sir Kyle Lowry?
Maybe it's because everyone decided to step up and do something - as individuals, but for the team. Suddenly, everyone's Importance Rating jumped exponentially, and they responded accordingly. Why wasn't this spark prevalent to begin with?
I'm leaving this here. Discuss all you want in the comments section. I'll have more later, and I'm sure you'll see plenty from everyone else. No need to panic, but it's almost inhuman not to feel something of the sort right now. Your Rockets are 0-5.