What is there to say right now? Another interesting story of how the Rockets blew three leads? Not one, not two, but three, and then couldn't get a stop to win the game in overtime, despite jumping out to another lead? Despite Chris Paul injuring himself?
I remain interested, I remain hopeful, and I'm a Rockets fan. But just now it's difficult to make any emotional investment. There's a story to be told about the horrible schedule (true) and the fact that a three-legged horse almost won the race. But until the Rockets get either A) An easier slate of games or B) Interior defense - expect the losing to continue. Any team that can play a competent pick and roll can wreck the Rocket's D. The secret is out.
Until I see something markedly different, this is my response to losses, because they're all blurring together, and they all look the same.
The Rockets in-game attempts to shore up the defense - double teams, lots of help, are exposed quite easily by good PGs like Williams, Westbrook and Paul. Once the PG dispatches with the Rockets attempts to slow him, or control his PNR partner, the middle is wide open. It's impossible to get stops on the four foot open shots that routinely occur. If you've got a PF who can shoot just a little (West, Green, Milsap) the jig is completely up.
I've said it before, I've said it again - The Closer is Defense. The Rockets hit three clutch shots in the overtime. Unfortunately, they needed to hit five. That's on the defense, gentle readers.
The Rockets haven't given up, not on themselves, not on Rick Adelman. But maintaining high defensive intensity without any control of the paint or deep post is nearly impossible. It's not that the wings are playing such bad D, it's that mistakes are punished severely, offensive rebounds are easy to come by for the opposition, and any help schemes from the wings leave wide open shots. Good teams will punish this, we can get away with it on bad ones.
The end is what everyone has been saying - the Rockets need a defensive big man. Chuck Hayes is a valiant defender, and he can stop most PF, or force them into bad shots. But no one can think that's the answer at center (though it's the best answer we have right now).
Everyone is complaining about Scola's defense right now. It's true he's not a great defender, but why does he seem so much worse. I focussed on him during the game to see if I could figure that out. Here's my initial conclusion - he's actually ok 1 on 1 against his man in the post. The awful stuff you see is mostly the result of Scola trying to rotate, or help. He does not do this well - he's too slow to recover and re-establish his defense against his man. He also doesn't come out well on shooting PF - West and Aldridge always put up big numbers on him. The only answer there is Patrick Patterson, and his day is coming soon. (Remember the Scola/Landry platoon? Imagine it with less explosiveness and more D, but just as much scoring.
The Rockets offense is good enough to build lead after lead, against anyone. Anyone. Get Brooks back into the flow, along with more Lee, and Williams and an improving Budinger and this could be the best offense in the NBA. Really. And yet...
The defense can't stop comebacks. The reason it can't is that the offense can't afford a bad run of play, the second they do, the opponent is right back in the game. The Rockets are unable to force opponents into shooting contested long jumpers to come back, by controlling the middle. They are unable to stop second chance points because either the opposition has too much height inside, or the whole team is packed in the paint and can't corral the rebound on the long jumpers that strategy sometimes forces.
The Rockets D is just as terrible as it looks, but it's not intrinsically awful. I truly believe that. It looks bad (and is bad) because its doing things its not meant to do.
Get us a legit big man, Daryl Morey, it's our only hope.