Well, just got home, and I have to say, there may not be a cocktail that really answers this defeat. Perhaps something from Dr. Kervorkian, just an aperitif, as I'm not ready to go to the light, but the lounge outside that hallway? Maybe. Depends on the music, really. But I do have a recipe for defeat below.
I'll offer an assessment on what I think The State of The Rocket is later this week that includes much of this, but I'm too wrecked to do that now, and it'd just sound like a particularly tedious Goth Lad. (Rivers of ash flow through the crumbled stone of my heart...)
So. Another winnable game. An epic comeback? Wasted. 45 points from Kevin Martin? Squandered. Joey Crawford? Reliable as ever.
If there's some pissed off here talking, oh well. I try to be measured, I don't always succeed. This isn't a public trust, it's a blog. Moreover, it is a Houston Rockets blog and a labor of love.
Amidst our hand-wringing, give the Blazers some credit. They built a lead, lost it, got it back and made the plays down the stretch when it counted. They played their game, with their slow but effective sets, good defense and Celticesque possibly, just potentially, moving screenry. Yes, everyone does it. Usually not 3-4 times every 18 seconds of offense. It's better than Yet Another Roy Iso, I guess.
Also, Blazers, please stop tossing the ball hither and yon after a made shot to slow down the Rockets. Nate may tell you to, but Nate isn't a sporting gentleman obviously. It's not funny when Rajon Rondo does it, it's certainly not funny when you do, Portland. Also I'm so glad that Australian Patty Mills has taken up Brandon Roy's crown of Rocket Killer. Can't be without one of those.
Rudy Fernandez (the Flying Squirrel) made a crucial shot after a largely forgettable night to help seal the Portland victory. Everytime I see The Flying Squirrel he's leaping about, or being flung about, and landing in pain, crumpled like a Kleenex. Often The Squirrel appears to be in life-threatening pain, but like the footballers his nation is famous for, he somehow gets up from his obvious death-wound and plays on. Honestly, he just may be too slight to ever play more than about 20 minutes a night in the NBA.
When Portland started to come back they hit a number of threes in a row. That three barrage might have been a good time for a TO, but ah well.
After the massive, inspiring, comeback in the 3rd this was the Rockets game to win and they didn't. Of course I'm sure Kevin Martin will somehow be blamed for this loss. It happened in Sacramento, it's happening here, and it's tiresome. 45pts are 45 points. 45 points on 18 shots? Complaining about that is churlish. At the end of games it is the job of the rest of the offense to get the shooter his shot. Yes, if you have a rugged scorer like LeBron, or perhaps Kobe, no, you don't have to do that, you can stand around and watch the magic happen. When you have a pure scorer who isn't so rugged you get him his shot. How? Consider using 3-4 moving screens...
Anyhow, if the rest of your team can only manage 55 collectively, who is to blame? Probably not the guy who scored 45% of your points on 26% of your attempts.
At the heart of things, though, is the fact that the Rockets lack a defensive center. Anyone miss the Immovable Object, Chuck Hayes tonight? I think he makes the difference in this game. The Rockets margin for error with any player missing is slim. Maybe it shouldn't be, but it is. For example do you think Aaron Brooks' shooting might have been a nice complement to Martin in the 4th? It's not like Lowry was stopping Patty Mills from draining 3s. Still, Chuck Hayes isn't the true answer. He's an excellent defensive power forward (which was called for tonight) and a passable defensive center.
At the risk of being completely obvious, the Rockets need a rugged defensive big man in the middle. None of the patches are working. With one, I think this team makes the playoffs and is dangerous once in them. Without one, I'm highly dubious. Scoring isn't the problem. Repeat that to yourself, scoring isn't the problem. And if "closing" is a problem, I say the "closing problem" lies on the defensive end. Demanding one of your players make a tough shot every time down the floor in a closely contested game is something that probably 3 players in the league can do with any regularity. They don't play for Houston. They're not going to, either, so another solution must be found. In the past that solution has been defense, but no truly dominant defense is possible with some sort of big man.
It's simply not reasonable to expect even the best offense to always answer with points against a defense that's clamping down, and referees swallowing their whistles. Stops are required. The difference tonight was that Portland got the stops it had to have in 4th, and the Rockets didn't. It is possible to blame the offense, but it's already an effective unit. Expecting the scoring to always pull out a game is the Houston Texan gameplan, and it's a loser.
Well, enough of that. If Morey can pull a for-real defensive center out of his hat, this team has a real future this season, if not, well, the Rockets will need to integrate its young talent and become the highest scoring offense in the league - initiate the Phoenix plan - the pace itself is a defensive disruption to many teams.
Lamarcus Aldridge has become an effective inside player with the addition of a never-called, but nearly omnipresent push-off move. (NB - I was there. I saw it. I'm not making it it up.)
Here it is, then, tonight's recipe for disaster. For new readers, I've been
blatantly stealing borrowing the concept from Canis Hoopus, I've taken to posting recipes, often for weird old cocktails, after particularly annoying losses. The T-Wolves fans there often do this at the half, which I'm just not prepared to do, yet. Tonight I offer chicken.
Aile de Poulet a l'Aldridge
Mise en Place
1 Lottery PF previous known for softness, nice shooting touch and heaving really long 2s.
1. Receive pass into the left block, do not allow fronting to occur.
2. Add 3 backdown dribbles.
3. Turn counter-clockwise into defender, whilst simultaneously
4. Pushing off twice with left arm.
5. Check to see if a whistle blows on defender here. If no whistle has formed -
If whistle blows, either garnish with free throws or reset play. NOTE - 3 and 4 are essential to the Aile de Poulet. Without them it's just a post move, and not all that scary.
(Calm down Blazer's fans, it's a joke. It really is. And like all jokes, has its inner truth.)
Look, I know people do it, but I've seen Scola called for it at least 10 times this season. Thanks Joey. To be fair, Aldridge's crucial shot at the end of the game didn't feature a push off.
Anyway, I'm disgusted, and not really sure where this iteration of the Rockets goes from here. If a defensive center can be obtained without absolutely gutting this unit, it's very formidable.
Ah, Yao Ming, ah humanity.