Remember when the Rockets were 21-14? Seems like an eternity ago. Well, since then the good guys have given up a safety and a field goal. The problem is that you can't win by one in terms of overall wins. Well you can, but you can't. Next analogy.
We've got to ask ourselves: were those 10 wins in 12 games because the team was playing poor competition (East teams mostly) or was it that the Rockets were peaking and shooting out of their minds?
I'd say a little of both, but that's a cop out. I guess I'm worried that it's the first one, but if the second fact is true that's also bad news. The Rockets have hung around in four of the five losses. They have just been coming out of the gates slowly for both halves. It seems they play well for about five or six minutes in the first quarter, then start sliding, especially when McHale goes to the bench. Then out of the half when the starters have to set the tone, turnovers or missed open shots are dooming the good guys.
So tonight's opponent is the Indiana Pacers, a team that was at one point 10-11 and looking lost without Danny Granger. Then they got an admittedly easy stretch of schedule and during this 14-6 stretch they've beaten Memphis, Miami, and the Knicks.
The Pacers have the number one defense and are the best rebounding team in the league. They are incredibly long and will force contested jump shots and will alter shots around the rim.
Oh, and the Pacers are 15-3 at home. If this game doesn't frighten you, you're already dead.
Tip off is at 6pm CST.
Point Guard: Jeremy Lin vs. George Hill
Yes, today George Hill is better than Jeremy Lin. I understand that Lin played well in the fourth quarter against Dallas. But, Dallas played Collison and Mike James at the point during that time. Neither one is considered a great defender. Hill is absolutely a good defender and will contribute plenty on offense.
He deserves the advantage. He's also long and tall.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Lance Stephenson
And thus begins and ends the Rockets advantage tonight. On the one hand, it's scary to think that four out of five starters and their bench are better than the Rockets' versions. On the other hand it's exciting to see how the Rockets will play when they are expected to lose. Tonight is a ripe time for players to outplay their counterparts and help swing the game.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Paul George
Speaking of playing better, Chandler Parsons has been doing just that. He's finding his niche again and as long as balances that line between aggressiveness and spot-up shooting the Rockets will be just fine at the small forward position.
Paul George should be an All-Star. In the last five games he's played he's pulled down a double-double. Oh and he's tall and long.
Power Forward: Patrick Patterson vs. David West
David West is the kind of guy who can win games by himself. If he was five years younger, he would be precisely what the Rockets need. He can post up or hit mid-range shots.
He isn't a complete stretch four in that he doesn't shoot threes and he's not a terrific rebounder. He also leaves much to be desired on defense. But as we're seeing right now, the Rockets miss a post-up presence late in the shot clock. I'm not saying West is coming over or that the Rockets should pursue him (makes no sense for either side), but it's interesting.
Center: Omer Asik vs. Roy Hibbert
Omer hit some free throws! Great, now start dunking and start rebounding again. I don't have time for this fake Omer Asik, and we need to find out who put Samuel Dalembert in his body. This needs to stop.
Guess what? Hibbert is tall and long.
Rockets: Toney Douglas, Carlos Delfino, Marcus Morris, Greg Smith, Patrick Beverly
Pacers: Tyler Hansbrough, Gerald Green, Ian Mahinmi, D.J. Augustin, Orlando Johnson
Prediction: Pacers win 97-92