Sorry my previews have gotten shorter. School has been kicking my butt.
You know what else was kicking my butt? A seven-game losing streak from my favorite team. I think someone unleashed a curse upon the Rockets heading into the fourth quarter against the Hornets. Then, inexplicably, they lifted it going into the fourth quarter against the Bobcats. I'm not complaining.
I think there's a lot of things wrong with this team. No team is perfect, but this Rockets team is trying to make the playoffs despite being deficient in several areas.
Turnovers are an obvious culprit. The Rockets commit a lot of them. But the reason it worked earlier was because the Rockets were building a cushion early in the game and then the turnovers came when the other teams was playing their bench and really didn't think they would win. During this recent stretch, the Rockets have come out flat-footed in basically every game. When you're behind you start to force the issue, which leads to turnovers and ill-advised shots. This digs the team into an even deeper hole and they push even harder.
The defense is awful. And here's the thing: the Rockets need to play good defense in order to start their deadly fast break. If they don't get stops, the halfcourt offense for the Rockets comes out to play. And it's the ugliest kid on the block.
You can blame the coaching staff I guess. I don't think the coaching staff says, "Hey, move the ball around for 20 seconds then have James jack up a terrible jumpe,r" or "Hey Jeremy, please don't look to attack. We like you standing on the wing doing nothing." If McHale is saying things like that, then I'll be the first to ask for dismissal. But I just think the Rockets are playing some tired, lazy basketball.
Tip off is at 7pm CST.
Point Guard: Jeremy Lin vs. Ty Lawson
Lin doesn't get another advantage until he proves he deserves it. I'm not being harsh on him alone. You'll notice that our PF spot will also not be getting it either.
McHale was perfectly right to sit Lin in the fourth against the Bobcats. I know I was starting to get on the Lin bandwagon, but suddenly Lin turned disinterest. Where are the crazy forays into the paint? Where is the big bucket when it counts? Where is the speedy defense that sparks the fast break?
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Andre Iguodala
This is a tough matchup for Harden. Factor in that he's playing poorly and I can't give him the advantage here.
In his defense, I know he almost shot more FTs than the Bobcats, but he deserved even more. The refs swallowed their whistles halfway through the third when the Rockets were in the penalty. Seriously, if they had called it consistently he would have had 30+ FTs. No lie.
Remember this game?
James Harden Houston Rockets Debut - 37 Points, 12 Assists (via clutchfansDOTnet)
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Danilo Gallinari
I've been impressed with Parsons throughout these last few weeks. Jason Friedman calls him a bright spot of the losing streak and I'm inclined to agree. Remember that even when the Rockets were winning Parsons looked lost at times and couldn't find the balance of controlled aggression that he found recently. The Rockets have three cutters starting, so everyone has to be a threat.
Gallinari is averaging 17/5/2. I know he isn't known as a defender, but I've never really watched him on that side of the ball. If I'm Parsons I'm attacking tonight because we'll need it.
Power Forward: Patrick Patterson vs. Kenneth Faried
Faried absolutely killed the Rockets last time. He's a beast and rebounds the way you want an interior 4 to rebound. He doesn't have the shooting that Patterson and Morris bring to the table, but his skill set is pretty good as it is.
I like Patterson a lot. And just as recently as two weeks ago was killing it off the bench for the Rockets. The lack of production at the power forward position has been beaten to death here, so I'll leave it at that.
Center: Omer Asik vs. Kosta Koufos
I can't remember who said it on twitter, but some analyst/writer once said that he'd fine players for leaving their man to close out on a long 2. I like the concept, and I'll apply it here.
I'm going to start keeping a tab of how many times guys throw terrible passes to Asik. He doesn't have the best hands (duh), but they aren't as bad as everyone else is making them look.
No, you can't throw the ball at a 7-footer's feet.
No, you can't throw it behind him when he's cutting off the pick.
No, you can't zip it at his knees when you are two feet away from him.
Not many players in general could catch the passes the Rockets are slinging Asik's way. The Rockets need to play a little more hero ball when they have a mini 2-on-1 in the paint. Too many times they're looking to pass when they have a floater or lay-up for themselves. BE SELFISH YOUNG BLOODS!
Rockets: Toney Douglas, Carlos Delfino, Greg Smith, Marcus Morris, Patrick Beverly
Nuggets: Corey Brewer, JaVale McGee, Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler
Prediction: Nuggets pull away late, 107-98