The Rockets are sick, and now they're tired. And fans, sick and tired of losing games that needn't be lost, must content themselves that no matter how aggravating Game 8 (not quite 10% of the NBA season folks) became, the eventual result is a "W", brining Our Heroes to 5-3.
The game started off shaky, with the Raptors holding a slight edge. By the end of the period, though the Rockets interior strength and fast break were beginning to tell. The second quarter saw Dwight Howard come alive, and the Rockets look a bit like themselves. The Rockets won the second period 23-13 as the defense and offense clicked together sleekly.
Halftime saw the Rockets comfortably ahead 47-33. Really, that should have been it. But the second half began in a shaky fashion, and the third quarter saw the dreaded zone appear. (Why do the Rockets have such trouble with this?) and the Raptors chuckers got lucky, or got long rebounds. Still nothing to worry about, as the Raps narrowed the lead by 5.
Unfortunately there was plenty to worry about. Most of it is quite familiar. Missed Howard FTs. Missed 3pt shots. Missed defensive assignments. Possessions where nothing much happens until a forced shot at 3 seconds on the clock. Couple that with teamwide illness and a bit of bad luck and the Raptors tied the game.
What do sick exhausted players need? Overtime! And then another one, as Rudy Gay heaved a tying shot to bring on a second OT (honestly, why not foul someone and give up 2pts). The Rockets managed to establish order at last at the end of the second overtime, thanks mainly to Jeremy Lin being straight up brilliant in both OTs.
Those who won't be ruled by the rudder must be ruled by the rocks. If the Rockets cannot learn from past mistakes, cannot learn to overcome a normally quite beatable defensive tactic, then they can expect to lose games like this one to teams just slightly better than the Raptors. If they can't learn to figure out ways to close out teams when they have leads, then they get to play 48 minutes when they're sick.
Rest would help. Wellness would help. A reasonable schedule would help. None are in sight. Perhaps the vaunted depth of the Rockets might be utilized? What's a Ronnie Brewer for if not to mess up the likes of DeMar DeRozen or Rudy Gay? When your team is dominating inside, why not go inside more with your extra C and PFs? At least we saw Terrence Jones tonight, and what we saw looked pretty promising if you ask me.
I'm not feeling a lot better than the Rockets, so that's what I've got. Like the Rockets efforts, its just good enough for the Raptors.
PS - Dwight Howard is looking really good, and we still haven't figured out how to use him. But it's coming. Gutty performance from a sick and hurt James Harden and Chandler Parsons.