The Rockets finally get two days off in a row. That will give them a great advantage over the Boston Celtics, who...also got two days off. As always, eff you Stern. February 1 can't get here fast enough.
Houston finally won a "blowout," but it wasn't much of one since the Nuggets took the fun away with the Hack-a-Howard. More wins like this and the Rockets will finally be where I want them to be in these blowout-type games.
Where do I want the Rockets to be, you ask? Great question you/me!
The Spurs are the franchise that the Rockets should strive to emulate. The four championships in 9 seasons is obviously a gold standard, but the first step is to do what the Spurs do in the regular season.
What do the Spurs do in the regular season, you ask? You're on a roll, question-asker!
The Rockets aren't at the point where they can taper minutes off their starters. Eventually, you hope the team can do that and limit Howard to 32 minutes a night and Harden closer to 35. But that day isn't close. What the Spurs do that the Rockets should strive for is their dismantling of bad teams. This is the NBA, where anything can happen on any given day, but the Spurs rarely if ever lose to teams they should beat. What's more, they usually blow them out and take out any semblance of hope the other teams has. Opponents go on a 6-0 run? Pop puts all the starters back in and they go 10-0. It's incredibly frustrating to play against that kind of team and therefore usually Spurs opponents start mailing it in midway through the third quarter.
Against the Nuggets, the Rockets lead by 15 going into the fourth quarter and continued to extend the lead. However, the Nuggets never seemed out of it until the final two minutes. They kept attacking and still had belief that they could win. The Rockets needs to crush that belief enough times that teams will stop having it late in games. Some JVG teams had that ability, but mostly it was because their defense was so good. Adelman never had a team like that but that wasn't really his fault. Now, McHale has to build a team that can cruise through the regular season and is ready for the postseason. It won't happen this season, but it's a process that needs to start now.
Onto the Celtics.
The Rockets beat the Celtics multiple times during the Big Three Era, but this one is still my favorite. My dad and I still call this "The Chase Budinger Game." The amount of pure homer from Bill and Bull brings an embarrassed smile to my face.
Rockets score final 10 points in OT to stun Celtics on 4/2/2010 (via clutchfansDOTnet)
But also, you can't forget this one:
Von Wafer beats Celtics with late three pointer (via clutchfansDOTnet)
Tip off is at 7pm CST
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Jordan Crawford
Beverley's unnecessary fouls have really declined, which is great. After averaging 4.5 fouls per game in his previous four contests, Bev only has 2 in the Rockets' last two games.
And here's the most interesting stat of the young season for me: when Patrick Beverley plays more than 30 minutes, the Rockets are 0-3. That's directly tied to how well Jeremy Lin is playing. Lin gets my vote for Best Rocket so far in the season, and it isn't really close. Howard and Harden have turned in some clunkers, Parsons looked lost the first few games, and none of the other rotation players have played well.
I loved Crawford's game at Xavier, but he hasn't gotten much of a chance in the NBA. He's not really a point guard, but Brad Stevens had to go somewhere with Rajon Rondo injured. He could do worse than Crawford I guess.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Avery Bradley
Bradley is averaging 13 points per game in the early going and is shooting only 21% from 3. He's a slasher and will try to take advantage of James Harden tonight off the dribble.
On the other hand, Harden has to stay aggressive to keep Bradley honest. The former UT player averages 1.6 steals per contest and will be looking to get easy buckets on the other end.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Jeff Green
Green can be an absolute monster, and this season he's getting a chance to show his talent. The often-forgotten former OKC man, it's remarkable to think that if the Thunder don't pull the triggers on the Perkins and Harden trades, they could be running Westbrook, Harden, Green, Durant, and Ibaka in crunch time. Scary.
"Pump Fake" Parsons looks more confident in that shot, which is great news for the Rockets. He has to keep going in attack mode from every area on the court. He'll have his hands full with Green's size tonight.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Brandon Bass
I'm liking what T-Jones (I don't like it) is cooking, but now we'll see if he can stay consistent with his game. He's in a prime position for an off-night and Dinosaur Motorcycles (I'm bringing it back BD!) is suddenly making him hear footsteps. When the season started, Jones was probably the third power forward in the rotation, with D-Mo fourth. Now with Howard moving to center, they've become 1 and 2. That's why you always have to stay ready. I'm glad they're making the most of the chance so far.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Vitor Faverani
Let's see: Faverani looks like:
the third Gasol brother edited by SB Nation.
He looks like a lot of things, but this right here is one awesome picture.
Rockets: Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Jeremy Lin
Nuggets: Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kelly Olynyk (my boy!), Phil Pressey (Tom's boy!), MarShon Brooks, Courtney Lee (questionable)
Advantage: Even? Lin is almost enough to win these on his own right now, but I like the C's bench.
Prediction: Rockets keep the wins coming, 112-101.
Celtics vs Rockets coverage