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Game battered by ugly stick, Rockets prevail over Mavericks 113-105

Points of emphasis, turnovers, Hack-A-Howard, turnovers, Carlisle's "Genius", awful foul calls, turnovers, Cuban eats a bunch of sour grapes, but Harden's brilliance rises above it all as the Rockets stay perfect.

Punching Lin in the face. Foul or not? Surprise!  It's actually a foul.
Punching Lin in the face. Foul or not? Surprise! It's actually a foul.
Bob Levey

Well, that was ugly. Really ugly.

I'm still seething at the vicious tedious ugliness on display. And turnovers aside, it wasn't really the Rockets fault. I'm not sure I have a coherent narrative in me, please bear with me.

The Rockets dominated the first quarter, as the Mavericks, perhaps believing their owner's hot air about what a great basketball destination Dallas is right now, attempted to run and score with the Rockets. This resulted in the Rockets quickly disabusing the Mavericks of that notion. The Rockets outscored the Mavs 38-22 in the first quarter.

For a single whole quarter we got to see true Rocket basketball, then Rick Carlisle deployed his genius. First, he went to a zone. This was a perfectly reasonable move, and about all he could do to slow down the onslaught. The zone seemed to completely bumfuzzle the Rockets, and some sloppy play got sloppier. Between the panicking in the face of the zone, a Rockets brickfest, and some odd whistles (which would come to dominate the evening) the Rockets gave ground. Quite a bit of ground from a 22pt lead, still the Rockets lead by 11 at the half.

One would hope the Rockets would spend the half time pause working out a way to attack the zone. It did not appear they really did so, or it could have been some untimely poor shooting from Chandler Parsons, off to a rough start to the season. In any case, given the lack of practice in the next week, expect more zones until the Rockets prove they can dismantle them (Miami couldn't break the Dallas zone in 2011).

The third quarter eclipsed any bad basketball I've seen all the young season or preseason. Not only was there a slow paced zone game, not only did the refs blow whistles on every single possession for about 3 minutes, not only did the Rockets throw the ball away in wanton fashion, but the Mavericks, proving what a powerful fluid and attractive brand of basketball they want to play in Dallas, went to Hack-A-Howard somewhere around the middle of the third quarter. Make no mistake, the zone and the Hackathon were moves of desperation. Despite this, the game threatened to turn into a blowout anytime something you or I might recognize as basketball broke out. But the refs were there to make sure that wouldn't happen with one of the most tedious displays of self-importance, outside an event featuring Joey Crawford, I've seen in recent memory. I don't really care which way the calls go, if they're bad.

Despite all the ugliness, despite really terrible inconsistent refereeing, despite the Mavericks looking to close the gap through their sad, desperate tactics, the game never looked like getting away. Rockets, if fact, won the miserable, awful, third quarter 24-22.

On to the fourth quarter and more desperate, sad, basketball from Dallas. Along the way Asik fouled out on no less than 3-4 phantom fouls, while Harden fouled out "Dirty" Dirk Nowitzki who has now thrown an elbow, or managed some version of a cheap shot in every single Rockets-Mavericks tilt of recent memory. He managed to get a Flagrant 2 in a pre-season game. A flagrant 2 in pre-season. He may be a prince off the court, but he's been an out of control prick on it lately. I used to like you Dirk, but you've changed man, you've changed.

The game, if you can call it one, ended with Jae (Faried's Doppelgänger) Crowder sinking about 11 threes while facing the initial deployment of a Rockets power forward on the season. Well, it was all the power forwards, Greg Smith, Terrence Jones, and Donatas Motiejunas simultaneously. This configuration didn't provide much 3pt defense. The Mavericks won the quarter, but with anything like normal 3pt shooting, or a normal lineup, the Rockets probably win this contest by about 16.

Some might say "Hey, that's some 'never say die' grittiness from Dallas!" but it certainly didn't look that that to me. It seemed more like the hacking death rattle of a team that is aging out, has made poor free agent decisions, and has no other choice or alternative. Why on earth wouldn't Dwight Howard have chosen this sad display of a once proud franchise slipping into the mud of mediocrity in a notably tawdry fashion? That's just Dwight, being a foolish young man and callowly avoiding a potential train wreck.

If tonight is anything to go by, Dallas is not going gently into that good night. It's clawing its way down, with all the dignity of a faded and fatty playa, out for one last night on the town in last decade's clothes, trying to prove he's still got it. Just go away, and take your self-serving BS with you.

Other Notes

  • James Harden is simply looking transcendent on offense right now. He personally put Dallas out of our collective misery in the 4th quarter.
  • Apparently the main reffing "Point of Emphasis" is "Make The Game Unwatchable". Included here are very very tight travel and carry calls, enforced for the first time in 40 years. Then there is the brilliant delay of game calls that lead to biggest single delay of game outside TV timeouts and video review - technical free throws. This is like trying to fight forrest fires by chopping down all the trees before they start. Also included are points of emphasis signaling fouls for "moving screens" that are neither screens nor moving, and calling a foul anytime a big man gets a rebound by virtue of being big. Fan-Tastic!
  • Rockets turned it over 22 times. Normally this will not lead to a win.
  • Get well, Rockets. Some will be please to the Omri Casspi PF experiment possibly end with an ankle sprain.
  • Bleah, just bleah. At least the Bobcats attempted to play basketball.

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