Phoenix beat the Rockets on Saturday, then we had the painful waiting period until today. I think with a young team like the Rockets, three days off between games after a loss can be either a blessing or a curse.
On the one hand, the Rockets have had time to stew. They could be pissed that they dropped a winnable game on the road against a team that isn't better than they are. They can rue the missed chance and make a statement early tonight.
On the other hand, maybe they're too young to understand. You can't treat every game like a playoff game, and a win is a win. Does McHale push his guys to get revenge tonight or does he save that for the end of this 7-game homestand, when the Rockets face Golden State, Utah, San Antonio, and Indiana? The Rockets can't make the playoffs in March, but they can certainly lose their spot.
And while Chandler Parsons is the only player from last year's team on the roster (that still blows my mind), how large does the collapse of last year loom for the organization and McHale? The Rockets dropped 6 in a row down the stretch, when just winning two of those games would have put them in the playoffs.
But those demons are not Harden's; he made the NBA Finals last year. They aren't Lin's; he was injured and the Knicks were in the playoffs. They aren't Asik's; his Bulls were in the playoffs and got unlucky with the Rose ACL injury.
No, those demons are ours. And Parsons'. And McHale's. And Morey's. Well, tonight won't make them go away, but tonight, against a lottery team like the Suns, the Rockets can start to dig their way out towards the light, towards the playoffs, and towards the future.
Tip-off at 7pm CST.
PG: Jeremy Lin vs. Goran Dragic
The Suns starters all finished with +/- in the negatives. They combined for 4 assists and 17 rebounds (Asik alone had 16 boards). Dragic was a serious offender: only 1 assist and 3 rebounds and finished -8.
Cue Lin fans nodding getting ready to have something to hold over the Dragic fans.
Dragic took over in the fourth quarter. 13 points and the assists of the game (to Marshall, who just...come on). Great players finish games, and Dragic was the best player in the fourth quarter for either team.
Here comes the hate.
SG: James Harden vs. Wesley Johnson
When I look back at the first meeting, the 2nd quarter stands out. The Rockets only scored 18. They held Phoenix to 26 so it didn't get out of hand, but this Rockets team has to score. That starts with Harden, who hopefully is feeling better after getting some practice time off.
But while I have your attention, I need to cover something important: John McClain will be playing the role of a judge in "Spring Breakers." He's also appeared in The Longest Yard and Secretariat, but he's leaving his comfort zone of playing a sports writer and playing a different role. How did this happen? Well, I decided to play out the conversation in my head, and it went something like this.
John McClain: Did you see the Oscars? No nomination for Secretariat!
McClain's Agent: John, that movie came out three years ago.
JM: I need a role I can really sink my teeth into. I need a statue. GET ME A STATUE!
Agent: Umm...John? You're not really an actor.
JM: HOW DARE YOU! I WILL FIRE YOU SO FAST THERE WILL BE NO LEMON SQUARES LEFT!
Agent: Okay, calm down. I've got a role for a judge in "Spring Breakers." Want it?
JM: Who's in it? I've worked with Adam Sandler and Diane Lane. Basically, I've worked with the best.
Agent: This one has James Franco, Selena Gomez, and Vanessa Hudgens.
JM: Finally, a mature movie that I can really be a part of. Will it go on my IMDB page?
Agent: I can't promise that.
SF: Chandler Parsons vs. Marcus Morris
Parsons cooled off finally. He still shot 3-6 from 3, but only 2-10 from everywhere else. I know Parsons is feeling it right now, but the Rockets have been attacking the paint less and less, and I hope Parsons takes one in and throws it down early to set the tone.
PF: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Markieff Morris
Neither Morris twin was fantastic, but Markieff got to the line 8 times. Herein lies the other big stat of the night.
Rockets FTA: 18
Phoenix FTA: 39.
The Rockets can't have that. Hasn't Morey drilled efficiency into everyone's brains yet?
C: Omer Asik vs. Luis Scola
So the Rockets only scored 28 points in the paint (to the Suns' 38), despite the fact that the Suns have no true shot blocker and their interior defenders (Morris twins, Scola, Haddadi) aren't great on defense.
That's not good enough Houston.
Not. Good. Enough.
That has to start with Asik, who has to be available on pick and rolls and flash downs when the defense collapses on the dribble penetration (if it exists tonight). The Rockets need to own this game from start to finish, and that starts with Asik in the paint.
The Suns have Michael Beasley, Kendall Marshall, P.J. Tucker, Jared Dudley, and Hamed Haddadi.
The Rockets have Patrick Beverley, Carlos Delfino, Thomas Robinson, Greg Smith and Francisco Garcia
Prediction: The Rockets don't mess around, this game is over by halftime. Rockets by 20.