I led off the last preview with "It wasn't always like this." It was a stereotypical opening line of a movie trailer.
It worked, so we're going with it in the matchups too. Because I'm bored and easily amused.
This is based on a true story.
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Reggie Jackson
All Reggie Jackson ever wanted was a chance.
A chance to prove that he belonged. That beneath that rough exterior was a starting point guard ready to blossom.
Jackson is hitting the wall that most first-year starters or players that see a huge increase in usage see. That is, when he plays well the team usually wins. And when he plays poorly they lose. There's a line that great players cross where they figure out how to win games even when they can't make an open shot to save their lives.
Also, Patrick Beverley is our only hope. I've called him the soul of this team multiple times in this space, mostly to scoffs and at least some skepticism. But it's his tenacity that gives the Rockets an identity in a way that Harden's game can't. Whether you believe that or not, I think we can all agree that Bev holds at least one key to the Rockets' future success.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
In a world where some people have hyphenated last names, there's KCP.
KCP dropped 21 on the Nets and got to the free throw line 10 times.
As for Harden, Detroit was the site of his first game as a Rocket. It went well.
Remember, that was 3 years ago. And none of those Rockets are still on the team besides Harden. Morey completely rebuilt the Rockets around him.
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Marcus Morris
It was supposed to be a final job.
Morris had teamed up with his twin Markieff in Phoenix and they were having the time of their lives. They were living together, sharing a bank account, and playing together for a fun young offense that went to them in crunch time.
Then Marcus was traded to Detroit to free up cap space for Phoenix to chase LaMarcus Aldridge.
From watching Morris in his days with Phoenix I can tell you one thing for certain: Morris will make every long 2 he takes. Much like Arron Afflalo, the Morris twins (Morrii?) spit in the face of Daryl Morey's analytics movement and refuse to miss those shots. Hand in the face, leaning back, foot on the 3-point line? Swish.
Power Forward: Clint Capela vs. Ersan Ilyasova
Ersan Ilyasova was just an ordinary guy.
I think it's fascinating that both of these teams play bigger than others. However, they play big in different ways. The Pistons play an undersized forward (Morris) at the 3 and a stretch 4 (Ilyasova) at the 4). Morris is obviously capable of hitting midrange shots but in terms of size he's still the undersized guy he was in Houston.
The Rockets on the other hand have struck at least semi-gold with the twin towers lineup. Capela and Howard gives Houston a huge front court to deter driving opportunities. Soon, teams will beat this by pushing the pace. But for now it's been a nice change of pace to see a starter giving everything he has on both ends.
Ilyasova is actually hitting 43% from distance, which is higher than his average from 2. Obviously, the stretch 4 rule comes into play here, since Houston always struggles against them. Always. You can bet Ilyasova will get at least 5 open looks at a 3, and he'll probably bury 4 of them.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Andre Drummond
Sometimes, bigger really is better.
Andre Drummond is averaging 18/17 this season.
That's all you need to know.
And for your enjoyment, here's Dwight Howard impersonating Stan van Gundy.
Rockets: Jason Terry, Marcus Thornton, Corey Brewer, Terrence Jones, K.J. McDaniels
Pistons: Anthony Tolliver, Stanley Johnson, Aron Baynes, Steve Blake
Rockets vs Pistons coverage