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Rockets vs. Mavericks Round 1: Series thoughts post-Game 1

Xiane shares thoughts after the first game of the Rockets v Mavericks Round 1 series. And refers to himself in the third person.

One of Dwight Howard's Five Fouls
One of Dwight Howard's Five Fouls
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In this series of disjointed thoughts long time readers will see the return of Bullet Points - The Lazy Man's Friend(tm)

  • Game 1 went rather well for the Rockets overall, despite some rocky moments.  When Dwight Howard and Clint Capela weren't in foul trouble (for really minor stuff, or outright flops) the Rockets were dominant.  The only Rocket to have a bad night was Josh Smith, and he wasn't completely worthless.
  • Capela isn't strong enough physically to hold Tyson Chandler off the boards, but he's "long" enough to really frustrate Amare Stoudamire who went 2-12.  (Why did "long" become the go-to term?  Tall wasn't good enough?  Big isn't suggestive enough?  This obsession with length is sort of weird.)
  • Terrence Jones seems to be fully recovered from his last scary injury, logging 19pts, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal.  Surprisingly he did not notch one of the Rockets 9 blocks.  He appeared quick and on task, and made life somewhat difficult for Dirk Nowitzki, who had a vintage dominant game in terms of whining about nearly every play and complaining incessantly.
  • You'd not know any of this from this screenshot of the ESPN box score I found.

I'm not sure who scored the 226 combined points of Saturday's game, but Kevin McHale and Rick Carlisle wanted their players well away from the first playoff game according to ESPN.  K.J. McDaniels is the only one with a legit excuse.

  • The Mavericks seemed focused on containing Rockets shooting, defending well away from the paint. Surprising no one, this effort was focussed in particular on James Harden's shooting. The close defense with Rajon Rondo contributed most to this defensive effort, and Rondo even notched about 8 minutes of Bill Simmonseses "Playoff Rondo"(TM). When considering Rondo, the main thing to remember is that you MUST say Rondo's name in an Elmer Fudd voice - Wajon Wondo is hunting wascally wabbits with the Mavwicks! Anyhow, overall the Mavs did a fairly good job on The Beard, as Harden was 4-11, and 1-5 on three pointers.  But the 11 assists to 2 turnovers will work well in the games to come, as Harden switched from being a scorer to a facilitator to good effect.
  • Everyone's favorite celebrity referee Joey Crawford reminded a raucous Houston crowd who they really came to see, and it wasn't Dwight Howard.  Howard logged a mere 17 minutes, a dominant 17 minutes, but still, only 17 minutes.  11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 blocks and a steal.  Given 34 minutes at that rate, well, you can do the math.  A triple double with blocks.
  • There is a lot of criticism leveled at the Rockets, and their offense flung more or less incessantly around the Twitverse and internet. Mark Cuban, chimed in recently on the subject, like a poorly dressed Charles I complaining about the predictability of the Roundheads. Cuban's really an astonishing combination of extremely shrewd operator and clueless jackass. Honestly, though, that potent mix does make the NBA better, and more colorful.  Never change Cubes!
  • If Mark Cuban is reading this, (and given that I believe he is the biggest narcissist in league full of narcissists, it wouldn't surprise me if he read every single word ever written about himself) let me offer one suggestion.  56-year-old men shouldn't mention their athletic accomplishments, prowess and associated aches and pains, unless the said athleticism is more noteworthy than lighting up Smithers at the ole practice facility.  Winning a ping pong tourney, for instance.
  • Back to Marky Mark Cuban's comments on the Rockets offense, and those of so (so, so) many others. Did it occur to none of them that nobody EVER saw the team the Rockets meant to have on the floor after October 29th, 2014?  The Rockets were perennially without their starting PF, mostly without their star center, and usually without several other key players. Their intended offense might, just might, have been lacking dimensions it would have had with those players board, or at full strength?
  • The penetrating drive and dish attack, along with the vicious counter attack on the fast break in Game 1 (in the 17 minutes it was allowed to flourish) struck me as a fun offense to watch. Does everyone just think only jump shots are beautiful these days? A drive and oop for a rim shaking dunk just isn't what is used to be  (The Rockets managed this 17 minutes of fury despite the lack of their starting PG and the PF who started most of the season, by the way).
  • The basket attacks with a dish to big men cutting in from the baseline, or moving down the lane on a quick pick and roll was just devastating, and Dallas had no answer for it.  Less brilliant was the offensive rebounding Dallas notched via Tyson Chandler with Howard (and to a lesser extent Capela) out in the second and most of the third quarters. As strategies go, right now Dallas' biggest hope seems to be, keep the Houston bigs on the bench. We can similarly hope the refs won't comply, no matter how much Dicky Carlisle grimaces.
  • On the subject, Terrence Jones (a former guard with a good handle for a 6'9" beast) dished 6 assists, with a little more serenity, Josh Smith could have had that many easily, but he just seemed to be moving too fast, turning the ball over, shooting passes too fast, too high, too waywardly in general. He also missed a number of bunnies at the rim, as did many Rockets. I would love to see all the Rockets go up strong - at least that way you're likely looking at FTs, rather than a plain miss.  Dallas might want to Hacka (see below) Smiff, Howard, Capela, even Jones, or (eek) Joey Dorsey.  But I'd say they don't want to do it with their starting bigs under any circumstances.
  • Note to Dallas Fans -- when a team more or less fouls on purpose, those free throws really add up.
  • And speaking of free throws, lets talk Hacka.  Hacka sucks.  There is nothing noble, and moreover nothing sacred about Hacka.  Gleaning this from a couple of sources, notably Rockets Cast Live with Adam Wexler and Matt Jackson, the intentional foul away from the ball was implemented as a method for the team without the ball (and thus unable to call a timeout) to stop the action to allow an injured player to get off the court.  Turning the contest into a meta-game free throw shooting challenge was never the intent.  So while it is easy to say "make your free throws!" it is fairer to say, "Hacka has utterly perverted the intent of the rule, and should be disallowed".
  • There is nothing sacred about that particular rule implementation. If the NBA can get rid of a long-time core part of the game like hand checking to make the contest flow more enjoyably for viewers (aka customers), it can get rid of Hacka. If the NBA can institute a 24 second shot clock, versus the 900 second college shot clock, it can get rid of Hacka. If we can put a man on the frickin' moon, we can get rid of Hacka. There's an analogy to be made about this, capitalism and the abolition of child labor, but I won't make it.
  • So far the woodshedding Kevin McHale was doubtless going to get from Dicky Carlisle: Coaching Genius, hasn't happened. Far from it. It may still occur, as adjustments will be made, and Dicky is tricky. Hopefully the Rockets' athleticism, flexibility and good game planning will overcome that. Speaking of Dicky, why does the man intentionally foul when there is almost certainly no hope? Just to piss me off, apparently. I saw a recent game with the Mavs down 20 with about 2 minutes left. Intentional fouls.  Last game was much closer, so fine, but he'll basically do that no matter what the score is.  Which is genius beyond my meager understanding, apparently.
  • And speaking of peculiar genius, let us salute the quirky savant that is Corey Brewer, former Maverick. Dance on Corey, dance on. Your timely three pointers, drives and fast break points put the nail in Dallas' coffin and we thank you. Speaking of further former Mavericks, Jason Terry was cold-blooded for the Rockets. Nice to have that long range shelling outgoing rather than incoming for a change.
  • Adding on to Max Croes' nice piece that attempts to put James Harden's season of free throws into perspective, allow me to supply a bit more perspective.  Seven hundred FT refers to MADE free throws. Gaze upon yon list of all time ATTEMPTED free throws in an NBA season and marvel. Looking at this list might convince Charles Barkley and Shaq to shut the hell up about free throw attempts and Harden. But that would mean doing research, (analytics!) rather than just blathering, so odds are that won't happen.
  • Below is the FT per NBA season record list. James Harden's 14-15 clocks in at  No. 48.  He's hundreds of free throws from the top, and behind many wing players, not just Wilt. Evidence should overcome narrative, but I'm guessing it won't. Do you think people made a big deal out of Michael Jordan shooting about 150 more free throws than Beard in the rough and tumble, more macho, world of 1987? Or Charles Barkley coming in at No. 10? (Does he even know he did?) Nobody seemed all that upset about Allen Iverson going to the line 829 times in 2005-6. It wasn't a crisis. In fact, it just seemed reasonable that a guy who drove the lane as much as AI did would shoot that many FTs. James Harden drives about as much as Iverson did, but The National Narrative has cast James Harden as a villain, and so he must remain.

  • Finally, people, friends, commenters, whatever you in fact are out there (dogs?), let's keep our opinions about Dallas, and various Dallasonians Dallasites, more or less confined to this space.
  • Go Rockets.