Another season, another team that doesn't want to play defense.
Many of the issues that plagued Houston last year reared their ugly heads again in Los Angeles against a younger, more athletic Lakers team. The Rockets face a less-athletic Mavericks squad tonight, but it's also a Dallas team that lost its season opener in overtime and is now getting to play in front of its home fans for its home opener. There are 29 teams in the NBA, and Houston got to be two different teams' home openers. Cool.
As for the Mavericks, they lost Chandler Parsons in the offseason but brought in the Golden State Warriors. Well, that less-heralded ones. So Houston is New Orleans West and Dallas is Oakland East. Sure, makes sense.
Unfortunately, Dallas missed out on signing Jason Thompson and Gerald Green, which could have allowed them to run a Curry-Thompson-Barnes-Green-Bogut lineup. Alas, no one appreciates these things like I do.
I expect the Mavs to put up a fight tonight. They cannot go 0-2 with a loss on their home court. These two teams will immediately head to Houston for a Sunday night tilt. Usually in home-and-home series, the home team holds serve. I think that trend continues here.
Tip off is at 7:30pm CT.
Point Guard: James Harden vs. Deron Williams
The Rockets will be much happier when Patrick Beverley returns because he can be a secondary ball handler. The Lakers picked up Harden full court and it wore him down as the game went on. Expect Wes Matthews to do the same.
On the other hand, there was a lot of staring around late in the game as Harden attempted to make plays happen. In the fourth quarter and the playoffs, a lot of defensive miscues get fixed or at least covered up by focus and hustle. Harden roasted the Lakers for three quarters, but when LA tightened the screws, Houston had no answer. Harden made some bad choices, but the coaching staff has to create an offense so the ball can move.
Deron Williams kills the Rockets. It is written.
Shooting Guard: Eric Gordon vs. Wesley Matthews
Matthews went 3-16 against the Pacers. There is a 0% chance he doesn't go completely bonkers tonight.
You can say the Rockets' offense bogged down late in the LA game, but EG had two open looks at a triple in the final two minutes. As a Rockets fan, you take those all day. Gordon missed both. I find it unlikely that he'll continue to miss them all in the big moments.
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Harrison Barnes
Harry Max got paid a lot of money this offseason. He shot poorly in the preseason but was decent in the Mavs' opener, including hitting the 3 to send the game to OT. Nineteen points and 9 rebounds is a pretty good stat line, but Dallas will have to ask him to create just a bit more.
Um, Trevor? Hi buddy. Remember when you played defense? Yeah, more of that please. Thanks.
Power Forward: Ryan Anderson vs. Dirk Nowitzki
While these players have similar offensive skill sets, Dirk is going to play until he's 50. Hey Dirk, Tim Duncan retired. You're up next.
Ryno will always stretch the floor well on offense and does a fantastic job trailing the fast break that Houston is always looking to run. Through one game and preseason, he's a perfect fit on that end of the court. On defense thought? Yikes.
Center: Clint Capela vs. Andrew Bogut
Mike D'Antoni was put in a tough spot in LA. Harden got the ball to Capela twice in the fourth quarter only for Capela to miss a layup one time and get stripped another. Plus, his defense looked nonexistent. MDA pulled Capela for Nene, who couldn't play defense either. Capela is supposed to be the Rockets big that can defend the rim, but he wasn't up to snuff late. Houston needs him now more than ever. He's vital to their success.
Bogut looks like he was vital to Golden State's success. While he didn't play many minutes, he made up for the defensive deficiencies that of their starting unit. Once he got hurt in the Finals the Cavs started attacking and the Dubs had no answer. Now he and Zaza Pachulia have switched spots and Dallas most certainly came out ahead in that exchange.
Rockets: Corey Brewer, Sam Dekker, K.J. McDaniels, Tyler Ennis, Nene
Mavs: Dwight Powell, J.J. Barea, Seth Curry, Justin Anderson, Quincy Acy
Prediction: Rockets fall 118-98
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