Rockets Blast Blazers, Blazers Badly Burnt
(In a figurative sense.)
Welcome back, Patrick Beverley. The Rockets have certainly missed you. After missing the first eleven games of the season, the Rockets “Point Guard” returned tonight against the Portland Trailblazers, and made his presence felt in several key ways.
First, Beverley gives the Rockets a player who can actually defend point guards. We needn’t bother with all that “But he’s slipped! He’s no good at defense anymore!” stuff.
Previously the Rockets attempted to defend point guards with the likes of Trevor Ariza, who will always do his best to guard anyone, usually with decent results, and Eric Gordon, Corey Brewer and James Harden. The results in those cases haven’t been as good. Now at least the guys mentioned above can more often attempt to match shooting guards, and even defend their natural small forward position in the case of Ariza or Brewer.
It was only 25 minutes, but it looked like Patrick Beverley. We also got a taste of what Mike D’Antoni might have in mind for him - which is to attack the basket, and keep his dribble alive if nothing is there, watching for cutters to the rim, or passing out to shooters. It actually marks a pretty big change for Beverley and one I hope continues.
Previously it seemed that he would attack the rim, and force a shot, or fling out a last second pass in desperation. Now it looks as though he’s being used to probe the defense in a Nashian manner. No, of course he won’t be Steve Nash, but that probing basket attack while maintaining a dribble looked very familiar to anyone who watched a lot of the Seven Seconds or Less Suns. Let’s hope it continues.
Beverley may not be a star player on many, or any, NBA teams, but he’s a vital player to the Rockets.
These Trailblazers are a tough test defensively for the Rockets, because even with an actual backcourt defender in Beverley, Portland basically deploys two highly capable combo guards, in Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum. The Rockets appeared to use the same tactics Chicago used to defeat Portland - stymie Lillard with double teams, and dare the rest of the Blazers to beat you.
McCollum managed 26 pts, and Moe Harkless, usually Harden’s cover, notched 19 on good 3pt shooting, but Lillard only recorded 18pts in 35 minutes.
Houston also followed the Chicago playbook on offense in the second half. Coming off a big first quarter, and a wretched second quarter the game was tied at the half. The Rockets went on the attack - sending two or three guys at the basket on most plays. Because Portland’s guards cannot stay with anyone, their bigs were woefully out of position to defend or rebound most of the time, as evidenced by the 17 to 10 offensive rebound margin in favor of Houston.
The scoreline of 126-109 flatters Portland slightly as this game was over with about 8 minutes left.
The return of “Bullet Points - The Lazy Man’s Friend(tm)”
- Clint Capela recorded another fine outing with 15pts, 7rbs and 2blk in 27 minutes.
- James Harden went for 26/12/14 with 3 steals in 32 minutes. Ho hum. He’s only the best player in the NBA right now.
- Corey Brewer was effective tonight. He was. Don’t deny it.
- KJ McDaniels has been disappeared or something lately, only coming in with about a minute left of deep garbage time.
- I have no idea how to give you a poll with this new-new SBN editorial system.