There's been quite a bit of talk around TDS of late on whether or not the Rockets should make the playoffs. Danny's article set off a slew of comments (400-plus now) debating the positives and negatives of tanking and how the Rockets should handle the rest of the season.
Now I, for one, am never in favor of tanking. To me, there's only one reason for a player and team to take the floor each night and subject their bodies to the unyielding pounding the demands of the pro game requires, and that's for the satisfaction of walking off the floor with a W. With this Rockets team, however, something strange has happened. I just don't want to see them in the post season.
It's not due to a recent change of heart on the overall concept of tanking or because I think those extra draft picks the Rockets will have if they do miss will change the course of the franchise. It's because they simply don't deserve it.
This team had numerous opportunities in tonight's 88-86 loss to the Dallas Mavericks that sent them to a 38-40 record, 2 games behind the Mavs, and a full game back of the Utah Jazz. They just couldn't take advantage of them in a game that was nothing more than a cruel summation of what has been one of the most disappointing seasons in my 30 years as a Rockets fan.
Many times this season, the Rockets have been faced with the chance to turn things around, to actually make something of the lost season of 2016, and each and every time it seems they've failed to step up and carve out a destiny. Tonight's game was no different.
The Rockets held the Mavs to 18 points on 28.6 percent shooting in the first quarter and only 88 points and 41.2 percent shooting for the entire game. They slowed Dirk Nowitzki to just 7 points in 32 minutes. They outrebounded the Mavs (41-40) , scored more points in the paint (48-30) and scored both more second chance points (25-11) and fast break points (14-8).
But like much of the league in recent days, they had absolutely no answer for a scorching hot J.J. Barea (I can't believe I'm actually saying that), who tallied his fourth consecutive game with 20-plus points, as he torched the Rockets for 27 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds on 10-16 shooting and 4 triples. But mostly, Houston just beat themselves with poor play, poor shooting, and poor coaching.
There was, of course, the requisite sloppy ball-handling, with the team coughing up 15 turnovers, including 6 by James Harden. The Beard had a rotten game until the fourth quarter, as he had just 14 points on 4-13 shooting heading into the final frame.
The NBA's leading fourth-quarter scorer did step up with 12 points in the last stanza to keep the Rockets in it, but the rest of the team shot a combined 1-10 in the quarter, squashing any momentum gained from Harden's turnaround.
Harden also had a chance to take the lead for the Rockets with 5 seconds left, but had the ball swatted away by Nowitzki as he blew past Wesley Matthews and into an open lane for what seemed like a sure layup.
And J.B. Bickerstaff, what else can be said about the poor job done once again tonight with rotations? What started off as a suprisingly intuitive decision to start K.J. McDaniels and bench Donatas Motiejunas, allowing Trevor Ariza to defend Nowitzki, devolved into way too much Corey Brewer, who was 1-9 from the floor in 23 minutes (about 13 too many) and too much Jason Terry, who shot 1-6 in 17 minutes.
That was… that was awful. Bickerstaff is terrible. He has cost the Rockets this game. It’s not Brewer’s fault he can’t shoot— The Dream Shake (@DreamShakeSBN) April 7, 2016
Motiejunas, Terrence Jones, and Josh Smith (who killed the Mavs in the playoffs last year) curiously saw nary a minute between them. With Brewer's repeated offensive failure and the just 15 minutes of court time allotted to starter McDaniels, one would think Bickerstaff would have looked to diversify the rotation, especially with the team playing tight and struggling to put up points.
With the season on the line, it would have been prudent for Bickerstaff to look elsewhere for a spark in that situation, instead of continuously banging heads off the Brewer and JET wall. It got the Rockets nowhere.
As usual, it wasn't all bad. The Rockets also have the gift of flashing tantalizing potential, before ultimately pulling it all away from us in a twisted joke.
Dwight Howard finished with 14 points, 16 rebounds and a block, including playing as dominant and engaged of a period as we've seen from D-12 in quite some time. Howard had 10 points and 8 rebounds in the third quarter, and combined with Michael Beasley, who scored 6 in the quarter (and 15 overall), to put the Rockets up by one at 71-70 after being down 52-44 at the half.
But as usual, the flashes couldn't be maintained, as neither player scored a single point in the deciding fourth quarter, when even a small bit of help alongside Harden easily could have made a difference.
It is possible that the Rockets still sneak in. They play their last 4 against teams with losing records, while the Jazz and Mavs play another head-to-head yet. But honestly, what's the point? It has nothing to do with tanking, future assets, or even the upcoming Kevin Durant sweepstakes. This team just plain, old deserves to stay at home.