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Grizzlies maul Rockets 136-102

Disorganized, Demoralized, Demolished

Houston Rockets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

This game probably wasn’t as close as the scoreline appeared. From start to finish, with a few scattered bright spots for the Rockets (quickly extinguished), this was a dominant Grizzlies victory.

Not that the Rockets made it difficult. With a young team it’s best to look for good spells of play, competent stretches, but those were few and far between tonight. The Rockets, rather than improving after their brutal season opening stretch on the road, appear to be regressing.

Sometimes this happens as players attempt to integrate new ideas, or systems into their games. The Rockets could have tried to install some new plays, or as the football guys so often say, in an effort to sound smart perhaps, “concepts”. (Tonight was a “punt the ball into the crowd, concept”, Joe.)

Perhaps what the Rockets were trying to do was good in concept, but not, as yet, in reality.

I’ve tried to keep a sense of perspective about this season, about individual game results, and certainly about individual plays, but tonight was difficult. It was difficult because it was tough to see what goals the Rockets were trying to accomplish, and furthermore, how their lineups made sense in terms of accomplishing those ostensible goals.

I don’t think Memphis is an especially great NBA team, but they dismantled the Rockets, and the Rockets simply had no answers. Moreover, it didn’t seem as though coach Silas had any coherent response to guide the team. “Letting them play.” is good, to a point. Letting them get their heads bashed in, to the tune of 20 straight Grizzly points without a time out, seems counter-productive. Before that run by Memphis, the Rockets were narrowing the gap, perhaps turning the game competitive, if not a win. Afterwards, the rout was on.

There’s probably no particular rotation or group of players that fixes a 34 point loss. Right now, it’s hard to see what an effective group might look like. Adding 10, or 30, Alperen Sengun minutes doesn’t fix this, though it would be more watchable.

The Rockets are rushing everything on offense, and appear to be thinking too much, or thinking not at all. Tonight was a decent game for Jalen Green, in a sense, at 6-13 shooting, but while I’m not hugely impressed by in game plus/minus, a -37 is notable. Green perhaps needs a game or two off, to watch from the bench, and try to absorb all the things he’s been told to do.

The Rockets are similarly disorganized on defense. Memphis was either bullying their way to the rim, or shooting wide open threes off a drive and kick. I’ve not see two bigs who played with less defensive force than Christian Wood and Daniel Theis. As the past two nights have shown, neither man can stop drives or bigs, or much of anyone, at the rim. After making Javale McGee look like an all-star, tonight they made Steven Adams look like the Steven Adams of Rockets fans memory, rather than the current reality. They seemed straight-up afraid of the execrable Dylan Brooks.

In any case, it’s hard to know where to put the blame. Is it simply a young, inexperienced team that’s over its head and can’t get a breath?

Has Stephen Silas run out of ideas, or ways to reach the team? Is he waiting for them to apply what they’ve been taught, and their failure to do so leaves him bereft of ideas? Is his system inappropriate for the players he has? Is he truly ready to be head coach of a team with as many questions, and as few answers, as this Rockets squad? Or is he the sort of reasonable, non-confrontational, cerebral, unflappable guy best suited for cagey veterans?

Those weren’t questions at the start of the season, but, unfortunately, they’re questions now. The answer might be that the Rockets get it together, start playing better. Let’s hope so.

One final question, seeing what we’ve seen so far, would playing Kevin Porter Jr, and Jalen Green a bit more sparingly, and using an experienced, expensive, point guard, let’s call him “Mark Floor”, 30 minutes a night, be a bad plan at this juncture? It might “raise the Floor” so to speak, for this Rockets team. It’s not crazy to think that $40+ million might buy you a few minutes of basketball playing.

I’m not sure any of us can stomach fewer than ten wins.


Rockets Sentiment-O-Meter #3

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