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Rockets stumble into 99-91 loss to Pacers

We’ll Always Have The First Quarter

Indiana Pacers v Houston Rockets
Would have been nice to get a win for The Big E.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

First off, tonight the Houston Rockets retired the #44 jersey of NBA legend (though he wore 11 in San Diego, and the DMV), Hall of Famer, first Black player at University of Houston, and the long-time Houston resident, Elvin Hayes. There was a very nice ceremony at half time with older players, Rockets legends, and of course, Calvin Murphy (who played with Hayes on the Rockets) and Bill Worrell.

He was a magnificent college player, and won the NBA scoring title in his rookie season! This jersey retirement came so late primary because Hayes spent the middle years of his career as a Baltimore/Washington Bullet. You can’t say his peak years, because he averaged 28 points and 17 rebounds per game as a rookie, while playing a staggering 45 minutes per game.

Big E averaged no fewer than 20 points (slight rounding) and 11 rebounds a game until he was 35, while averaging over 38 minutes per night for his career. He was a power forward when the term really meant power - there was no 3pt shot in the game until he was 34. All those points, 27,313 in total, game two, or one, at a time.

Check out some highlights here:

Tonight the Rockets also wore their Seattle SuperSonics San Diego Rockets city connect or whatever jerseys, presumably because Hayes played for the San Diego Rockets from 1968-1971, when they moved to Houston, and they wore those jerseys that did, indeed, look just like SuperSonics jerseys, even at the time.

Honestly, these things truly are functionally identical to Seattle SuperSonics jerseys and I never, ever, want to see them again. There’s no nostalgia for a city (San Diego) unable to keep several basketball teams (unlike having it ripped away, like Seattle). Please, don’t trot these out again, I beg you, Rockets. Tonight the green and yellow of the “Rockets” jerseys and the yellow of the Pacers really made a for confusing combination and sometimes I wasn’t sure who my team was.

Indiana Pacers v Houston Rockets
Supposedly the Houston Rockets.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Do you want to write about this game? Cool! Go ahead! Catch you later. Thanks!

Just kidding.

Tonight the Rockets got off to one of their brightest starts to the season, and then piddled it all away to a team that’s certainly more experienced, and winning more games, but arguably isn’t really any better, talent-wise. Tonight we learned that whatever our opinion of Kevin Porter Jr. might be, Nix and Matthews should never happen together again. Tonight we learned, once again, that in the NBA, it’s not just talent, it’s talent, development, and experience.

The first quarter was great. One to remember.

The Rockets, starting only two guards, Jalen Green and Eric Gordon, lead a unit of more balanced capabilities (that is, an actual forward in the ostensible forward slot). The Rockets scored 25 points, mostly on a 12 point outburst from Eric Gordon. The Pacers basically couldn’t make anything they shot - layups, dunks, mid-range, or 3pt shots. Without a bailout call, the Pacers might have ended the first quarter scoring in the single digits. As it was they managed a robust 10 points.

Fifteen minutes into the game, the Rockets had a 20 point lead. A lead they would, indeed, relinquish, but shouldn’t have.

I blame the ejection of Dick “Assuredly A Basketball Genius” Carlisle, after two (admittedly incredibly weak) technical fouls. One would have been sufficient, but tonight it seemed referees Leon Wood and Tyler Ford were feeling a little fragile, and not willing to stand for any micro aggressions from Rick Carlisle or, really, anyone.

I truly don’t blame the referees for the outcome (I do blame Carlisle, I think maybe with Lloyd Pierce running the show, the Pacers were a lot better).

This is mostly out of interest, because the game from the first quarter on lacked it, but here are some referee highlights:

Tari Eason was called for a technical foul WHILE SHOOTING A FREE THROW. I’ve watched entirely too much NBA basketball, and I’ve never to my best recollection, seen that happen. Eason shot a free throw, made it, was T’ed up, Haliburton shot a technical FT for Indiana, and the Eason shot his second free throw. This actually happened. A technical on the free throw shooter. As I say, these refs were sensitive, maybe poetic, because the next thing that happened was creative genius.

Alperen Sengun went up to block Tyrese Haliburton on a fast break. Sengun was whistled for a foul on the shot. The Rockets, not wanting a third foul on Sengun challenged the call, because it seemed like the only contact was a push-off from Haliburton.

Because I love you, I have presented Sensitive Poet Referee Tyler Fords remarks as a haiku:

He Moves A to B

Legal Guarding Position

Have Legs Made Contact

Yes, it made exactly that much sense.

Leon, Tyler and CJ Washington must also like to stay home, because they whistled traveling whenever possible. Which was a lot.

More poetry, fewer micro-aggressions!

And that was sort of it for the Rockets, they slowly came apart, with the usual turnovers, terrible shot selection and lack of offensive coherence.

The Pacers shot better after their astonishing first quarter, the Rockets shot worse, and the Pacers doubled Eric Gordon (they doubled Eric Gordon!) on defense, and he finished with 24pts, instead of his “on pace” 48pts number after Q1.

Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you the offense was, because I don’t understand it, or the rotations much of the time. I can tell you it looked, first quarter Eric Gordon outburst aside, less organized without Porter.

That said, starting only two guards is probably a better idea. Hopefully Gordon will find a good new home soon. He deserves that.

Other things I don’t get. I don’t understand how Daishen Nix, who moves around on defense like he just smoked up, and Garrison Matthews can ever get minutes together. If Buddy Hield was barbecued chicken (he was) then Nix and Matthews are the mixed grill with brisket and sausage.

It could be that the NBA is just too fast, but Nix plays like Harden on defense at his most uninterested, but not offense. Matthews really shouldn’t get 14 minutes in a contested game (which this was, until mid fourth quarter).

Josh Christopher might call his own number a lot, but unlike Matthews he can: guard his man, pass if he’s inclined, keep his handle, and drive and finish through contact. Whatever he’s done to earn the ire of Silas, it should have been waived with Porter out. Can TyTy be a worse defensive guard and distributor than Nix?

I don’t understand the defense right now. I cannot grasp why a team literally made to switch everything plays so much drop coverage.

I don’t understand how a team with such an obvious overall speed advantage doesn’t try to break off everything, made baskets, misses, whatever.

There’s a lot about the Rockets I don’t understand right now, and that’s almost assuredly on me.

It’s still, we must constantly remind ourselves, very early days. It’s November of the rookie, or second year, for most of the team. The Rockets, once again, are trying to develop 10 players under 23 at the same time. Those ten players aren’t true G-Leaguers like many of The Process 76ers, they’re real NBA prospects, including Nix.

We must remind ourselves that probably the shortest increment of player development is a month, not a game, or quarter.

Hopefully the Rockets will look better with a lot of time at home to practice over the coming week.

I think we can safely blame it all on the jerseys. Right?


More poems?

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PS - Making a case on one game +/- is pure silliness.