NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 12:
Houston Rockets (4-6) @ Utah Jazz (5-6)
The Houston Rockets are a waa-aay different team than the one we played against last season. Well, that seems to be the case for so many teams this off-season; BUT STILL, it's a big deal in H-Town. Last season we were ready to go to battle against Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Chase Budinger, Luis Scola, and Kevin Martin. I think that core is a solid enough core to give us trouble. but the wholesale changes have brought in Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Omer Asik, Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas, Donatas Motiejunas, and Carlos Delfino. They're not the same old Rockets.
For one, they don't really have an established post guy for the first time in a loo-oog time (Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming, Luis Scola...). But they do still have a ton of three point shooters. When you combine that with the fact that Asik is a great screen setter and they have two ball handling penetrators it's not hard to see why Houston is #1 in the league in three point attempts and #2 in three pointers made. Guys get open because they play that San Antonio Spurs style that killed us in the playoffs (and regular season) the last few years -- except they don't have a Tim Duncan to dump it in to at times. So it's that same pick and roll, penetrate and kick offense that we have displayed a great deal of difficulty defending.
Divorced from any inside/out game, or any back to the basket scorers, Houston is running and gunning. They have the 5th best pace in the league this season and score 100.2 PPG. As a point of direct reference, here are our offensive outputs the last few games (Toronto Raptors game not included): 83, 93, 93, 94, 84, 95, 94, 100, 86, and 113 -- the 113 being opening night. I'm not going to say that the Rockets have a better team than us, or a better offense. They do have an offense that's clicking right now, though.
Their defense, on the other hand, gets as much press as the Colombian Space program. I'm sure they have one, but that's not usually why Columbia is in the news. Same deal with the Rockets.
I hate the Rockets.
Oh wait, that's not History, that's a matter of public record.
Okay, more seriously, the Rockets were one of the teams we leap frogged at the end of the season to make the playoffs (let's not forget that it's not like we were the de facto #8 seed, our playoff push started when we were #12 out of #15 in the West). Somehow they blew up down the stretch, and we benefited from it. Head to head, these two teams played three times last season. Houston won the first one, but we took the next two:
Last year's series was punctuated by the Jazz' inability to guard the pick and roll, and the Rocket's inability to stop our inside guys. So . . . so much has changed, yet we presume that in the big picture not much really has.
Houston played in LA against the Los Angeles Lakers last night, losing 119 to 108. For the season they are 4-6, with wins against the Detroit Pistons (twice), Atlanta Hawks, and New Orleans Hornets. They've lost to the Portland Trail Blazers (twice), Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, and Lakers. What their record tells us is that they beat the bad teams and lose to the good ones. We're precisely in the same boat.
This will be the 3rd game in four nights for the Rockets. And it will be the same thing for the Jazz. So this is an even match up? Probably not as we had the night off; but the first home game back is considered the *real* last road game.
Our squad is going to once again trot out the big lineup to start, while Houston is been starting Lin, Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, and Omer Asik. They can look at our roster and see a point of attack, and so can we.
A huge problem, of course, will be the Randy Foye / James Harden issue. If we're smart we'll be throwing a lot of different players at Harden this game. I mean it. We should see Foye, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Earl Watson (if healthy), Alec Burks, and DeMarre Carroll on him this game. There's no point in NOT showing him different guys. He's too clever to not exploit the match-up otherwise. And yes, I think Burks would do a better job on him than Foye would. And you do to, as Foye is like 6'4, and Burks is 6'6 and as athletic / quick as James is.
Word from the Badguys:
Derp. Well, by *accident* I got to talk on twitter with two Rockets fans . . . but it wasn't that interesting. So if by some sick twist of fate you already follow me on twitter you probably saw it.
It's going to be a game where how fouls are called will make a huge difference. If we are 'sending' Houston's guards to the line on their penetrations on ticky-tac fouls and our guys get clubbed inside and don't go to the line it could be a huge factor in how this game's end result will be. We already know that James and Jeremy can collect FTA like they are stamps or rocks or whatever it is kids today collect. (Pookey mans?)
If Derrick Favors is aggressive and gets rewarded for it (like the Boston Celtics game) it could be good; if he and the rest of the Jazz bigs get the Washington Wizards treatment they'll have poor shooting nights. This is especially a big thing because aside from Omer Asik, Patrick Patterson, and "maybe" Marcus Morris -- they don't really have much size or capability right now. Cole Aldrich is trash. And Donatas Motiejunas is imported trash. And this Greg Smith character has played well so far, but I don't expect much from him tonight.
So -- fouls. Our defense will be tested early and often by their *stars*, while our bigs will have to win this game for us. It'll be easier if our bigs can stay out on the floor, while putting theirs in foul trouble.
As an aside:
I think that the recent Royce White social media trainwreck is bad; however, the main issue is that mental illnesses are real illnesses. It's not the dark ages anymore, and we don't blame devils and spirits for things. I'm pulling for the guy to get better. Anxiety is a real thing which not only has a mental affect, but also a physical one. Not all mental illnesses do, so that's why we've been conditioned to disparage those who have them.
That's not cool.
I'm going to go out there and say we win this one, despite trailing big for some parts of the game. They have a crazy offense, but hopefully our defensive rotations hold and we win this one down the stretch with precise offense.