Rockets lose to Denver in their least exciting game of the season

Not much to say about tonight’s game. It’s the first game after the longest streak of practice the team has had since the addition of the OKC players. Maybe the guys were thinking a little too much out there, instead of just playing. There was no flow on the offensive end (except in the 3rd quarter) and Harden keeps turning the ball over (6 TO tonight) that the Nuggets converted into easy baskets. Harden forced things a little too much today. He was counting on getting calls on his drives to the basket, which didn’t come. Iguodala did an excellent job of defending Harden. This is the worst Linharden game of the season, not just in terms of stats, but also in terms of chemistry. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but with every game, it seems like Harden is becoming more and more of a ball stopper. But it’s still early. I think they have to go back to a more free flowing offense. McHale is a little too fixated on running things through Harden. This strategy does make sense, since Harden  is their highest paid player and it’s still early, so McHale is still trying to see what works. I think he did make adjustments and go to a free flowing offense in the 3rd quarter.

Despite Lin’s mediocre stats, with the exception of 6 steals, I thought Lin played a pretty solid game in terms of providing stability on the floor. I also noticed that Harden didn’t bring the ball up the court very much in tonight’s game. Maybe McHale noticed all the turnovers that Harden has been committing and is going to more of a 70/30 division of ball-handling labor with Lin handling the ball 70% of the time. Just like in the last game, McHale rested Lin a little too much (even more so in this game) when Lin wasn’t tired and McHale played Harden too much today when Harden was having a bad game. Lin is always on the floor with Harden, whereas Harden is sometimes on the floor without Lin. I don’t think this makes sense. I think it should be the other way around–especially in tonight’s game, since Harden was having a tough time. The problem is, when Lin’s on the bench the stability goes away, since Harden isn’t as consistent of a floor general.

Denver did a good job of protecting the paint today, and I thought Lin exercised good patience and didn’t force things when he went in to congested lanes in the paint. He kept his dribble. That was good to see. Harden forced things in congested lanes and that’s what contributed to many of his turnovers. In the first quarter, the entire team as a whole, except Lin, turned the ball over quite a bit, because they didn’t know where each other were on the floor. It’ll take time to get the chemistry down. I still think that the chemistry pre-season was much better than I’ve seen them during the regular season. I felt like the ball was really moving around, whereas the ball is stopping a little too much–especially with Harden. I’m sure the coaches notice this and are still trying to figure out how to best use Harden in a free flowing offense.

It was good to see Patterson having a good game today. Also, Delfino hit some critical threes to keep us in the game. Overall, though, we were terrible on the offensive end. We’re still shooting very poorly from the field as a team. And Lin had a wide open three that was way off. It looked ugly! Again, in the preseason, we were shooting the lights out. But that’s probably because it was the preseason. But I also think it’s because we had much better ball movement. I thought Lin did a good job of moving the ball today, that’s why I thought, despite his poor stats, he had a pretty solid game. I felt he should have played more today. Douglas did have his beast game of the season tonight, but that’s not really saying much. He had a couple of good pick-and-rolls with Asik. I don’t know why Lin doesn’t do any high screen pick-and-rolls in Houston.  I think they’re under-utilizing Lin’s strengths. I rarely see him do any pick-and-rolls in Houston. They gotta work on that. It was nice to see Lin shoot short jumper when he drove into a congested paint. Players should do that more. I think they used to do that more back in the day. But now players either settle for the long range or go straight to the hoop. The short jumper is a lost art in basketball these days.

Overall, not much to report. The guys and coaches are still trying to figure things out. Still disappointed that we haven’t seen Greg Smith or Terrance Jones play.

 

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  • cary washington

    this game was ugly. Mchale kept Lin out of most of the 4th qtr for tony f.ucking douglas. who the h.ell does that? Yes, TD has good one on one defense but he should NOT be getting more minute than Lin in the 4th qtr. We’ve seen this twice now. Lin should be playing most, if not all of the last qtr. It’s maddening.

    HOU is going to be terrible until Harden and Lin learn how to work together. I’ve put a lot of blame on Harden and Mchale but Lin deserves criticism too. He’s being too passive, he’s passing up open looks and looks extremely tentative. He lacks confidence and he needs to get out of his shooting slump, fast. I think it’s all mental and doesn’t have anything to do with his knee (it’s not physical).

    I just hate that Knicks fans are making fun of Lin, they’re saying that they’re so happy Lin’s gone and playing like crap in Houston. Uhm, there’s still 78 games left.

    • standupphilosopher

      Yeah, Cary, I understand your frustration. McHale is under-utilizing Lin in the fourth quarter for sure.

      I think a lot of the issues last night had to do with too much thinking by Lin and especially Harden. This happens, because they probably put in plays during those practice days for Harden and so he was doing a little too much thinking on the court, rather than just playing.

      I expect Knicks fans to be making fun of Lin. It’s probably the Melo fans that made fun of him even when he was with the Knicks. So that’s to be expected. When something happens the way I expect them to happen, it doesn’t frustrate me so much. That being said, it’s always not nice to see your player getting trashed and I haven’t been on the Knicks forums, so maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me.

  • MrPingPong

    Call me crazy, CW, but I’d like to see Lin and TD on the floor at the same time. What do ya think, Philosopher?

    I agree with CW about Lin not getting enough playing time in the 4th. Lin is the 4th quarter man. Rest Lin more in the 3rd and unleash him in the 4th.

    I don’t pay attention to Lin haters. They will never stop hating. They must have an unsatisfactory sex life. :-). Dr. Ruth may have something to say about that.

    In the mean time, Lin for the Win!

    • standupphilosopher

      Yeah. That’s what I implied in my post about wanting to see Lin without Harden. I think when Harden is on the floor, Lin is differing a little. But if TD is with Lin, we might see Lin making more plays. But that’s all speculation. I think Lin played passively in the Denver game, because he’s simply taking what the defense is giving him. I thought he played smart basketball last night, despite his poor stats. Denver played good defense and we didn’t do such a good job of spacing, so the driving lanes weren’t there.

      I agree, in the last two games, McHale has under-utilized Lin in the fourth quarter. I didn’t mind it too much in the previous game, because TD was actually playing very good defense. But when Lin came back on the floor in the Blazers game, Lin should have been the primary play maker, since he was fresh off the bench, whereas Harden looked dead tired.

      So far, I haven’t been very impressed with McHale’s substitution decisions and his decision to play certain guys while not playing others. I stated this in the first game and still feel the same way. So I guess it’ll be something I’ll continue to complain about McHale.

      I haven’t been visiting any forums, recently. Too caught up in the election. So have no idea what people have been saying about Lin. Again, I thought Lin did a fine job for what the defense was giving him last night. His shot is still off, that was the main complaint. Also, Lin’s teammates don’t pass it back to him much after he gives up the ball. They should go back to him again, so he can catch the defense by surprise. That’s unfortunate. Also, last night, Harden wasn’t passing the ball much, but I think it could be because McHale is telling Harden to be more of a scorer vs. floor general. So I think that’s fine.

  • CH

    Scout reports will be on Harden and he will be double teamed more often going forward since major offense run through him. KM still doesn’t trust JL enough to let him play more minute in 4th Q or he doesn’t want to expose JL at this early stage? Maybe b/c his STAT is not as high as expected so far. 6 steals are pretty impressive. Agree JL in solid even though he only scored 6 points.

    • standupphilosopher

      Thanks for the comments, CH. Iguodala did an excellent job containing Harden. Iguodala is gonna do that to a lot of players. Harden is still adjusting to being the number 1 option. I think needs to do a better job of giving up the ball instead of forcing it. I think he was too dependent on getting calls his way last night, so he kept going in congested lanes and forcing shots up. Denver was also great at blocking shots and Harden got a fair number of his shots and passes blocked last night.

      I’m glad you also recognize that JL was solid last night, despite scoring only 6 points. I think too many people focus only on points, rather than the actual impact a player has to the chemistry of the team. Lin did a good job of distributing the ball to guys in position and also did a good job of just keeping the ball moving. I think Harden was a little too focused on scoring last night that he missed a fair number of opportunities to hit open guys or make passes that would keep the ball moving. I suspect that it has something to do with McHale wanting him to focus more on scoring and leaving the floor general duties to Lin. But that’s just pure speculation on my part.

  • emz

    lol, I’m just remembering what I said about learning how to type in your last post. So I really wasn’t really surprised by the game, because they really weren’t playing instinctively and it’s going to take a game or two for the new lessons/plays to sink in.

    A couple things of note: Kevin McHale’s pregame (I think) interview (or post-shootaround) had him mentioning that it’s not about playing ‘the new guy’ because they’re ALL ‘new guys’, kinda solidifies in my mind my impression that he thinks the Rocket’s team is pretty much ALL a bunch of rookies and they’re gonna go up and down a lot, let alone Lin who has actually started less games than Parsons.

    Another thing that I noticed, and wondered about, the game got REALLY physical and ugly, REALLY early on, and we weren’t helped by that particular ref who’s pretty much known for never giving calls. And yet Harden kept trying to dive into the lane for foul calls. I’d wondered if they were trying to limit injuries given Lin’s habit of doing the same, and next thing you know Lin is back in and then he has a freaking bloody nose. We do NOT need any of our guys injured at this point, Lin least of all because of how awful the offense looks when he’s not on the floor.

    And lastly, it would SERIOUSLY amuse me if Rockets cannot for the life of them win a home game, but kills everything on the road. Blame the jumbo screen? LOL. But no really, I think today’s practice might help a bit, and if nothing else improve focus/determination.

    • standupphilosopher

      Yeah, I forgot to mention how physical the game was last night. The refs were definitely letting them play. At one point, Lin just got thrown down and there was no call. That was pretty ridiculous. Yeah, that ref Crawford has been in the league forever. I remember him back when I was a big basketball fan, during the days when Clyde Drexler was with the Blazers. He’s one mean Mofo. Ha ha. That was pretty funny when he stopped the Nuggets guy (I forgot who) shooting a a free throw so he could get right into Morris’s face. Definitely don’t want to piss Crawford off, because he loves throwing guys out of games. Harden should have adapted to the way the refs were calling the game and not keep trying to draw fouls. I think he was just trying to do what McHale wanted him to do, which is to score the ball. It’ll take a while for them to work all of these things out. I still wish McHale would play Greg Smith and Terrance Jones. We got two talented guys sitting on the bench. It’s crazy! Oh well. I’m sure he’ll get around to playing them.

      • emz

        I only vaguely remember Lin being thrown down but I remember thinking even in the first quarter that this was going to be an UGLY game, and how the ref was just YELLING at Morris. Man!

        Sometimes I think that refs like this has to be seen/experienced because it’s just not the same; and I’d rather that the rooks watch this shit go down with a front row seat, instead of being in the floor and tossed out like Morris almost was.

    • MrPingPong

      Hey, EMZ, I like your theory about the Texas size scoreboard. I must say I love it. It sure distracts crazed fans like myself. I am sure it distracts the visiting team too.

      Talking about physical game, it’s one thing to see the game on TV, it’s another thing to see big bodies flying around at court side. Lin is taking so many blows out there, culminating in a bloody nose. But Lin is tough. He can take it (but not a bloody nose in every game, I don’t think).

      http://youtu.be/0fHJCLEdV7w

      It’s a war of attrition. It’s a long season. I pray the Basketball Gods to safeguard our man.

      For what it’s worth, here a (non-highlight) video of the game:

      http://youtu.be/CcO_bPWeJpg

      Enjoy!

      • emz

        neat! Thanks! It’s interesting to see what the court is like pre-game!

        And yeah, Lin’s tough, but the thing about injuries is that it builds up. An ACL tear for instance, like drose’s, takes forever to heal but usually isn’t about contact, it’s because the muscles around them aren’t as strong as you expect them to be so it doesn’t support certain movement… and I’m fairly sure the compressed schedule and the prior injury lead up to the tear.

        I really want Lin to last all 82 (plus?) games without injury or exhaustion, and if that means that the coach sits Lin down during an absurdly physical game (Asik out with stitches jfc) where the refs aren’t calling most of the fouls, then so be it.

        Better that than riding Lin “like Secretariat”.

        What I’m more concerned about is if Morey is looking into a good backup PG option; that’s actually a bigger concern for me than our situation at PF, mostly because I want to see our guys develop. (hell just get a vet on a 1 year for both of those positions and I’d be happy as a clam)

      • emz

        (edit for clarification: get two vets, one for PG, one for PF, on a 1 year, maybe 2 year contract to help teach/support the young guys)

      • standupphilosopher

        Thanks for the video. What a treat!

        Yeah, emz, I totally agree with you that backup PG is critical for the Rockets. They would have had their man if he only kept Livingston. I’m sure Morey is thinking about this.

  • cary washington

    There is no reason for Douglas to play major minutes in the 4th quarter, none. The fact that lin sat out both games until there were only 5-6min shows me that Mchale doesn’t trust Lin. Lin is not a bad defender, he’s not bad enough for Mchale to be taking him out of games but that’s what’s been happening.

    I read online stats that said, when douglas is on the court, our opponents outscore but when Lin is on the court, it has the opposite affect. WTF Mchale! I’m still pissed that Douglas has played more impact minutes in the 4th than Lin.

    Our SG is playing the PG role and our PG is playing the spot up shooter/slasher role. It makes no sense. Harden throughout his time in OK only average 2.5 ast/game. WhyTF is he playing PG? Harden is the better spot up shooter/slasher, why are they relegating Lin to that role? It’s annoying, I have very little faith in Mchale and Sampson.

    • standupphilosopher

      Yeah, McHale is definitely leaving Lin out of the fourth quarter way too long. Gotta play Lin more than 6 minutes in the fourth quarter.

      Lin, I would say, is one hell of a defender. I think he has definitely improved from last year–not that he was as terrible as people seemed to make him out to be (since they didn’t have much else to criticize him on) last year. There was that one sequence when he was caught in a mismatch defending a much taller Nuggets player (I believe it was Gallinari). Lin was just all over Gallinari. He was so stifling that Gallinari couldn’t even pass the ball, so Gallinari was forced to throw up a horrible three point prayer that was way off. That was one of the best defensive efforts I’ve seen. So, yeah, there’s no reason to keep Lin out because of any perceived defensive liabilities he has.

      I think in the last game, Harden wasn’t playing much of a PG role. I was happy to see that, because I feel that means McHale is learning about his players and making adjustments. I think McHale wants Harden to primarily be a scorer and that’s what Harden tried to do last night, but he couldn’t overcome the stifling defense of Iguodala and great defensive help from the Nuggets.

      The concern I’m seeing with Lin is that the Rockets players aren’t helping him score at all. When he gives up the ball, it rarely goes back to him again, even when he’s been wide open. They did a better job of giving the ball back to him in the third quarter and that’s the quarter that ball movement looked really good. The other big concern I have is that I have yet to see Lin do very many pick-and-rolls–especially high pick-and-rolls, which is something Lin excels at. I’m not sure what’s up with that. I don’t know why Lin isn’t all over McHale to run pick-and-rolls with Lin. That’s why I feel like he’s so under-utilized and it’s part of why he’s struggling on the offensive end. He’s not getting any help with his offensive game. That’s why he’s taking fewer shots and he’s reluctant to drive into the lane, because in the past, he would have a lot of options when he drives into the lane. For example, he’ll have a guy rolling to the basket with him or something who he can drop it off to if he’s not open. Last year, there were so many times where he’d get in the lane and pass the ball around the body of his defender to an open man (often Stat or Tyson Chandler). In Houston, he’ll get in the lane and have few options, so that’s why he hasn’t been as willing to get in the lane. I’m shocked that the coaches haven’t done anything about this. I think they’re just focused on helping Harden. I don’t know if Lin is just staying quiet or something, but he’s gotta speak up for himself. Tell the coaches what he needs to be successful.

      • CH

        JL won’t speak up for himself nor he will tell the coaches what he needs to be successful. That is not typical him. Asians seldom express what they think openly. In JL’s case, talking and initiating to the coaches about his needs. What he will do is to follow what the coaching staff ask him to do to help the team win. He is respectful to people around him, particularly the coaching staff. He will do whatever to help his team win, no doubt about.

        I guess he has to prove himself again and again to earn his teammates’/coaching staff’s trust in order for him to get more control of the ball after half court. TOO SAD!

      • standupphilosopher

        CH, I’m not sure if I agree about the fact that Lin won’t speak up for himself. Of course, I have no idea either way, but I just think that any NBA player would talk to their coaches about what they need to be successful or the coaches would ask. I know Lin is very respectful and loyal, but I don’t think these qualities would preclude him from being professional and do his job, because coaches want to know what makes players successful so they can make their teams successful.

        I agree, though, that Lin is still having to prove himself. Not sure if you read my previous post about Lin’s struggles being mostly mental. But in that post, I speculated on the mental issue Lin is dealing with in terms of having to prove himself. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they work things out.

    • cary washington

      i don’t think they do pick and rolls because they don’t have an effective big man like tyson chandler. Asik is terrible at setting the pick and he’s an even worse offensive player than Tyson was. I’m not saying tyson is terrible but he’s not dwight howard on offense…he is a heck of a lot better than Asik though. I don’t know, i’m probably wrong. I don’t know why they don’t run more pick and rolls for Lin.

      I don’t get it.

      • standupphilosopher

        Yeah, that’s what I suspected, as well, that they just don’t have the players to do pick-and-rolls. But that doesn’t make sense, because McHale’s system is supposedly big on pick-and-rolls, so I would think that it would be something he emphasizes. And although Asik is shaky on the offensive end, he’s got a great big body that serves as a great screen. So in that sense, Asik would be pretty great in the pick-and-roll. TD did a couple of pick and rolls in the last game with Asik, which resulted in two dunks by Asik. I don’t know why Lin doesn’t do that. I think it’s up to Lin. He just needs to call his big man up front, like he did in New York. I just haven’t seen Lin calling his big man up to give him screens in Houston. And I really don’t get it, because McHale’s offense is supposed to be heavy with pick-and-rolls. They’d have a lot more success if they did it on almost every possession. I really don’t think this team needs to run very many plays. They just need to do pick and rolls for Lin and Harden and they can make plays off pick-and-rolls. Not sure why this isn’t happening hardly at all. We’ll see if they work all this out.

      • emz

        Personally, I’m wondering if there’s some concern about Asik not being able to finish around the basket; there’s just been alot of bobbling the ball and it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

    • emz

      I’m wondering if they’re simply giving him enough minutes to prove that he’s totally a failure instead of not giving him enough chances. It’s sorta like the thing with rotation minutes or rotations themselves, you have to give a guy at least 5 minutes or so to get going, only giving 1 minute is practically useless, and you have to give a rotation a game or two before you toss it out the window.

      With TD tho, watching him last year in NY was a frustration; ditto to now. He’s bringing it occasionally in the defensive end but, god, they should just give up and call him a SG instead of a PG because the flow/feel of the team’s movement is totally different when Lin’s not floor general.

      I’m not sure I have faith in Sampson given his quote, but I’m willing to give Mchale the benefit of the doubt because at least he’s trying out the guys instead of just throwing them under the bus. It’s a loyalty that I’d like him to show consistently, to say Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons and Terrance Jones and Royce White as well, even if they sometimes have bad games.

      • standupphilosopher

        That’s a good point about them giving Douglas just enough minutes to see if he’s a failure. We’ll see if that’s what they’re doing.

        What quote are you referring to from Sampson?

        I wouldn’t worry about Chandler Parsons. McHale is a big fan of Parsons. Parsons is probably McHale’s second favorite player behind Harden, if I had to guess.

      • emz

        It was on the screen during the game but I found a quote of it online: “In our coaching meeting this morning and in these two days, we’ve had to put a package in for James,” Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson said. “If you look at our progress in the preseason, we were getting pretty good at that. It was becoming a little bit of an identity for us. Now, we’ve had to tap the breaks, back up and say, ‘Now we have James Harden.’ You don’t want James Harden in a democratic offense. He has to learn to play in the flow, but shooting is not an equal-opportunity proposition. If you’re on a team (and) your best player is not getting the most shots, there’s probably an issue.”

        What I meant with McHale and Parsons is that McHale is consistently giving Parson and Lin the benefit of the doubt, as I’m sure he’s thinking of Jones as White as well. I can do no less than support McHale’s support for giving TD the benefit of the doubt as well, to fully be given a chance.

        Even if I want to throttle TD quite often.

      • MrPingPong

        Here is the link to Sampson’s quote, Philosopher.

        http://blog.chron.com/ultimaterockets/2012/11/harden-rockets-seeking-a-perfect-balance/

        As to TD, again, I’d say let TD play with Lin on the floor at the same time. I think TD is a true Lin supporter and believer. He always cheers for Lin out there, even when Lin took away his starting role in NY. Lin will give TD the confidence to make the baskets he is supposed to make. I have no stats to back up my claim. It’s perhaps a fantasy. But somehow, I see that TD has been giving it all in the last two games, playing inspired defense. With the right team chemistry, TD will play inspired offense as well.

  • I actually missed this game… Thanks for such a detailed play by play!.

    • standupphilosopher

      Hey, nice to see you here K! You’re welcome.