Good Team Effort in Loss to Heat

The Rockets started off looking like they would be run over by the Heat when they were down 5 to 22. But the Rockets made it a game after they got over the nerves of playing Lebron and company. Good team effort overall. Four of our starters (minus Lin) scored around the 20 point mark. The ball moved much better today and our shots started falling after the poor start. Still shooting well under 50 percent, though.

Lin wasn’t very effective for most of the first half. He played extremely passively, then contributed more in the second half, but still wasn’t very aggressive. Harden had his fewest turnovers since he’s been in Houston (2). And as a team, the Rockets only had 11 turnovers, which is tremendous. Lin’s only great statistic of the night was his three blocked shots. Wow! I saw a couple, but didn’t know he ended up with three.

The Rockets did a great job to pull ahead in the fourth quarter, but I had a strong feeling that they would end up losing the game, even after Parsons hit a three to give the Rockets a solid lead. I just knew the Heat would continue to put pressure on the young Rockets team and as a result the Rockets wouldn’t be able to hold Lebron and company off to maintain the lead till the end.

Lin had a chance to be the hero and ended up air-balling a wide open shot. That was ridiculous. Only thing I can think of is nerves. He didn’t shoot the ball with confidence. Too much second-guessing –that’s how you get an air ball in those situations. The second-guessing disrupted his natural flow. Linsanity would have hit that shot almost 100 percent of the time. Jeremy’s going to beat himself up for that shot. In the game you can see him repeating over and over “my fault” to his teammates. That horrible miss is not going to help Lin’s case when it comes to involving him at the end of games.

The Rockets had a final chance to tie it up, but we got the wrong shot. The shot Jeremy took was the right shot. It just didn’t go in. But that last shot by Harden was the wrong shot. They should have ran a play to get Delfino open. Harden was doing too much dribbling. But can’t really criticize that too much. It is what it is.

I thought overall Sampson did a solid job. He managed players minutes well, except he didn’t give Parsons enough rest. Even though Harden played almost as many minutes as Parsons, Sampson did a better job of resting Harden. Sampson also experimented with different lineups to take advantage of the Heat line up and that worked out really well. Asik had his best game of the season, scoring a career high 19 points. But aside from that, Asik did everything tonight. Harden also had the best game he’s had since probably his debut games. In particular, he did a good job of taking care of the ball tonight and not forcing shots. So that’s great to see him making adjustments–especially against the best defensive team in the league.

Overall (minus the 5-22 start), I thought it was the best the Rockets had looked all season, even though we ended up losing the game. Hope we can continue building on this game and hope Lin leaves that shot behind him. He can’t let that haunt him. Just gotta forget about it and move on. Easier said than done. We’ll see how it affects his next few games.

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  • NIce game, on a losing note though…

    • standupphilosopher

      Yeah. I agree Rubielyn. Hope they can build on it and get better.

  • cary washington

    That air ball was embarrassing. I’m starting to sense the identity of the Rockets and it’s all about Harden. Making sure everything goes through him. If he’s such a great playmaker, why doesn’t he have more assists? Why are the Rockets relegating Lin to playing off the ball? He’s not a spot up shooter. OR maybe it’s Lin’s fault and he’s not being as aggressive as he needs to be. Maybe Lin isn’t as good as I thought…bc if you’re a good athlete, you should be able to adapt to your environment and he hasn’t been able to do that.

    I’m calling it now, the way the coaching staff is using Lin (and Lin letting himself get used this way/being passive), he is going to FAIL. The identity of the team has not changed after the first two games. Lin is not going to be the primary ball handler this season, he is going to be an off the ball, spot up shooter…he better get his confidence back and adapt or else he is going to get crucified this season.

    Please, someone educate me, help me out here because I don’t get what is going on.

    • standupphilosopher

      Last night was a good team effort. So I don’t think it was all about Harden last night. Lin was the only key Rockets player who didn’t play up to his potential last night. Everyone else did well, I thought. I also saw Lin handling the ball quite a bit and bringing up the ball quite a bit, last night, so I disagree that Harden has become the primary ball handler. In fact, there were long stretches last night where Harden didn’t touch the ball.

      My biggest question and one that I have no idea why reporters aren’t asking Lin is why he hasn’t done hardly any pick and rolls. Here are three possible answers:

      – Lin doesn’t want to for whatever reason.
      – The coaching staff doesn’t want Lin to, because they don’t trust Lin’s ability to run the pick-and-roll.
      – The Rockets don’t have players who Lin can run the pick and roll with.

      I’m not sure which answer is the correct one, but reporters should be on top of this. Because this is a part of Lin’s game that has been blatantly absent since he’s become a Rocket. Even during the preseason before Harden, Lin didn’t run hardly any pick and rolls. This doesn’t make any sense, since that’s a huge part of Lin’s game.

      Cary, I feel your frustration. It has become more and more frustrating watching Lin play so passively. The biggest frustration for me is why he’s not doing hardly any pick-and-rolls. That just doesn’t make any sense to me.

      Lin was in a good trend, improving with each game. But the last few games Lin has regressed. We’ll see if he can start picking things back up again and continue his upward trajectory. It’ll be tough for Lin to recover from that air ball, though–especially since his confidence was already pretty low. We’ll see if he’ll still be haunted by that in the next few upcoming games.

      • emz

        regarding the regression: remember that metaphor about learning how to type, when previously all you’ve known was chopsticks

      • standupphilosopher

        Yeah, emz, the regression is to be expected. Just a matter of whether or not he maintains a general upward trajectory. A few set backs should be expected along the way.

      • MrPingPong

        Lin knows his weakness and works hard incessantly to improve on them. His track records show it.

        Look at his current turnover rate, his free throw percentage, his assist average, his steal average, his rebound average, etc… Before we know it, he will start sinking unbelievable shots again. And when that happens, the FEP (flat earth people) will still say that Lin just gets lucky.

    • MrPingPong

      My heart sank with that air ball, CW. It was the complete opposite of the VaLintine Day shot.

      The Gods of Basketball (GOB) are so cruel. Their script for Lin seems to have Lin hit bottom again before letting Lin rise to a new and different level. Nah, Lin is not going to fail. Worst comes to worst, Lin will be cut and end up bench warming for the Bobcats. Now that’s hitting bottom in the NBA, don’t you think? But then the Bobcats is MJ’s team, and Lin worships MJ! Interesting script, heh?

      PS: Spike Lee, are you reading this blog?

  • cary washington

    http://www.nba.com/rockets/video/kelvin-sampson-11132012 Sampson pretty much confirmed that Harden is the primary playmaker and they want Lin to spot up and shoot. This does NOT look good.

    Am I delusional for thinking that Lin could get traded to LA if Nash faces injury and blake/duhon don’t get the job done?

    • standupphilosopher

      Harden is the franchise player for the Rockets right now and he’s also the type of player who needs the ball in his hands to be successful. Lin is also someone who needs the ball in his hands to be successful. Yes, Sampson favors Harden over Lin. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they only want Lin to be a spot up shooter. I think they know that Lin is not going to be successful as a spot up shooter. This team has been together for only 7 games. I don’t think roles are completely set in stone. I think the coaching staff is still trying to figure out the right formula to make both Lin and Harden successful. It’ll take time. When Lebron and Wade (two scoring play-makers) joined forces, it took like a year or more for them to gel. So I don’t expect the Rockets to figure out how to best utilize both Lin and Harden after just 7 games.

      I think it is still mostly up to Lin. Again, I go back to the crucial question about why Lin isn’t doing more pick-and-rolls. If it’s because the coaches, then it’s going to be a big challenge for Lin to prove himself. But if it’s because Lin himself doesn’t feel up to the task, then that’s an easier problem to solve. Lin just needs to regain his physical or mental deficiencies and start calling for more screens. If he starts showing that he can work off screens and make plays, then his teammates and coaches are going to trust Lin more. As it is, Lin is playing so passively that the coaches and players have no choice by to rest the play-making duties on Harden.

      As for the Lin/LA trade, I think anything can happen, but I think Lin is better off with the Rockets than with the Lakers. I think he’ll face many of the same issues he faced with the Knicks if e went to the Lakers. I think D’Antoni (who I’ve never been very high on as a coach) is going to have a tough time in LA and if D’Antoni fails it may be his last coaching job. I just don’t think D’Antoni can handle superstars and keep them in line. He’s too much of a hands-off coach that could get run over by his superstar players. The one thing that could make D’Antoni successful with the Lakers is that he has a free-flowing offense that will just allow the Lakers superstars to play on instinct. We’ll see how it plays out. I think it’s a very risky move for D’Antoni, because he’s coming into a situation where he won’t get much credit if the Lakers succeed, but he’ll get all the blame if the Lakers fail. So you gotta hand it to D’Antoni for stepping up to the challenge.

      • cary washington

        I don’t think they use the pick and roll because asik and patterson suck at it. They don’t set very good picks (although ppat is a little better than Asik) and they don’t roll. So, it’s essentially, pick and iso.

      • standupphilosopher

        Cary, that would make sense. The only problem is that I see Harden do quite a few pick-and-rolls and harden actually has to wave off screens a fair number of times when he has possession of the ball. But when Lin has the ball, no one comes to set screens for him. Even Douglas did pick-and-rolls successfully with Asik a few times. So I don’t think it’s that the players on the Rockets are incapable. Asik has the perfect frame for setting screens and it’s not like it’s that difficult to teach the pick-and-roll if McHale is really intent on it. So I think it’s either because the coaching staff doesn’t want Lin to do pick and rolls (which makes absolutely no sense, because that’s one of the reasons Morey picked Lin up), or it’s just that Lin doesn’t feel up to the task, yet. I hope it’s the latter, because that means Lin has complete control over his success.

  • emz

    I have to admit that between several articles, sampson’s interview, and reading things on the forums, I’d been concerned about Lin. But I just read this recent article about Lin from a fellow player:
    http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2012/11/jeremy-lin-livin-his-dream/

    And what stood out to me is that Lin’s story is about constant growth, and constant disappointment and working past them. There was a point on page 2 where he’d gotten hazed for an airball… years past.

    And then he got better.

    I think that Lin will get better; with all this in his past, that he’d already been forged by, I can’t imagine how he wouldn’t. It’s just a different scale, and I think he can do it, and find his confidence and assertiveness again.

    • standupphilosopher

      What a great article, emz! Thanks for passing it along. Also, thanks for your much-needed grounded perspective. I think Lin fans and Rockets fans just need to have patience. The Rockets are trying to create something special and it’ll take a long time for it to all come together. The Rockets are far from a finished product and neither is Lin. After all, he’s still essentially a rookie. To get some perspective, just look at Nash’s stats for his first three years in the league or so. They’ve very mediocre.

      What we do know is that Lin has a great deal of mental toughness, a high basketball IQ and a willingness to work hard. If the reason why he’s not doing pick and rolls is because he’s not ready, then I think his future with the Rockets remains bright. If it’s because the Rockets coaching staff don’t want him to do pick-and-rolls, then Lin is going to have to work very hard to prove himself. He may have to acquire new skills to settle into this new roll with the Rockets. That’s going to be very difficult to do. As a fan, all we can do is just watch and see what happens.

      What gives me peace of mind is knowing that everybody in the Rockets organization knows 1,000 times more about the game and Lin’s game than I do. And Lin, I’m sure, has had many conversations about his struggles with the coaching staff. So I just leave it up to them to solve the situation.

      • emz

        Listen to Sampson’s recent interviews, I think it’s the one right after today’s practice: they’re basically treating these games as an extended training camp for Harden because he’d entirely missed out on their camp.

        So what I’m wondering is that, given prior actions of the Rocket’s coaching staff to try to protect Lin (ie. the locker and trying to think of him as a rookie instead of as a vet), if they’re trying to pace both Lin and Harden so that they don’t burn out playing 40+min a night and put the game on their backs every single night… without involving the rest of the team. There’d been that one time when Lin got three assists early on in a game, and then Sampson spoke to him, and then he pulled back the rest of the game: what if they had been trying to get Harden used to running their offense and the flow of Rocket’s game? I wonder if that could be why Harden’s usage is so high, to see how he reacts to various rotations and so Morey can get some better stats on him.

        Fact of the matter is, you literally can’t win a championship off of two people; but the rest of the team isn’t developed yet. And Harden doesn’t know this team yet; Lin knows it well enough to get 8 assists in ~20min, 12 assists in ~30min in that preseason game. And the only way to get actual experience at this point without wearing down your own guys (and getting into a rut playing against your own team) is to work things out on the fly in actual games.

        Granted, this is theory. However, with an organization built on the back of Morey’s stats, the same stats that taught Battier how to shut down Kobe inasmuch as ANYONE can shut down Kobe, the same stats that made Morey scoff at Lin’s TO’s, and the same stats that helped Morey find Lin, Asik, and Harden, I don’t think the coaching staff can be blind to how best to use Lin. I think Morey would have the numbers at his fingertips and would throwing a fit at the coaches for not making the most of the players (like other teams had misused their players) unless something larger is at play.

        And I think that something larger is the introduction of Harden, Aldrich, and Cook into the equation two days before their first game, and they had to toss their entire offensive playbook out the window and teach the defensive rotations at the speed of light.

        Regarding the PNR, something that’d been brought up in the clutchfans forums is that they don’t actually have a stable ‘roll’ guy; Asik doesn’t have a stable jumper and their 3’s and 4’s aren’t good enough at setting screens yet. It may even still not be plays that they’ve managed to get to in their playbook because everyone is so freaking new.

      • standupphilosopher

        Good theory, emz. Also, good point on the PnR about how they probably haven’t had time to work on it, yet. I’m still puzzled why other players are utilizing it, except Lin. I see Harden doing PnRs and even Douglas, but not Lin.

        That’s the thing Rockets fans need to be aware of, though. This team is so new and there are a lot of things that are still being worked out.

    • MrPingPong

      Thanks, EMZ, for the article. As I said in one of my posts on this blog, I would never bet against Lin. This young man is sensitive but at the same time very tough. That is my assessment of him from afar.

      • emz

        np! I would agree with you on that assessment. So would Lin’s bloody noses!

  • MrPingPong

    Philosopher, I was close predicting a Rockets win, wasn’t I?

    πŸ™‚

    Lin sinking his last shot would have helped but would not necessarily seal the game. Lebron was just shooting the daylight out of everything.

    I agree with you that Harden taking the last shot was not the right play. Everybody knew that Harden would get the ball so we should have surprised the Heat with a really bold play. We were desperate and had nothing to lose by going to Delfino or even Lin for that matter.

    ‘Could not get a ticket to the game, so I had to watch it on TV. ‘Taped the whole thing too. Here is the last 18 seconds of the game.

    http://youtu.be/26F4WMlz4lg

    The pre-game interviews of Lin and Sampson and other players seemed to indicate that the Rockets had too much “respect” for the Heat. In my opinion, the Rockets already lost the game before stepping on the court. And sure enough, for the first 7 minutes of the first quarter, Lin and the Rockets were playing scared. They did not believe they could beat their opponents and as a result they could not finish them off when they had a 110-106 lead with 1 minute and a half left.

    This is what a young team must go through in order to mature into a championship team. At some point, the team has to believe that they are for real and walk and talk like champions. I have high expectation of all the Rockets players and coaching staff. I do not want to see them “kowtowing” to any team. Respect the opponents but do not fear them!

    Go JLin! Go Rockets! Beat the Hornets!

    • @ MrPingPong, you forgot the link?

    • standupphilosopher

      Yes. I have to hand it to you, MrPingPong, you were a lot closer than I was at predicting the game. I didn’t think the Rockets would get demolished by the Heat (especially since it’s a back-to-back for the Heat), but I didn’t think it would be down to the wire. And the way things started, I thought it would turn into a blow out.

      You’re right on about the Rockets needing to think like champions. The right mindset is so critical. This is why I KNEW that the Rockets would end up losing even after Chandler hit a three to give the Rockets an 8-point lead or something with 6 minutes left or so. I had no doubt in my mind that the Rockets would end up losing. It was a great performance by both teams, though, so that was good to see. The fourth quarter was full of heroics on both sides. And Lebron had his first over 30-point game and was playing in the zone. So that’s not bad losing 3-points to the champs with their best player playing out of his mind. Rockets should be very happy about what they did and continue to build on it. They better not let up on the Hornets tonight.

  • oopps sorry, it’s there!!! i was viewing my notification over at my yahoo account..how about the whole game, do you have the link? πŸ™‚

    • MrPingPong

      Youtube won’t let me upload videos of the game, Rubielyn. Sorry about that.

      • No problem MrPingPong πŸ™‚ Thanks anyways πŸ™‚

  • emz
    • standupphilosopher

      Wow! That was another great article, emz. Lin is PC when it comes to talking about others, but he’s so honest when he talks about himself. This article provided a very good perspective on Lin’s state of mind with the Rockets.

      Although the article just came out today, I’m not sure when the interviews with Lin were conducted. Curious to know if it was prior to Harden’s arrival.

      • emz

        I heard reports that Woj basically is sticking around Houston for the first time, ever since the Harden trade, and that this was HIGHLY unusual. So the earliest it could have been written was probably after the first two games, because he was chasing down Harden and getting that earlier article out about Harden in Houston. I’m fairly sure this is probably a recent interview given that this is all new information and that Harden’s basically been on media blackout for almost a week now (ie. ducking the reporters), barring the All-Star interviews.

        This is the Harden article, it was posted Nov.6:
        http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nba–james-harden-disappointed-thunder-didn-t-give-him-more-time-to-consider-offer-06561809.html

        Which is at least three games in, during that three days of practice in-between Portland (Nov3rd) and Denver (Nov7th). Harden stopped taking interviews post-Memphis I think (3L streak).

        So the interviews probably happened somewhere inbetween the 6th and the 12th (given a day or so of writing/editing), ie. this recent streak of Harden-as-facilitator.

      • MrPingPong

        Great article! Thanks for sharing, EMZ.

        Philosopher, AW came to Houston sometime during the week Harden came. His article does mention Harden there.

        I guess I am preaching to the choir here, but to me, Lin is a very special person. His unbending character says a lot about his parents and his upbringing. His current struggle to find his shots is just a small part of his life.

        Linsanity is not just about basketball. It’s about something beyond everything the press and the world have yet to put a finger on. Yahoo Sports, ESPN, SI, and countless other sports writers will always find something to write about Lin.

        Can’t wait to watch 60-minutes when they bring out their own version of Linsanity.