Strange night. First, the Wizards beat the Heat, doubling their number of wins for the season and then the Rockets bench came back from being down the entire game (save 2 and 1/2 minute left to go) to beat the Lakers! I mean, how do you win a game shooting 37.6% from the field and 20.6% from 3-point (7 of 34)?! I have no idea, but somehow the Rockets got it done with Smith, Douglas and Delfino.
Personally, this is a great win for me, because I’ve wanted the Lakers to fail ever since they got Dwightmare and Nash, because I’m anti the idea of just getting a bunch of big names together solely because you think a bunch of big names will win games for you. (It makes it that much sweeter that Kobe and Dwightmare lost to the Rocket’s bench–even though Kobe scored 39 points.) I know Nash hasn’t played much at all in a Lakers uniform, but I just don’t think Nash belongs with the Lakers. I was shocked that he decided to go to LA. I thought he’d stay in Phoenix. He’s not good with big names who demand the ball, since he needs to be the one running the offense (much like Lin). And I think bringing D’Antoni in was also a terrible mistake for the Lakers. D’Antoni is just not a good coach of superstars. He can’t command their attention. I think he’s too laissez faire and tends to get run over by superstars and his offense doesn’t fit superstars, since superstars favor iso-offense. He’s better at coaching more or less no name players, who are more in favor of an egalitarian offense. Anyway, I’m so glad that the Rockets didn’t get the Dwightmare during the off season. So many Rockets fans were hoping to get the Dwightmare. Sure he’s talented as hell, but he’s just a chemistry killer and you don’t want someone with his attitude playing in a place he doesn’t want to be. I hope the Rockets never get the Dwightmare. I’m so much happier with Asik. And now there’s talk about Gasol. I think that would be a terrible mistake to bring Gasol into the Rockets. People just like big names and miss the fact that what’s more important is the make up of the team and the chemistry. Nothing against Gasol, but he doesn’t really provide anything that we don’t already have or that we could potentially have. I think it’s best to let our young guys develop, rather than just bring in a big name and disrupt the chemistry that we’re trying to build. Anyway, sorry for the sidetrack.
What I like about Sampson is that he’s not afraid to experiment. In the post game interview, he said that he would have lived or died with his bench. Early in the game, I had a strong feeling that Douglas was going to have a great game. He got a lot of burn, because Lin got in early foul trouble. I actually thought Lin played fine tonight. He just got into foul trouble. That’s all. But I thought he was continuing to be aggressive, so I’m not too worried about the fact that he didn’t finish out the game. I can tell from the post game interview that it didn’t affect his psyche whatsoever. He looked more thrilled than I’ve seen him all season in the post game interview. He couldn’t even contain his excitement and genuine happiness. I think Lin is feeling good. He has been feeling good since that Knicks game and I thought he played with confidence tonight. His foul troubles was what plagued him. Harden is the one I’m concerned about, now. Ever since the OKC game, Harden hasn’t been the same. He’s forcing things again and not having patience with his offence. He’s becoming a bit of a liability offensively. It seemed like players were looking him off tonight for the first time since he’s been in Houston–and for good reason. He was cold tonight and I thought, of the starters, Harden was the one who most deserved to be riding the pine in the fourth quarter. I think the Rockets would have been better off with Lin/Douglas to close out the game. But I’m actually glad that Sampson stuck with Harden, because I think it would have messed with Harden’s confidence and psyche even more if he got stuck on the bench during clutch in tonight’s game. Whereas Lin didn’t mind at all being on the bench and cheering on his teammates. Of course, I wouldn’t feel this way if we had lost the game. I would have complained about Sampson playing Harden instead of Lin. In one of the last possessions when we had a chance to take the lead, Harden took way too long to start the play and once he did, he just dribbled the ball and turned it over. There was no need to wait until the final seconds on that possession to get the play started, since it wasn’t the last possession of the game. He didn’t leave himself enough time to make a play so all he did was just dribble it and force a play, which resulted in a turnover. Luckily, that wasn’t the difference in the game. But Harden does this way too much, where he unnecessarily takes off too much time from the shot clock. I don’t know why coaches don’t talk to him about this. Maybe they agree with his strategy. If so, I guess I’m the one who’s missing something here.
I thought Sampson was also right to keep Delfino and Smith in to close out the game. This is the decision that makes me most proud of Sampson, because Asik had a solid game (as usual) and Parsons has been Mr. Clutch. But early on in the game, Delfino was the only Rockets player I had confidence in, aside from Douglas. He was the only one making shots and he surprised me with how well he defended Kobe. I didn’t know that he was such a good defender. But he did a great job of really shutting Kobe down. And while we’re on the subject, how about the job that Lin did on Kobe one-on-one early in the game when he forced Kobe into a position where Kobe had nowhere to go and nothing to do but hoist up some shot behind the backboard, falling out of bounce? Whenever Lin is stuck with a “mismatch” he actually ends up making the other player pay. He’s done this time and time again with much bigger players, such as Power Forwards. I think it’s because he steps up his defense, knowing it’s a “mismatch”.
I’m very happy about Smith’s performance (career high 21 points). Been a fan of his since preseason. Didn’t know anything about this guy before, but I saw a lot of talent in those preseason games. I’m glad Sampson is getting him some burn. I was dumbfounded when McHale played Aldrich instead of Smith. I hope Smith stays as the backup Center for Asik. Terrence Jones can be just as good if not better at the Power Forward spot. They need to give TJ some burn. He’s a star in the making. These guys are both very dynamic/physical players, who can defend, pull down rebounds and score the ball. I think they’re both complete players. I think Rockets need to experiment with their lineup more. They should try Morris at Small Forward, since Chandler plays way too many minutes and they should use Delfino as a replacement for Harden, since Harden plays way too many minutes, also. Physically, Morris is a Small Forward, not a Power Forward. But supposedly, Morris can take advantage of match ups with Power Forwards, since he can hit from long range. But ever since Morris got knocked down in the Knicks game, Morris has been struggling mightily from the field. So might as well try him at his natural position. This way, we can get our Power Forwards play time. The reason why our bench isn’t deep is that we’re simply not playing our guys. We have plenty of talent, who are just sitting on the bench. D-Mo is another guy that needs some play time. Since we have Smith now at Center, D-Mo can play Power Forward, which is a better position for him. This way, we don’t have to wait for him to bulk up. That’s my biggest complaint about the Rockets organization right now is that they’re not playing enough guys and tiring out their starters. They also got guys in wrong positions in my opinion. They gotta switch things up to better manage minutes of all the players and take advantage of our depth at the Power Forward position. Anyway, apologies for the sidetrack. Probably should have been a separate post. Just got carried away there.
The biggest concern about the Rockets right now is out defense. In the beginning of the season, that was our strength, but it has become a big weakness. The win tonight was huge, because the bench stepped up and maybe that will instill some fire in the bench, which has been weak for the Rockets. I think it’s mainly because, again, the coaching staff is doing a terrible job of managing the minutes of Parsons and Harden and not giving our bench a chance. Hope this win changes things. I doubt that it would, though. But at least it gives the bench guys who are getting minutes some confidence. This win is also great for the locker room. I think when you have a guy like Greg Smith do well, that’s a huge morale boost for the entire team. They’ll need everything they’ve got to face off against the Spurs. If they played the way they did tonight, though, they’re gonna get blown out. So hope their defense is significantly better and hope we go back to moving the ball around. Lin isn’t going to get into foul trouble in the Spurs game, so I think our offense will be fine. It’s our defense that still needs work, but I’m sure the coach staff will drill it into the players every chance they get.