Young Rockets Clinch Playoffs in One of the Oddest Finishes I’ve Seen

So, it’s official. The Rockets have clinched the playoffs. Of course, this comes as no surprise to me, as I wrote in a post back on October 29th that the Rockets are a LOCK to make the playoffs. I said this back when most analysts predicted that Rockets wouldn’t win more than 29 games. So ridiculous. The reason is because this Rockets team is full of Jeremy Lins and, as a result, analysts highly underrated their abilities at the time. I guess it was understandable that analysts would underrate this team, because many of the starters hadn’t started before and they are the youngest team in the NBA this season. Still, I was sure they’d make the playoffs, because I saw the talent in the guys. I also saw them as a bunch of players with really high basketball IQs, strong work ethic, great character and I knew they’d be able to mesh on the floor. I was also very optimistic of the Linharden synergy. I’m hoping that will get better next season as McHale learns to play Lin the way Lin is supposed to be played. We still haven’t seen the Linharden synergy in full effect.

Here’s a great write up on Rockets making the playoffs, by Jason Friedman from Rockets.com:Β http://www.nba.com/rockets/news/unexpected-journey

Tonight’s game was somewhat lackluster. Rockets played down to their competition somewhat and didn’t play much defense. The good thing that came out of it is that Smith and TJones are showing that they may be the answer to the Rockets Power Forward void just in time for the playoffs. Smith ended with 12 points, 5 rebounds and TJones finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds. These were two players I was very high on early in the season. Β  Asik also finished tying his career high 22 rebounds.

McHale didn’t do a very good job with the rotation tonight–especially when it comes to Harden. Once again, he played Harden to death by not giving him any rest in the second half. Yep, Harden played the ENTIRE second half. I kept waiting to see when McHale would give him some rest and then with the 8 minute mark rolled around in the fourth quarter I just shook my head, because I knew that McHale was going to stick with Harden the entire second half. I guess McHale really wanted to clinch the playoffs, so I can understand where he’s coming from. But I think it’s a mistake in thinking on his part, because I actually think it hurts the Rockets to not give Harden ANY rest–especially with Rockets high tempo of basketball. I thought McHale should have rested Harden in the beginning of the fourth for like three minutes or so, because I think Harden got sloppy in part due to fatigue. Harden almost had a double double with NINE turnovers. Yep, you read that correctly. This is what happens when you play a guy to death and don’t give him any rest. McHale better not pull this stunt in the playoffs, although, I’m sure he will. He just can’t seem to trust anyone but Harden in that position so McHale is going to play Harden to the ground in the playoffs. It’s just another one of McHale’s crazy fixations. I wish he understood the concept that you need fresh bodies to run and keep the pace up and also keep the ball moving and players moving, which is what Rockets basketball is all about. When players are tired, no matter how good they are, they stop moving the ball and they stop running. They also try and force shots, because they’re too tired to make good decisions and play optimally. And Harden is even more prone to that than most, because Harden tends to go into Hero Ball mode and this gets even more magnified when he’s fatigued.

Lin’s shooting was off tonight. I hope that’s an aberration, because he’s been shooting well for a while now. I noticed that he didn’t wear his arm guard. I wonder if that was a factor. Maybe he should start wearing his arm guard, although he had been shooting pretty well before that. But I think he shot even better with his arm guard–not just percentage wise, but the release and trajectory of the ball looked especially good in the games that he has been wearing his arm guard. Beverly played well tonight and I thought McHale was going to bench Lin in the fourth, because of how well Beverly was playing. And I have to say that I think that would have been fine with that decision tonight. Not that Lin was playing terribly, but Lin didn’t really have it tonight and I thought Beverly brought a lot of energy. What I would have preferred is for Harden to get some rest and for McHale to play Lin and Beverly together for some of the fourth to give Harden some rest. Anyway, I was surprised McHale went back with Lin. It ended up being a good decision, because Lin did tie the game up and Harden finished with a horrible shot that wouldn’t have made it, but Rockets caught a lucky break on a goal tending call against the Suns. That ball had no chance of going in. What a heart breaker for Suns fans, although I doubt they care too much about their season. But still. You hate to lose that way.Β In the playoffs, McHale has to come up with some better plays than to just iso Harden every time. He has to mix it up.I’ve said this before. I actually think Rockets are more dangerous with the ball STARTING OUT in Lin’s hands during clutch time, than Harden’s because when Harden has the ball–especially during clutch time, all four Rockets players end up just standing around ball-watching. So Rockets essentially become a one-man weapon. When it’s in Lin’s hands, players continue to move around, because they don’t expect Lin to just go iso. Also, Lin is a better floor general than Harden and is better at finding the optimal play. When the ball starts out in Lin’s hands, it tends to end up in someone else’s hands, so Rockets have five weapons when the ball starts out in Lin’s hands. Now, I’m not saying that Lin should have the ball EVERY time down the stretch. What I am saying is that McHale needs to mix it up. This is especially important in the playoffs when you’re facing the same team multiple times and they start to learn your tendencies. Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent. I’m glad Rockets made it official today and clinched the playoffs, proving all analysts, coach McHale and nearly every Rockets fans wrong. Like I said, this Rockets club is full of Jeremy Lins. And what Jeremy Lin does best is to prove doubters wrong.

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  • To the PLAYOFFS we Go!!!
    Overjoyed πŸ˜‰
    Go Rockets!! Go JLIN!!! πŸ˜‰

  • MrPingPong

    Good morning/evening Lin fans! I was a little bit under the weather and did not go to the game as planned. Thanks for you postgame analysis, Philosopher.

    Funny how I also thought that Lin should wear his bionic arm, seeing him missing most of his shots last night. But did he make the clutch FTs in the end to tie the game! Whew! πŸ™‚

    McHale reminds me of Bum Phillips of the old Houston Oilers, who played Earl Campbell on every play. Sad story of a coach! Sad ending for Earl Campbell too!

    Anyway, it’s the Jeremy Lins of this amazing Rockets that take the team to the playoffs and not the coaching of the coach. I doubt that McHale will ever recognize his mistakes and “fixations” and learn. I hope I am wrong for the sake of the team. I’d better be wrong about this for the Rockets to win the first round, no matter whom they play.

    Go Lin! Go Rockets! And Go KM! πŸ™‚

    • CH

      Mr. PP, like your “GO KM”. Your are always so optimistic and your posts are always so upbeat and enjoyable to read. ^V^

      • CH

        And mine is always with typo. oops. YOU.

    • MrPingPong

      Thanks CH! Which part of Texas do you reside, San Antonio (since you are a Spurs fan)?

      I hope to get over my nasty cold in time to attend the last few Rockets home games of the regular season. Playoffs tickets will be hard to come by. I am not sure I can afford them.

      I personally think it is important for the Rockets to win ALL of the remaining games just to make a statement to the pundits and non-believers that they belong. Yeah, even with all that Lin and his teammates (the other Jeremy Lins) have accomplished, there are still doubters out there. I guess that is and integral part of Linsanity and I am having fun savoring it.

      • Get well soon MrPingPong!
        I hope you get to watch the remaining Rockets home games πŸ™‚

        • MrPingPong

          Thank you, Rubielyn. I am feeling better each day.

          There is a nasty bug going around in Houston, I think. Many of my colleagues at work are sick with cold/flu-like symptoms. There is an unverifiable rumor on “Dutch Vans” that Lin was sick at the time of the Suns game and that’s why he did not play well. Delfino has been sick, as we all know. Anyway, Lin has started in all the games so far. I hope he will complete the regular season with “perfect attendance”. And there is more to go after that! Hooray! πŸ™‚

          • Good to know you are getting better each day MrPingPong πŸ™‚
            I am also praying the same thing for Lin.
            I want him to stay healthy throughout the season and most especially for the playoffs πŸ™‚

            P.S. thumbs up for the “Hooray!” πŸ˜‰

      • standupphilosopher

        Hope you’re taking it easy, MrPingPong.

        Funny you mentioned Lin’s perfect attendance. I’d been thinking about this lately, as well, because my biggest concern about Lin this season was his conditioning. Hope we don’t jinx it, by talking about it.Yeah, I hope he finishes off the season and the playoffs with perfect attendance, as well and I hope he doesn’t catch the bug that’s going around in Houston. Delfino needs to be quarantined. I wouldn’t mind Delfino be quarantined for good, since I prefer Garcia. Haha. All joking aside, I hope McHale doesn’t BLINDLY go back to playing Delfino way more minutes than Delfino deserves when Delfino comes back. Again, how come I have a better sense of the Rockets players than McHale. I don’t have the luxury of seeing them at practice, yet, I feel like I’ve been on the money about all the players. McHale’s got to let go of his crazy fixations and just see things as they are. Nothing more. Nothing less.

    • standupphilosopher

      You called it, MrPingPong!

      Yeah, McHale is a stubborn one. He’s definitely not a fast learner. Sad thing is, he doesn’t even think he’s made any mistakes regarding Lin. Yep, as long as McHale is still the coach, we’ll cheer him on. Love the optimism, as always, MrPingPong!

      • MrPingPong

        I have the feeling that McHale is not the only NBA coach that does not trust Lin. Could it be that Lin is the Rodney Dangerfield of Basketball?
        πŸ™‚

        Being a LOF, I kinda like this article:
        http://houston.culturemap.com/news/sports/04-08-13-jeremy-lin-unchained-nba-asian-discrimination-could-end-with-houston-rockets-playoff-run/

        Just to add to the conversation, I think it may be a blessing in disguise that McHale does not ride Lin like “freaking Secretariat”. The way Lin is sacrificing his bodies on both ends of the floor really worries me. So for the remaining four games of the regular season, I do not mind seeing Lin playing less minutes than usual…

        Nah, on second thought, Lin must blast away the Suns and the Lakers in their own houses to show who the real boss is! What about the two home games? Those are easy wins: my Linsane call!
        πŸ™‚

      • standupphilosopher

        Thanks for the link, MrPingPong. Glad to see this writer is continuing to write in support of Lin. He’s saying a lot of the things a lot of Lin fans have been discussing.

      • standupphilosopher

        Yeah, MrPingPong. Linsanity is more than just basketball. Jeremy Lin does the right thing, even when no one is watching. I heard this interview with the Clutch Fans guys about the All Star Break. One of them was at Jeremy Lin’s Foundation event and he said that he was getting something to eat and was looking down at his plate eating, when he heard someone ask him how the food was. He thought it was a friend of his, but looked up and it was Jeremy Lin, talking to him as a friend would. Then there was that thing with Chris Humphries last year…so many examples of Lin just doing the right thing no matter what. Lin practices “right action”. If we all practiced right action even 50% of the time, the would would be a much better place. Anyway, back to basketball.

        Thanks for the video, MrPingPong. Yeah, Lin’s strength is his decision making and being a vocal leader on and off the court. It’s so unfortunate that McHale doesn’t see this. McHale sees Lin as just another role player/barely starter. It’s crazy to me that McHale would praise Harden’s decision making in that video I posted on my YouTube Channel, while saying that Lin needs to improve his decision making in that interview he did with Ultimate Rockets when he reeled off a laundry list of things Lin needs to improve on. The fact that McHale doesn’t recognize that Lin is an elite decision-maker says a lot about how much McHale really doesn’t get Lin’s game. Anyway, I’ve talked about this ad nauseum…just so baffling to me how a coach can be so clueless about his player.

  • Eric M

    I’ll be okay with a 2-2, preferably 3-1. They’ll probably rest the starters and give some of the younger guys some more playing time. Hope we can secure 6th spot. I’d like to see more of TJones and JAnderson during the next few games.

    • standupphilosopher

      The Rockets are going to end up in the sixth seed if every team plays to win going into the playoffs. The only way the Rockets don’t make the sixth seed is if teams are resting players or trying to throw games or what not. Rocket’s schedule going into the playoffs is much easier than that of Golden State’s. Whether or not it’s good for the Rockets, I think they’ll end up in the 6th seed. I just hope the Clippers catch up to the Nuggets for the 3rd spot. Don’t think that’s going to happen, though. Hopefully, Ty Lawson will still be out and Harden makes adjustments on how to play against Iggy and stops Hero Balling out of frustration.

      • ashley

        You probably have hit the link and read the article that shows how the Nuggets forced the Rockets to make those turnovers and got their fastbreak points:
        http://hoopchalk.com/2013/04/08/blink-and-you-might-miss-it-fuel-behind-denvers-offense/
        When I watched the recent Denver game, I thought the Rockets players were being careless, playing sloppily. Now I see those turnovers as more of a result of the Nuggets’ smart offensive play. I remember in a game against the Heat, Lin was first stopped by a Heat player and then in a second, his ball was grabbed by another Heat player who came over to double-team him. It seems to me that the Rockets don’t do that as much as the opponents do to them. If they could figure out how to deal with that kind of defense, they wouldn’t need to be so afraid of the Nuggets. The Rockets’ coach complained a lot about the players’ turnovers, but I think he probably should do a better job training them how to avoid being trapped and make better decisions and quicker moves.
        By the way, I read a jokingly sarcastic comment (in Chinese) about the Rockets, which says the Rockets is the team that all the other playoff teams want to play against in the first round, and that’s why the Spurs lost to the Nuggets.