They’ve heard the criticism.
The criticism has been constant, and the criticism has been loud.
The Rockets can’t play defense.
The words “lazy”, “atrocious”, and “embarrassing” have been used to describe the Rockets defense through 15 games, but in Saturday night’s 112-101 win over Minnesota, the defense was excellent.
“I thought our guys were better defensively,” head coach Kevin McHale said afterwards. “We had a real bad defensive outing against Dallas. We spent yesterday going over everything. We had a hard practice and the guys carried it over.”
Now, you may look at that score and ask how is it possible that is a good defensive performance, and the answer is pretty simple. The Rockets held Minnesota to 40% shooting (just 32% in the first half). A lot of the Wolves damage at the offensive end was due to the Rockets 24 turnovers, which led to 37 points, and 19 offensive rebounds that netted them an extra 19. In comparison, the Rockets had just 15 points off turnovers, and six second chance points.
“There is no defense for turnovers at half court,” McHale said. “There is no defense for a throwback at the 3-pont line, it’s just a jailbreak.”
Turnovers are what kept the Wolves in the game. They took 21 more shots than the Rockets (100-79) and only took five fewer free throws, but the Rockets made shots, shooting 52% for the game, 57% through three quarters, and this was without James Harden, but with former Rockets coach Rick Adelman on the other bench, the only current Rocket who played for Adelman went off.
Aaron Brooks scored 26 points, and needed just 14 shots to get it, knocking down six of his seven three point attempts. He played 25 minutes after logging just 15 total minutes during the Rockets last 9 games, scoring only four points.
“His second quarter was special,” McHale said. “He really had it going. He was making shots. When he sees the ball go in…he’s a scorer.”
McHale doesn’t think Harden will be back for Monday night’s game in Memphis, but admitted, he wasn’t 100 percent sure.
“He went and saw the doctor today, and they are going to change up the treatment a little bit,” he said. “It’s been bothering him now for a few weeks. I think that’s the plan (to sit out Monday), but again, we’ll see what this new stuff does. It’s all pain relevant.”
With the win, the Rockets improve to 9-5 on the season. After blowing a big lead in Dallas, the Rockets never trailed in this game. The closest Minnesota got in the second half was within eight points.
They’ll head to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies Monday night, before coming home for two games against Atlanta and Brooklyn. Next Saturday they’ll take on San Antonio for the first time, which will give everyone an idea just how far the defense has come along.
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