DALLAS (CBS HOUSTON) – The Rockets aren’t in trouble of losing the series to the Mavericks. Not even close. In fact I expect them to wrap it up Tuesday night in Houston.
But it isn’t just one thing but some things that are sticking with me about the poor showing in game four. Some of them are easily fixed, but others will be lingering problems against the like of the Spurs or Clipper and Golden State if we dare to dream.
J.J. Barea has scored double figures in all four games of the series so far. He scored in double figures three times the last two months of the season.
Let that sink in. J.J. Barea on Sunday eviscerated the Rockets defenders. Now think about Chris Paul or Tony Parker is up next for Houston, and again if we are daring to dream, Steph Curry awaits them after that.
The ability to guard point guards with consistent effectiveness is not available to the Rockets. Patrick Beverley would be handling these duties but he is hurt. Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni aren’t getting younger, quicker, or more agile. I don’t know that there is an acceptable solution to this issue.
Trevor Ariza is better suited spending time on the best wing player. It potentially burns Harden’s energy to have him focusing on defense but this is where the team might need to go. There may need to be stretches where Harden sacrifices some efficiency and dedicated offensive minutes to guarding opposing point guards. It isn’t ideal and not a long-term in-game solution but short stretches to disrupt opposing offenses might be super glue on a wound that needs stitches.
I’m not going to spend a ton of time discussing a streak of 17 consecutive missed shots for the Rockets because we aren’t likely to see a repeated shooting slump like that from a team with this much talent anytime soon.
Unless Kevin McHale keeps playing cool chaperone during the slumps. When the Rockets aren’t hitting wide-open shots that is something McHale can’t fix. Within the 17 straight misses there were open looks clanging off the rim. There were also bad, rushed, and mid-range jumpers getting put in the air. There was no emphasis on getting the ball in the post. No setting up drives. Nothing resembling the rhythmic offense we have become accustomed to seeing from Houston.
McHale is often slow to the timeout when teams are making runs and when his team is in a funk. I think his free flowing and hands-off approach works fairly well sometimes but there are times when he needs to command authority from this team and right the ship when they are off their course.
If the Mavericks can fabricate a 20 point lead and then keep the Rockets at bay for a full quarter then the Spurs or Clippers can end games after three quarters or make smaller leads feel insurmountable. He has done a tremendous job this year with the team. Everyone has to take it to the next level though, not just the players.
It seems harsh to put these slumps on McHale and he is not the lone culprit. The shooter have to make more shots, especially from deep. 7-31 isn’t getting it done against any team. The offensive rebounds can’t, and frankly against a team like the Mavericks, shouldn’t ever be an issue. Tonight Dallas pulled down nine more allowing them to score 20 second chance points.
There was an extremely small glimmer of something that can be disappointing too. No one stepped up as a leader.
I consider this an anomaly and without being in the huddles I can’t for sure exclaim no one was trying but the play didn’t demonstrate leadership. Harden settled for and missed jumpers. Ariza and Terry too. Howard didn’t demand the ball and dominate in the low post. Josh Smith pushed the limits of the officials while he had a spat with Richard Jefferson. It was chippy and Smith lost his cool and focus. No one reeled anyone in.
Small gripes they are, especially for a team about to win its first playoff series since 2009. These issues were exposed by the Mavericks for one game and likely won’t be exploited by Dallas again as they exit the playoffs. But these small flaws will be easy pickings for San Antonio or Los Angeles unless the Rockets work to cover them up.
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