Sorry to steal the title of this post from Marilyn Manson... but it is necessary because I couldn't say it better myself right now. I may have to write my own Irresponsible Hate Anthem soon. Seriously... the critical uprising against the Rockets is now absolutely absurd.
SI.com's Marty Burns just put the Rockets 13th in his weekly Power Rankings.
13th?!!? Behind Denver, Golden State, Orlando and Philadelphia. F-U, Marty! Those four games we lost since the Streak were to Boston, New Orleans, Phoenix and San Antonio. These are all playoff teams that will probably have home court advantage in April. It's not like we are Utah and losing multiple games to teams like Minnesota! But, of course, Utah gets a free pass... sure... why not?
At least ESPN "only" bumped us to 7th. Which I can live with right now. Of course, if Simmons did the rankings, we'd be 20th.
I can't wait for us to beat up on Sacramento on Wednesday.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Sorry to steal the title of this post from Marilyn Manson... but it is necessary because I couldn't say it better myself right now. I may have to write my own Irresponsible Hate Anthem soon. Seriously... the critical uprising against the Rockets is now absolutely absurd.
It wasn't enough that Ian Thomsen and SI.com started bashing the Rockets.
No, the Sports Guy had to pile on, too (though, with flawed analysis).
Even ESPN has their backhanded compliment of the week for the Rockets. Almost expecting T-Mac and Adelman to fail in the playoffs.
Now bloggers and commenters everywhere are starting to call the Houston Rockets "frauds" and similarly unkind words.
And, insult of all insults, even our buddies over at Hardwood Paroxysm are now suggesting that other teams in the Western Conference might resort to tanking just to position themselves to play the Houston Rockets in Round 1 of the playoffs.
Hey, Corn, right here buddy!
Yes, I know yesterday's game against the Spurs gives a LOT of fuel to the fire of any critic of the Houston Rockets. I'm quite sure that sometime yesterday afternoon, Stephen A. Smith was dancing around frenetically all giddy that one of his random statements might possibly, possibly be accurate. (It was not, but that's a discussion for another day.)
Let's backtrack for a second.
mid-January... Rockets languishing in 10th place. No hope of playoffs or anything. I say not to worry, we're making the playoffs. We'll be fine.
early-February... Rockets begin the Streak. Everyone dismisses it as an easy schedule. But I don't recall anyone else in the NBA winning 22 in a row.
mid-February... Yao is hurt. Out for Season. Every single NBA analyst that I can recall declared the Rockets' playoff chances dead. T-Mac and the gang ignored them and won another ten in a row.
March 18th... Rockets lose to Boston. Streak ends. Critics sharpen their pencils.
March 30th... Rockets lose to Spurs. Badly. Rockets now "frauds"... even though we've beaten New Orleans, Los Angeles (Lakers), Golden State, Dallas AND Denver -- all without the services of Yao. And in some instances without Carl Landry, too.
Rockets still are 49-24. Pretty freakin' good. And we should at least win seven out of our last nine games to finish at 56-26. Which is also pretty freakin' good.
San Antonio scares me in the playoffs. But they scare everyone.
Phoenix scares me because Rafer can't stay in front of Nash. And Shaq might confuse Landry and Scola with a hamburger and fries. Dangerous.
Beyond those two teams, I truly believe the Rockets have a good chance of seeing some playoff success. Bonus points if we get to beat up on Utah at home. Really.
I just sat here staring at a blank blogger screen for the last 20 minutes or so, laying on the couch trying to stop being sick off my ass. Why was I starring? Because I didn't know what to type, still don't exactly, but I'm just going to wing it as I go. It's no secret to anyone that knows me that in the Sports world, my Longhorns come before anything for me. I've actually taken days off in the past from work (vacation, not skipping work, I don't do that) to watch our baseball games on TV. I'm borderline sick in the head when it comes to the dedication I have for my Horns. Why do you care? Because it is the reason I've been so lax around here and have had a few 15 words previews for the games. I've also been extremely busy at work and at home as the boy is growing up and likes to play. I might add that playing with the boy is ridiculously awesome and my mother bought him is first basketball goal and I've been trying to teach him to shoot. My mad coaching skills have truly come into question when a 20 month old is my pupil, but I digress.
The question at hand still stands "Am I a fairweather fan"? I thought I proved that when we were 15-17 and I wrote everyday, but I actually got that question (while I think it was jokingly) yesterday because I had not written in a while. I'm not above being shamed into writing though, and here I am back to put some insight into the Rockets season. So here's the answer: Fuck you, no I'm not a fairweather fan, I'm a Rockets fanatic that happens to be even more rabid over the Longhorns, but still a fanatic about Houston sports in general. I love the Rockets and still have a lot to say before and after we win our first round series in the playoffs. Yes I'd be happier with Yao, no I do not think that stops Tracy from being denied in round one. If there ever was a year for Tracy, a very self image conscious player, to step up and take his team to the second round this is it. He will have all eyes on him and I just feel like it's time and he will rise to the occasion. I also feel like all fans of other teams need to watch out for the Rockets next year.
Let's go Rockets! Time to roll off 9 in a row going into the playoffs!!
And I'm proud of my Elite 8 Horns, great season gentlemen. And DJ, come back!!
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Talk about ugly.
Oh, thanks for not showing up T-Mac.
You, too, Rafer.
A combined 9 for 38. (0-6 on 3s)
Please, please God let us avoid the Spurs in round 1 of the playoffs. Please.
Luis Scola... still a badass. 24 and 7 with no help.
Posted by Unknown at 2:45 PM
This is a great weekend for basketball fans everywhere. There's the NCAA tournament - where there is a chance that for the first time ever all four of the #1 seeds might make the Final Four. It's not going to happen (Texas will probably beat Memphis, if only as payback for Memphis not covering and costing me money in Vegas.)
There's also the NBA playoff race to consider. If you haven't noticed, the Western Conference is a complete clusterf--k. The Rockets did not play Friday. And yet... they dropped from 2nd place to 5th place simply by being idle. But... somehow they also gained one game on the 1st place team. I have a degree in mathematics and yet this statistical anomaly still makes my head spin! It's unfathomable. To the extent that the Rockets needed that 22 game winning streak - or else we'd be in 9th place and wondering what the hell happened.
Now, here's the sucky part of the weekend...
I'm at the office. On a Sunday.
Yeah, we're playing a little "catch up" here.
And there is nary a TV or radio in sight. Guess who won't be watching the Rockets/Spurs game. Or the Texas/Memphis game. Or the Kansas/Stephen Curry game.
Cockgobbles!!! I guess I'll just have to gamecast everything from down here in Storage B.
Oh, and Rafer... I do believe you have my stapler.
edit: More things that suck - we just gave up 35 1st-Q points to the Spurs?!??! 35??
Game 4 in the Rockets Spurs series is today at 12PM CST in San Antonio. I'll be at Reliant Stadium watching the Texas Longhorns work there way to the Final Four, but I expect a great game and will be following on my blackberry. The Rockets own the series for now, at 2-1 holding serve in both home games and losing by 6 on the road.
San Antonio Spurs: 50-23 (30-6 at home) 6-4 in their last 10
Houston Rockets: 49-23 (21-13 on the road) 7-3 in their last 10
That 6-4 market in their record is deceiving as to how they are playing right now, that's because the 4 came all at the beginning and the 6 have come in a row at the end. They are not playing exceptionally well right now, but they are the Spurs, a supremely balance team even if they are getting older. And since for them, older is more experienced and with 4 titles, that's a little worrisome for the Rockets. It's the reason I think this could be one of two losses in the last 14 games for the good guys. I would not, however, be surprised if they won the game anyway though. The Spurs have a tendency this year to lose a little focus and lose games to teams they should/could be better than. They do not do that at home very often, but have lost to Phoenix, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Boston. All but Boston the Rockets have beaten this year. i would love to see this game, it's going to be a good one!!
Go Rockets! Go Longhorns!
Friday, March 28, 2008
Today's entry on Webber should have been easy, right?
Sure... and it started as a good read. Then I see this toss-off comment:
Hey, dumbass... I think you are forgetting someone!!! This guy:
Akeem > Webber.
and, yes, Akeem > Fat Ass.
Akeem became Hakeem and became this:
seriously, F-U Simmons.
Second, I have a trial in two weeks I am preparing for. We failed to plan around the NBA playoffs and this saddens me.
Also, Lee's college team is somehow still alive in the NCAA tournament even though that Durant guy escaped to Seattle. Or Oklahoma City. Or wherever the Sonics are playing these days. So, Lee is nervously rocking back and forth in his office chair unable to speak in complete sentences or maintain rational thoughts. Something about the word "jinx" I am told.
Meanwhile I'm afraid of jinxing the Rockets before the big game on Sunday. Which, unfortunately, I just found out I won't be able to watch on TV. Will instead have to suffer through ESPN's gamecast. Ugh. Now I'm going to miss Landry dunking on Duncan's head.
Also, we did a podcast thing with an operator of a Spurs blog yesterday. We will make sure to link to that whenever it's uploaded (sometime before the game).
Posted by Unknown at 1:46 PM
Thursday, March 27, 2008
It wasn't a 20 point win like I thought it would be, but the T-Wolves never really threatened. They may have cut the lead to only a few points in the fourth, but the Rockets put it in cruise control late and won by double digits, increasing their lead in every quarter.
Luis Scola was fantastic last night but Carl Landry was not to be outdone. Scola had 18 point and 18 rebounds and just manhandled the young Timberwolves on the boards. He did that in 35 minutes, while poor Landry had to suffer with only 16. How did he do in those 16 minutes? 11 points and 4 boards. Together they had at least one rebound or one point in each of the minutes they were on the floor. That my friends is why Luis Landry is so important to this team. Having only one part of the monster helped us lose 3 of 4 games. Having them both back is why the Rockets will have playoff success.
Tracy McGrady, seriously man, we know it hurts, stop making such a big deal of it. I've played games with a torn rotator cuff and preened less. You are hurt, you are not injured, play through it and stop letting the other team know what ails you. On two different occasions they went after his shoulder, all because he showed them exactly what was wrong. Stop doing that! Also, if you wouldn't mind focusing in the first three quarters to go along with your great 4th quarter play of late it would be much appreciated.
Al Jefferson ended the game with the quietest 21 points in NBA history. I really like the guy, and think he has a huge future, but to those saying he's like KG statistically, that is fine and dandy, but his competitive fire doesn't seem to be stoked nearly as much. I think he'll be a good pro and in the long run the T-Wolves will have won that trade, but it's not because Jefferson is as good as KG, it's because he'll play many more years from here on out.
The good guys get a few much needed and deserved days of rest until Sunday when they take on the Spurs in San Antonio. There isn't much more to say about the game, so let's move on to more pressing matters. I ignored the first round, but the Rockets Power Dancers need your help. Voting begins today for the ladies to try and win the championship after getting stopped in the championship round last year by the Miami Heat cheerleaders. So go to NBA.com and vote!
Last night's game was tougher than it should have been. But the Rockets managed to pull away and win by double digits again. 49-23 now. 2nd in the West. T-Mac's final stat line looks good, but for the first half of the game he was playing quite miserably... only to be saved by Luis Landry. Scola, in particular. Holy crap, Luis Scola is a badass!
Luis Landry (3/27/08):
11/19 FG (7-9 FT), 29 points, 22 rebounds (6 offensive) and 3 steals.
All of it was needed because T-Mac and Battier forgot how to shoot, and Rafer's hot start was negated by a nearly o-fer 2nd half.
Oh, and that Al Jefferson guy might actually be good. Where was he when the Rockets won by 30 something in January? Must have been busy watching Landry's coming-out party that day (?).
Rockets move closer to the top of the West again. Now trailing the Hornets... who should have lost to the LeBrons, but LeBron shot too early and gave CP3 and David West a chance to win the game. Which they did. Damn you, LeBron! Rockets still trail New Orleans by a game. Tied with the Lakers and Spurs and practically 5 other teams in the West. Yikes.
Big game Saturday. T-Mac has 3 days to rest his shoulder and ankle. If he has to shoot 25 times versus San Antonio on Sunday... we're in trouble.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
For someone who claims to be a rather knowledgeable NBA fan... Bill Simmons can be amazingly stupid when it comes to basic basketball analysis. And yet he wants to be GM of the Bucks. Sure.
(And yes, I am aware I can always just link to his "the Magic will regret taking Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor" statement after the 2004 NBA draft - but that's too easy.)
Today's randomly dumb statement about the Houston Rockets? Aww, screw it, let's post the whole thing:
3. HOUSTON (48-23)
Scouting report: They won 22 straight games thanks to great chemistry, great defense, great ball movement, a super-easy schedule, a couple of breaks (like Nowitzki's one-game suspension) and some inspired play from T-Mac and Rafer Alston ... in the big scheme of things, it's not going to matter because any team with size (like Phoenix) or superior team defense (like San Antonio or Boston) is going to beat them ... whatever happens in the playoffs, it's absolutely astonishing how much they don't miss Yao Ming.
Biggest strength: Chemistry and defense. That's how you win 22 straight. And by the way, that was freaking amazing. I still can't get over that streak. No matter how easy their schedule was, for a team without superior talent to get by 22 straight teams without getting derailed by one bad break, one bad call, one white-hot shooting performance, one injury or one off-night is absolutely unfathomable. That was like watching someone catch fire at a craps table for two solid hours without crapping out.
Biggest weaknesses: Lack of size; lack of anyone who can create scoring opportunities other than T-Mac; lack of playoff success for their best player; lack of overall talent. Other than that, they're in good shape.
Biggest X-Factor: Rafer Alston. Just look at his month-by-month splits and throw in the fact that he's been playing fantastic defense. Where did these last two months come from? Frankly, I'm a little frightened. I like things to make sense and this makes absolutely no sense.
Unsung Hero: According to John Hollinger's PER ratings, Shane Battier is the 45th best small forward in the league right now. I give up. Uncle. I can't fight the good fight anymore. Somebody else needs to take over.
Best-case opponent: Golden State or Denver.
Worst-case opponent: Everyone else.
Prediction: The sixth seed and a thrashing from San Antonio in round one.
Eventual 2007-08 Legacy: For the rest of eternity, they'll show that "Longest NBA Winning Streaks" graphic during an NBA game and viewers will say, "'72 Lakers, '08 Rockets, '00 Lakers, '71 Bucks ... wait a second, what????"
Where to begin?
Let's see... during that 22 game winning streak... the Rockets beat Cleveland (twice), New Orleans (twice), Denver, Dallas, Portland, Golden State AND the Lakers. So, ten of those 22 games were against some of the better teams in the NBA, including 4-5 of the teams that will make the Western Conference playoffs. And we did 45% of that without Yao. But yeah, it was about the schedule. Sure.
Everyone wants to rip on our supposed lack of talent. Simmons, Ian Thomsen, SAS, etc. To hell with 'em. While Rafer is definitely a question mark... T-Mac, Luis Scola, Carl Landry, Battier and Bobby Jackson are rather skilled specimens when it comes to the ability to play basketball. You don't win 22 games in a freakin' row in the NBA just because you are lucky and try hard.
So according to SG we're only in good shape if we play Golden State or Denver. Even though we've shown we can beat Dallas (who is without Dirk again) in Dallas, the Lakers AND New Orleans - all without the services of Mr. Yao Ming.
What it should say: "best-case - anyone but San Antonio." I legitimately believe we are in good shape to play and defeat anyone in a 7-game series. Even the Spurs. I'd prefer to avoid San Antonio as long as possible though.
Also, since it appears that Simmons lacks an editor - the last comment about the Streaks - the order should be '72 Lakers, '08 Rockets, '71 Bucks and then the '00 Lakers. The team he wants to be GM for won more in a row than the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. You thought Simmons would know that. And we all thought wrong.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out this little nugget at the end of his column today... "Whether [Kobe Bryant] wins the MVP award or Chris Paul wins it, we haven't seen two better individual seasons in the same year since Jordan and Barkley in 1993."
WTF? Yo, Sports Guy - Hakeem Olajuwon should have been MVP in 1992-1993. Look at the freakin' stats! Jordan won the ring that year, yes (thanks for nothing Kenny Smith), but Hakeem was DPOY and was clearly better than Barkley. He just didn't give as good a sound bite.
Enough hating on the Rockets, Simmons.
But I guess I should expect nothing less from a bitter Clippers fan.
Here's what Lee's game preview should have said:
Minnesota is bad at basketball.
The Rockets are not.
The end.In all seriousness... check out TWolvesBlog for a, uh, different perspective on the Wolves' chances against Luis Landry tonight.
Alright, so the game isn't that exciting, but the Rockets getting another win streak going is. That's right, we've won one, and a second in a row is a streak in my mind, it's at least better than one, give me that!
Minnesota Timberwolves: 18-51 (5-28 on the road) 6-4 in their last 10
Houston Rockets: 48-23 (27-10 at home) 7-3 in their last 10
The T-Wolves have actually put a winning stretch together, going 6-4 over their last 10 and even having a (so far) .500 March at 6-6, and that's a big deal for them, so BACK OFF! Though they were the recipients of a fairly lax schedule beating no team with a winning record (though with 18 wins on the season any win is a big win) and lost badly in the 3 games against teams with a winning record and also lost to Indiana.
I'd expand more, but come on, it's Minnesota, and the Longhorns are still in the tourney.
Get ready for a 20 point Rockets win
Dikembe is scheduled to be honored at tonight's game. The reason? Because he's played a very, very long time in the NBA. It may or may not be a retirement ceremony.
"It is a celebration of Dikembe Mutombo's career as it's getting close to saying goodbye to the game," Mutombo said, laughing. "Am I putting it correctly or not?"
Uh, yeah. I'm confused, too. Then again, the Cookie Monster was supposed to retire after the 2006 season. Apparently Yao is a funny dude, so Dikembe decided to stick around. Then he was supposed to retire after the 2007 season. But Yao got hurt and it appeared that Dikembe was able to offer things to the Rockets beyond comic relief to bench players. So he kept playing.
2008 appears to be a repeat of 2007. Dikembe says it's his last year... Yao gets hurt... and Dikembe realizes he has no real need to retire just yet.
I have no problem with it. Bring Deke back next year. 7'2" centers that can actually play don't exactly grow on trees. They just look like trees.
Maybe David Stern and Leslie Alexander will offer Mutombo a giant chocolate chip cookie as incentive to return next year? The Cookie Monster can't pass that up, can he?
Oh, the Rockets play the Timberwolves tonight. But Minnesota is cover-your-eyes awful at basketball, so the Rockets are able to focus on Dikembe's party and still hopefully win.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
So, SI.com had been writing glowing things about the Houston Rockets lately. Which, considering we had a 22-freakin'-game winning streak likely prohibited them from saying negative things about the guys. Now that we are 7 days removed from the end of the Streak - well, the claws are starting to come back out.
Ian Thomsen -- you are On Notice. Again.
Saw this yesterday on SI.com - a Closer Look at the Rockets. Mr. Thomsen starts out saying all the right things... we have a good system and a good coach in Adelman... Rafer is playing better... Luis Scola is having a positive impact (though Thomsen mistakenly omits referring to Scola as a "badass" - or identifying him as 1/2 of "Luis Landry")... praises the winning streak (sort of)... and acknowledges Shane Battier for being a one-man Steel Curtain on defense.
Thomsen even points out the Rockets 7-4 record sans McGrady as being a turning point (it would have been 9-2 but for the choke jobs at home against New Orleans and the Philly Debacle).
All of this sounds great, right?
Then we get to the conclusion...
After watching the Rockets play a perfect quarter of the season, it would be wrong to assume that they can't play team basketball over the month ahead. But this talk during the streak of whether they're better without Yao has been ridiculous. They're going to miss Yao badly in the postseason, and -- unless they recreate the makings of the streak, or an opponent suffers an injury of importance similar to Yao's -- they're going to struggle against all of the potential opponents in the West, each of whom should enter the playoffs with more talent.I agree with only one statement here - that the Rockets are not better off without Yao. But most anyone who has ever watched a single basketball game could reach that conclusion. Losing a dude who is 7'5" and can actually shoot can never help a basketball team.
But the criticism of the Rockets' talent and size is wrong. Carl Landry will hopefully be healthy and 100% by May. Luis Scola is going to outwork whomever he has to play. Shane Battier has shown he can lock down Kobe Bryant, so there isn't anyone in the playoffs who will "go off" on Shane. Dikembe can still give a good 15-20 minutes. We have a very deep bench with BobbyJ, Landry, Chuck Hayes, Luther Head, Mike Harris, Steve Novak and even our favorite midget Aaron Brooks. If you haven't noticed - the Rockets tend to increase leads in the 2nd Q when both teams resort to their reserve players. It's a huge change from last year when the Rockets consistently got 0 production from the bench.
So, the "they're going to struggle against all of the potential opponents in the West" conclusion is quite harsh given that there is no statistical evidence showing the Rockets can't compete. We just beat Golden State. IN GOLDEN STATE. Also, without Yao, we've beaten Denver. We've beaten Dallas... in Dallas. We've beaten the Lakers. We've beaten New Orleans (before Rafer decided to trash talk). That's five of the 8 other teams competing for the playoffs in the West.
Sure, the Phoenix game sucked. But that was the back-end of a vicious back-to-back.
And sure, the Boston Celtics game at home was tough. But the Streak had to end sometime.
Also, yeah, I can't ignore that New Orleans took it to us in New Orleans.
But the Rockets have lost a grand total of seven (7) games in 2008. There isn't another team in the NBA that can make a stronger claim.
Is it possible that the Rockets might have another first-round flameout? Sure. Anything is possible. But it's not necessarily a "given" right now. With the possibility of homecourt, I'd feel comfortable playing Golden State, Denver, Dallas, Utah and even the Lakers in a 7 game series. A New Orleans/Houston series would be classic. San Antonio scares me of course. Phoenix also scares me only because they swing from "great" to "awful" and you never know which team you are facing on a particular night.
Either way - anyone looking to put a tombstone on the Rockets' playoff chances is hereby warned that they are subject to being put On Notice, too. We're watching. Closely.
As of 7:29 pm last night, I was formulating a rant where the singular purpose was to tell Rafer Alston to simply shut the F up.
In the last two weeks, Rafer decided for some reason trash talk Chris Paul... got into semi-fisticuffs with Sasha Vujacic... been mind-f--ked by Rajon Rondo... and then torn up by CP3 in the revenge game in New Orleans. The lesson? Do not mess with CP3. Oh, and actually not be a mediocre player in the NBA when you decide to do your best Gary Payton impersonation.
Then the Rockets/Kings game started last night. And my whole world seemed to change. The Rockets did everything they could to lose the game. (1) They gave the Kings a standing invitation to form a layup line; (2) T-Mac's body language was begging the Kings to bully him with his bum ankle; and (3) no one could make a jumpshot. Not T-Mac... or Battier... or Head... or Scola...
and then Rafer came to the rescue. Rafer??!?!?
I have a ready made tag for "Luis Landry to the rescue" - but not "Rafer to the rescue" -- something just seems wrong there!
In the end, the Rockets won 108-100 and won game 1 of what is hopefully a 8+ game winning streak. Yet I was convinced they were trying to lose. Rafer wouldn't let them.
I can't believe I just typed that. Skip led the way with 28 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. He even made 7-8 of his free throws. Now that is how you endear yourself to me! Make your free throws! Rafer even made a consistent amount of those "tearput" shots of his. And not one time did I say "oh, no!" when he released it. I'm not even kidding.
I may have to re-evaluate things. Two weeks ago - during the Streak - I still considered "point guard" to be our potential weak spot in the playoffs. The way Rafer is playing in March is changing all of that. He's actually looking like a legitimate NBA point guard these days.
I'm about 80% sure now that someone slipped me some long-lasting opium while I was in Vegas. Rafer Alston = good? Well, at least I can avoid the wrath of his mom today.
Oh, and Ricky got his 800th career victory. Congrats, Mr. Adelman. Next up? Minnesota on Wednesday. No way we can lose that game, right???
Monday, March 24, 2008
Ryan over at Hornets247 was kind enough to host the most recent round of Blogger MVP/ROY rankings. For some reason Lee and I got invited to participate yet again. Here you can find the results... and a couple of our comments got posted. Winning 22 in a row apparently gives you leverage to say cool things and have people repeat them to a larger audience!
T-Mac and Scola are on the list... with Carl Landry for some reason not even cracking the top 5. You all know we voted for him. We wanted to vote for Yao, too, but we didn't want to come across as completely insane homers.
The other awesome part is that Ryan provoked some Jazz fans by repeating what is obvious: that for as good as Deron Williams is - Chris Paul is just better. I quite enjoy making fun of the Jazz. Especially when you know their fans will get annoyed by it.
Carl Landry - oh, how we missed you!
Yes, we did manage to win the first five games of the seven that you missed. And we were all introduced to Mike Harris in your unexpected absence. And Luis Scola is still the resident starting badass PF. And the Rockets are still on pace to make the playoffs and win 55+ games.
But we missed being able to use "Luis Landry" jokes. A lot.
And we missed your 24.67 PER rating.
And as much as I like Chuck Hayes... it was obvious we needed you Carl. And I like winning more. Watching Chuck shoot free throws was just painful. Then again, watching most anyone wearing a Rockets jersey shoot free throws is painful. Unless that person is Yao.
While I was away in Vegas, Mr. Landry returned for the Warriors game. And he was beastly as usual. 17 points and 8 rebounds in 19 minutes. Landry even threw in a steal and an assist for good measure! The Phoenix game was a bit tougher - but it was the back end of the completely unfair back-to-back. And yet Landry still had 9 points and 5 assists in limited action. He even made his free throw!
Big game tonight against the Sacramento Kings. A must win.
Damn it's good to have "Luis Landry" back 100%!
I decided that since my focus was really on the NCAA tournament (Hook'em Horns, and yes I'll be there Friday) over the weekend, I will ignore the Suns and their 70% shooting first half from Saturday night. It was a game I figured we'd lose. As Dave said, Golden State/Phoenix road back to backs should be outlawed. Tonight the Rockets take on the Sacramento Kings at 7:30PM CST at the Toyota Center.
Sacramento Kings: 31-38 (10-26 on the road) 4-6 in their last 10
Houston Rockets: 47-23 (26-10 at home) 7-3 in their last 10
The last time we saw the Kings was before the All Star break when we won by 20... oh, wait, we didn't win by 20? We only won by 2? And Steve Novak had to hit a game winning shot? Oh well, we should have won by 20 and a win was a win going into the break. The 8th win in a streak that ran to 22 eventually. A streak that is now over. The Rockets have dropped to "5th" place in the West from our once lofty first place spot. I put "5th" in quotes because the dirty Utah Jazz are stealing a spot because they are in the underachieving Northwest division. They are 1.5 games off the 4th spot pace, but in the 4th spot regardless. Even with the 1-3 run the Rockets are only 1 game out of first place.
The Kings will most likely be without Beno Udrih, Brad Miller and most importantly, Ron "Crazy Pills" Artest. Artest has historically lit the Rockets on fire, so I'll take that when I can get it. That guy loves destroying the Rockets for some reason. Maybe he feels like he's an even more underachieving Tracy McGrady, I don't know. Either way, I won't miss him scoring 30 on us.
This game will be win number 2 of our 12-2 stretch to end the season.
Check out Sactown Royalty for blogging greatness
I'm running on fumes and what is left of my adrenaline from Las Vegas.
I'd like to thank Villanova, San Diego and UNLV for being awesome and making me money.
I'd like to give a double-fisted middle finger to Indiana, Oregon and especially St. Joseph's. Oh, and Kansas, too. Kansas couldn't hit the over. Damn you, Kansas!
I see the Rockets beat Golden State AND we got Carl Landry back! Oh, hell yeah!
I also... what the fuck?!? We lost to the Fat Ass and the beady-eyed Canadian?
T-Mac had to take 31 shots to get his points? Oh, no - T-Mac did not just revert back to the bad Tracy from earlier in the season, did he??
When did we sign Loren Woods??
We let the Fat Ass score 23 points?!?
Well, at least I won in Vegas. Now that I'm back the Rockets can start winning again, too.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The Rockets won last night and get to turn it around and go to Phoenix to play the Suns who have finally put something together in the post-Marion days. Not a lot of insight to the game, except that Golden State should be much better than they are. They have too many good players to be fighting for the last place in the West. With the athletes they have they really need to learn how to play defense and Al Harrington needs to learn how to dunk (he missed 3). Carl Landry was phenomenal and proved last night how much the Rockets have missed him in the 5 previous games. Our defense was not very good, but at times did show up. I fully expect it to be better tonight in Phoenix.
Phoenix Suns: 46-22 (25-10 at home) 7-3 in their last 10
Houston Rockets: 47-22 (21-12 on the road) 8-2 in their last 10
The Rockets get to keep up their streak of playing teams without a key player as Raja Bell should be out with an injury. McGrady should be happy to not be guarded by him.
I've said the Rockets would lose this game, but I fully believe a win is obtainable.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Also known as win 1 of 12 for the rest of the year. Golden State is a tough matchup for the Rockets, but their defense, ya, well, it doesn't exist. And the Celtics and New Orleans won because they were able to defend. The Rockets should not have an offensive problem tonight, but Golden State's should. The Rockets defense has been very good with the exception of Bonzi Wells in the fourth on Wednesday night.
Golden State Warriors: 42-25 (23-10) 7-3 in the last 10
Houston Rockets: 46-22 (20-12) 8-2 in their last 10
The season series is tied at one right now, with the Warriors winning early in the season and the Rockets starting their 22 game winning streak with a win on January 29th.
I'm not going to lie, I'm watching the tourney games so I don't have much to say right, but I do have this to say: The losing streak ends at 2.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Well, I didn't get to watch the game last night, so can we pretend it didn't happen? That's two losses in a row. Unfortunately some are acting like losses on a back to back means that we didn't win 22 in a row, and that we aren't still in the top 3 teams in the West record wise. We've played poorly in two straight second halves, but let me remind you that we were tied at halftime of the Celtics game and were winning by 5 at halftime of the Hornets game. All is surely not lost.
Newsflash for everyone out there: The Rockets are still good, but so are the Celtics and Hornets. Oh, and we beat this Hornets team twice during the streak. The series is tied for the season at 2-2, so it's far from a disaster that the Rockets lost. It was only a matter of time before we lost a few, in fact the Bucks lost 3 of 4 after their 20 losses and the Lakers 2 of 4 after their 33, I'm betting no one came crashing down on them after their losses.
The last two games to me have been a problem for three reasons: 1. Somehow our 28 year old superstar is tired in March 2. Rafer reverted back to being Rafer 3. We still don't have Carl Landry. Scola has been great, Shane's D has been good even if he hasn't been knocking down as many shots, and Dikembe has been pretty good as well. The shooting has to improve from the outside, but it's not always going to be great like it was during the streak.
Bottom Line for me: We need Carl Landry and his energy back and Tracy needs to suck it up and deal with being "tired" for 20 million dollars. Oh, and Rafer needs to stop talking trash while he is playing this poorly.
Here's my prediction for the rest of the season:
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I can't let the Streak go. I just can't.
But I also can't get this song out of my head after last night.
I present... Alice in Chains "Over Now"
Yeah, its over now, but I can breathe somehow
When its all worn out, Id rather go without
You know its been on my mind
Could you stand right there
Look me straight in the eye and say
That its over now
We pay our debt sometime
Well its over now, yet I can see somehow
When its all gone wrong, its hard to be so strong
You know its been on my mind
Could you stand right there
Look me straight in the eye and say
That its over now
We pay our debt sometime
Yeah, we pay our debt sometime
We pay our debt sometime
Yeah, we pay our debt sometime
Guess its over now, I seem alive somehow
When its out of sight, just wait and do your time
You know its been on my mind
Could I stand right here
Look myself in the eye and say
That its over now
We pay our debt sometime
Yeah, we pay our debt sometime
We pay our debt sometime
Yeah, we pay our debt sometime
What was once a 22-game winning streak is now a 1-game losing streak.
I accept that this is part of life in the NBA.
Once every 35 years or so that is.
In the meantime, I probably won't be able to watch the next three games (Hornets, Warriors, Suns). For I am leaving for Las Vegas this afternoon. Yes, Vegas. For March Madness. And to up the ante even more -- it's for a Bachelor Party. That's like the trio of crazy events.
Vegas + March Madness + Bachelor Party = oh, dear God I hope I survive.
My next 4 days should be a blur of NCAA basketball games (of which I plan to place bets on at least 80% of these games. Except games involving Kansas, North Carolina or Duke. I hate those guys), some good ol' fashioned Texas Hold 'em poker (cash game or tourney, I have not decided yet) and, of course, lots and lots of alcohol-based beverages.
If anyone has any good suggestions or inside knowledge on which teams to bet on - send me an e-mail, I'm all ears.
I promised Lee I would not bet on the Rockets. At all. We are afraid of any jinxes. But I won't have Internet access either. Or at least I won't be accessing the Internet while I'm there.
See y'all on Monday.
The Rockets have to bounce back from a demoralizing loss last night quickly. The Hornets are nipping at our first place heels and after the game the Rockets traveled to New Orleans for the second end of a back to back. The game starts at 7PM CST and unfortunately for only the fourth time this year, I will not be able to watch the game live. We're 3-0 in those games in case you were wondering.
I feel like I have a hangover right now. Not because of the late ending of the game, just because it was such a huge high watching the Rockets win 22 in a row. While you know it has to come to an end sometime, something inside of you forgets what losing feels like. It was a remarkable run, one in which we dominated the Hornets on two different occasions. Here's hoping we keep up our game against them and that the team doesn't have the same hangover I have.
New Orleans Hornets: 45-21 (25-10 at home) 7-3 in their last 10
Houston Rockets: 46-21 (20-11 on the road) 9 and a painful 1 in their last 10
The Hornets, who had been backsliding a bit, are back in the hunt for the number 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Rockets are that number 1 seed right now. If David West is healthy, and our friends over at AtTheHive think he'll play, then we will really need Carl Landry to play. He made the trip, so that is a good sign that he might be able to play.
What's my prediction? I'm out of that game, 22 in a row is as crazy as it gets, but a new streak sure wouldn't hurt my feelings! Maybe a little hair of the dog (a win) is what the good guys need.
In our series of Q&As this is the second we've done with At The Hive. These were done before we lost last night so the first questions may seem a little out of place, but here they are. Check out At The Hive and Hornets24/7 as both are fantastic Hornets blogs: (You can see our side of the story here)
1. I know you are doing this just to jinx us into losing tonight against the Celtics, but I’m going to give you a pass. So, let’s say, hypothetically, because it might not happen, but maybe the Rockets come into the Hive at 23 in a row. This would be the Hornets third time to try and stop the streak. They had a chance to after 10 at New Orleans , and one after 17 in Houston , and were not able to end it. What do you think it will take for the Hornets to finally throw the Rockets streak for a loop? You know, if they still have the streak…
At The Hive: 2 major things: First off, fix up the recent defensive problems. Houston does come in tied for the 5th worst offense in the West, in terms of efficiency, but the Hornets have definitely "struggled" defensively against the likes of New York and Washington. Believe it or not, I'm not worried at all about the Peja on T-Mac match up; Peja's done a passable job (far more than I ever expected), and Chandler provides great help defense. Instead, the guy I'm worried about is Paul (and his ankle)- he's missed quite a few defensive rotations, and that won't bode well against shooters like Battier and Alston.
Offense will be much, much more difficult since the Rockets are the number 1 defensive team in the West. The key for us will be David West, and how healthy that ankle is. If Peja and/or Mo-Pete are feeling it, I really like our chances. Through all this, I'm of course taking for granted the awesomeness of Chris Paul.
2. Will David West play? Is the injury possibly worse than they are letting on? Or is he just prepping for the week off since Xavier has a 3 seed in the NCAA tourney and he wants to watch?
At The Hive: As I kind of alluded to above, I'm pretty sure he'll be playing. He did practice yesterday with "no apparent limitations." West did mention some slight swelling, but he really seemed like wanted to play tomorrow. So basically Byron's final say could be the only thing preventing him from returning. As far as the severity of this injury goes, I'd have to say it's not that terrible. It's one of those nagging injuries he's had now for almost 2 seasons, and he just keeps re-aggravating it.
3. I firmly believe Chris Paul is the MVP of the league this year. Why is he better than Kobe and Lebron this year in your opinion? Or are you willing to go out on a limb in front of your Hornets’ fan readers and say he’s not?
At The Hive: Haha, no way, I'm with you on this one. I base most of my thought process off statistics, since I think leadership, grit etc. is largely overrated and for the most part captured by the statistics themselves. Going defensively, Oliver's Defensive Rating has Paul #1 (103 Points Allowed/Possession) and James and Bryant virtually tied for #2 with 104. Before we go further, I need to point out how amazing that is... a 6' 0'' point guard contributing more on the defensive end than a 6'8" 240 lb, linebacker like forward, and a former All-Defense first teamer? That's absurd.
Offensively, Oliver has Paul #1 (125), James #2 (117) and Bryant #3 (114). Hollinger has James slightly better than Paul, with the two 1-2 in PER. However, PER isn't normalized for position- a point guard is supposed to have a lower league average PER just because of the way the game is played today. So I contend that Paul's 28.7 is actually more impressive than James' 30.
The thing that hurts Paul in the race is that he doesn't score as much himself. Most people would say "give me Kobe" or "give me Lebron" for a last second situation, since they can envision either one hitting a game winner. It's harder to glorify a guy passing to a scrub for a game winning layup.
4. Exactly how many girls has Bonzi infected with an STD since coming to the Crescent City ? Is he keeping the team out all night at the clubs like he did here in Houston ? And how mad are Hornets fans that we stole Bobby Jackson from you?
At The Hive: Hahah, so far he's already managed to violate the dress code once. Other than that, he's fit our second unit very nicely. As far as B-Jax is concerned, I think most Hornet fans were pretty... I don't want to say "pleased," but perhaps "indifferent in a positive way" with him leaving. We had two 6 footers backing up another 6 footer, so it was good to get some forward depth in return.
5. What’s your prediction for how the NBA regular season playoffs? Give me your 1-8 and your eventual Western Conference finals prediction.
At The Hive: Ah, way to put me on the spot. Okay, here goes:
1. Los Angeles
2. New Orleans
7. San Antonio
I still think Los Angeles comes out of the West.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Congrats to the Celtics for ending the Streak.
Nothing else can be said. We got outplayed badly tonight.
By a seemingly better team.
I'm only sad because the very things we did to start and keep the Streak, we seemed to have forgotten tonight. Don't get rattled... pass the ball... motion offense... control the defensive rebounds... rotate on screens... get the loose balls... all of that was in the Celtics' favor tonight.
I'm also disappointed that 80% of the Houston fans bailed at the beginning of the 4th Quarter. I saw empty seats everywhere with 8 minutes left. That's sad. Houston is known as a fairweather fan city - and for good reason - tonight just backed up that stereotype. If you're going to be a fan in the good times... you gotta stick with the guys during the bad times, too. That's part of being a sports fan.
As for the game itself? Rafer getting baited by Rajon Rondo was a bad sign at the start. Rafer's head was immediately out of the game. The result? A 4-13 shooting night. T-Mac started great, but once he sat down it's like he never came back in the game. The Rockets still can't make free throws. That achilles' heel is going to hurt bad in April.
Scola was player of the game. And I loved Mike Harris' effort.
Damn we need Carl Landry back. Like 3 hours ago.
Come back, Carl!!!
Tomorrow? Time to start a new Streak.
Big, big game against New Orleans. A must win!
22 games in a row, now the second longest in NBA history. We finally lost a game and it's to the best team in the league, no shame in that. We went away in the second half from what we did so well in the streak. Let's be clear, the Celtics beat us, we didn't give the win to them, they took it, but we sure as heck didn't help. The substitution pattern was awful, and that's only the second time in the last 30 or so games that I've said that. Rafer allowed a second year player to get in his head and played quite possibly his worst game in two years. I'm really begging that he puts this behind him and remembers that this isn't the streets, you don't have to buck up just because some punk challenges you. Tracy was everything he wasn't during the streak, passive, poor shooting, and bad body language. I also hope we don't see that Tracy ever again. Anyway, I'm still a little sad from the loss, but let's revisit the greatness that was the streak and focus on the good:
50 days in between losses
Still in 1st place even with the loss
1. Golden State - A game even Dave thought we'd lose, it was game 1 of the ten game streak I predicted and was fantastic, the Rockets found a way to hold the lead late and win it.
2. Indiana - Up until the Celtics game, this was the game where the Rockets were tested the most, it took some late scoring to get the streak going at the beginning
3. Milwaukee - No Micheal Redd for the Bucks and the luckiness of the streak begins
4. Minnesota - Al Jefferson had a monster game, but the Rockets weather the storm for number 4
5. Cleveland - Here is the second big game of the series, the Rockets took Lebron and company to task, blowing them out by 15
6. Atlanta - This is the game that made the Hawks fired up for the 20th win by the Rockets. There was a layup line going and Atlanta wasn't invited. A 19 point victory that wasn't anywhere near that close of a game
7. Portland - Dave and I were able to see this one live and the good guys did not disappoint. Yao had 25 and 7 and thoroughly destroyed the Trailblazers
8. Sacramento - The Rockets tried to blow this one, losing a 20 point lead and having to rely on Steve Novak for a game winner right before the All Star break. They tried to give me a heart attack, but they kept it going
9. Cleveland - On the road, versus Lebron, a lot of people thought they would lose, instead they won by 8 and hushed the Cleveland fans. For the haters all it did was create one more team that they didn't think was a good test even though they thought it was pre-game
10. Miami - Miami sucks
11. New Orleans -Yao had 28 and 14 in effectively his last real game. He was phenomenal and we really could have used him against Boston tonight. He's the best center in the game and even while the streak continued there were moments when he was greatly missed.
12. Chicago -Tracy had 24 points and 8 assists, Yao started to show he was hurt. The Bulls were simply no match in the long run for the Rockets
13. Washington - Yao is out for the season and I am sad. How would the Rockets play without him? The Wizards wish they didn't have to find out. The Rockets continued to roll with their 4th double digit victory in a row
14. Memphis - Memphis sucks
15. Denver - Admit it, with Yao out you thought the Rockets would lose this game. It's okay, just admit it. The Rockets and Shane Battier killed Denver ultimately winning by 14. It was a true team game as a different player led us in points, rebounds and assists
16. Indiana - Payback for the close game in win 2 of the streak was not pretty for the visiting Pacers, the Rockets ended it with an 18 point victory. The 16th victory in a row gave the Rockets a new team record.
17. Dallas - No Dirk? No contest. The Rockets beat Dallas in Dallas for the first time in what seems like a lifetime. Tracy led the way with 31 points and 9 assists.
18. New Orleans -Try number two for the Hornets to break the streak, and even with a super-human performance from CP3, the Rockets were too much.
19. New Jersey -Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson were so flustered that they shut it down in the early 3rd quarter. The Rockets tied the NBA record for double digit victories in a row with their 10th win and it just so happened to come against the Nets who previously owned the record
20. Atlanta - Marvin Williams can't handle being the 11th team in a row to get beat by double digits so he kills the streak with 5 seconds to go. The Rockets played terrible offense for 3.5 quarters and then put it together at the end of the game to win by 8
21. Charlotte - Emeka Okafor tried his hardest, but Tracy managed to do it mostly by himself, pouring in 30 points
22. Los Angeles Lakers - Shane holds Kobe to 11-33 shooting and the Rockets finally move from 10th to first. Great game on national television and the Rockets show they can play with the big boys.
And just in case y'all forgot, the Rockets still have a long winning streak intact: They haven't lost on the road for 12 games and here we go on a three game road swing...
What is better... being part of a team that is on a 22-game winning streak? Or receiving an individual award? (MVP, ROY, most improved, DPOY, etc.)??
This is a great article from SI.com discussing how the Streak has given the Rockets enough exposure that we might get to reap in some individual awards. T-Mac for MVP, Ricky for Coach of the Year, Scola for ROY, Battier for D-POY, Daryl Morey for Exec of the Year (hey, I already covered this!) ... and even Rafer freakin' Alston for Most Improved Player.
Two months ago, none of these guys were even in the discussion. Today? Adelman and Morey have to be serious contenders, while T-Mac, Scola and Battier will definitely finish in the top 5 of voting for the respective awards. Rafer... well, I just don't see how he could legitimately be "most improved" - he had a damn fine season in Toronto three years ago. I don't think he's "improved" on that season. But, hey, national recognition is always a good thing!
I'll take it! Though I'd still prefer we keep the Col. Jessup mindset and continue to order Code Reds on the rest of the NBA. No need for medals or awards just yet. We do like rings though.
I've constructed a pro/con list to truly gauge tonight's matchup and the viability of a potential 23 game winning streak:
Pro: The Rockets are really good.
Con: The Celtics' record (53-13) suggests they might actually be better.
Pro: The Rockets are at home tonight.
Con: Boston is 24-8 on the road, including last night's victory over the Robert Horrys.
Pro: St. Patty's Day was yesterday... no distractions!
Con: St. Patty's Day is over. :-(
Pro: Ray Allen unlikely to play tonight!
Con: Yao is not walking through that door.......
Pro: But Carl Landry just might!
Con: Boston still has that KG guy.
Pro: The Rockets still have T-Mac.
Con: The Celtics also have Paul Pierce. And Sam I Am.
Pro: The Celtics played last night... it's a back-to-back for them!
Con: It's not like KG is prone to getting tired.
Pro: The Rockets are on a 22-freakin'-game winning streak!
Con: Yeah, there's no "con" for that - we're awesome.
Pro: Rafer Alston is coming off a career high 31 point effort on National TV!!!
Con: Rafer might actually think he's good now. Uh oh.
Pro: T-Mac is unlikely to have a 4-16 game again tonight.
Con: Rafer probably will...
Pro: The Rockets are the #1 team in the Western Conference.
Con: The Celtics are the #1 team in the Eastern Conference.
Pro: The Eastern Conference sucks.
Con: Boston is 21-4 against the West.
Pro: Shane Battier is the Defensive Player of the Year.
Con: Shane can't guard KG *and* Paul Pierce. Or can he?
Pro: We have Luis Landry.
Con: Ha ha! There is no "con" here! Suck on that, Boston!
Go Rockets... 23 in a row! What a cool number for a Streak.
NOT against the NBA Rules
Not sure who created that at Clutchfans (I stole it from Hornfans.com that stole it from Clutchfans) but nice work.
This is not, repeat, not, against the NBA rules. Face guarding in this manner is legal in every way. The only way to make it illegal is to face guard from behind a player without the ball. Stop saying it's illegal mainstream media and message boarders, please just stop.
Here is the rule straight from the NBA rulebook:
m. Eye guarding (placing a hand in front of the opponent's eyes when guard-ing from the rear) a player who does not have possession of the ball is illegal and an unsportsmanlike technical shall be assessed.
So there you have it, there is no reason to point out "from the rear" if it is also illegal to do it from the front. It is not illegal, end of story.
As an add on, here is an example of journalistic integrity, Charley Rosen proving once and for all he doesn't actually read the rule books.
Relentlessly hounded by Battier, Kobe was 11-for-33 — although it must be noted that Battier face-guarded Bryant on virtually every jumper. The last time I looked at the rule book, face-guarding was illegal.
Tonight the Rockets have perhaps the largest test of the streak to date. The Boston Celtics come in to the Toyota center to take on the guys in Red and White at 8:30PM CST live on TNT. I'll spare you the suspense: Charles Barkley will assuredly say that the streak will end tonight and Kenny Smith will finally let a little Rockets bias through and pick Houston saying something along the lines of "They just keep winning, I don't know, but they just keep winning".
Boston Celtics: 53-13 (24-8 on the road) 9-1 in their last 10
Houston Rockets: 46-20 (26-9 at home) 10-0 in their last 10
What can I say about the Celtics that hasn't already been said? Oh I know, Detroit is NOT better than they are. In fact, they are 5 full games worse. I have no idea why people keep trying to say they are worse than the Pistons (or why that would be an insult even if true). They have played the game 3 times this year and Detroit won by 2 early in the season at Boston, then Boston returned the favor winning by 7 in Detroit. Only 13 days ago today the Celtics closed out the series in a blowout winning by 12 (and any double digit victory in a game with teams that good is a blowout). They took defense to a new level in that game, holding the Pistons to 11 in the fourth quarter. And let's not forget that this is basically the same Detroit team (admittedly with some good additions but still basically the same) that lost to Cleveland in the playoffs last year, so I'll believe their prowess when I see it in the playoffs.
Last night the Celtics came back from down 22 (yep, 22) to beat the Spurs in San Antonio. They actually tried to give the game away as Kevin Garnett threw the ball away with a few seconds left and Big Shot Rob had an obstructed look to win but missed. Boston is now 21-4 against the West this year, with their losses coming to Utah at home by 18 last week, and three back to back to back road losses to Denver, Phoenix and Golden State in mid February. Essentially that wraps up to "The Boston Celtics are really good", you know, in case the 53-13 thing didn't convince you. I'm guessing they are about as sick of the "They play in the East so I'm really not sure how good they are" as we are of the "The Rockets haven't played anyone in the streak so I'm not really sure how good they are". 21-4 against the West and wins over the Hornets (home and away), the Lakers, the Mavericks, the Nuggets, the Trailblazers, etc are your answers respectively. Both teams are really good and can beat any other team in the league on any given night.
What's my prediction? 23 in a row, the luck of the Irish was last night, the luck of the Rockets is nightly.
Injury Updates: Looks like Ray Allen is out and Carl Landry could finally be back
Rockets host the Boston Celtics tonight. I really hope the Celtics are hungover after last night's St. Patty's Day victory over the Spurs. Of course, in anticipation of today's game - Lee and I had a nice Q&A back and forth with the guys over at CelticsBlog. We posed a handful of questions... their answers are below. (Our answers to their questions can be found here.)
With that... take it away, Tom!
1. Given that a year ago the Celtics were openly tanking for the worst record in the league (and a shot at Oden/Durant) but this year are now competing for the best record in the NBA... how has the popular opinion about Doc Rivers changed? And how much of a badass is Kevin Garnett? (is Garnett in the same level of popularity as Tom Brady or David Ortiz?)
follow-up: Doc Rivers is still your head coach? Really?
Openly tanking...I'm offended. Answering in order, people really don't talk about Doc as much any more. Last year it was Doc this or Doc that, but this year there have really only been a few instances where Nurse, Doc's bad coach alter-ego, came out in full force and had a meaningful impact on a game. Unfortunately, the most recent instance of this was Friday night when Doc bizarrely kept Rondo and Perkins on the bench well into the fourth quarter, when it appeared to most Celtics fans that Eddie House and Big Baby just weren't getting it done against Utah. Kevin Garnett is an off-the-charts badass. He has an ability to motivate that is unreal. Players, coaches, staff and especially the fans have all raised their intensity levels this year due to KG. (See here for motivation: Intense KG) As a non-resident of Boston, I had to go out for help on your next question ranking popularity of Boston sports stars. Donoghus, one of our forums moderators had this to say: " The average Boston sports fan loves KG but I don't see him at the same level as a Brady or Ortiz. Those two are on such a high pedestal that I feel it'll take a title and clutch play by KG in the playoffs to even breath the same air as those two right now. However, his stock has risen considerably since the beginning of the year. People are taking a lot more notice of KG now."And lastly, yes Doc is still our head coach. To be fair to Danny Ainge, it would have been very hard to fire Doc after last year with what he was given and the injuries. Anyway, let's not talk about this anymore.
2. On a scale of 1-to-10, how much does Danny Ainge want to sign himself to a veteran's minimum contract and un-retire so that he can play with KG, Pierce and Ray Allen? (I say a solid "7")
If I knew of a way to do it, I'd just send you pic directly, but see image 8 from this gallery for your answer. Mr. Ainge Unfortunately, even in jeans and dress shoes Danny could probably still take Scal. But yeah, 1986/87 Danny Ainge would be fantastic on this team.
3. How do you see the Eastern Conference playoffs playing out?
I think its really all about the top four seeds. Toronto could make things interesting versus the Cavs, but I can't imagine that powers that be would let the playoffs go without LBJ making it out of the first round. The national NBA media seems to forget that the Magic are actually pretty good, and will be a tough out in the 2nd round. All that being said, I think we're destined for a Celtics / Pistons Eastern Conference Finals, which will be a war. I think the Celtics match up well, particularly Big Baby Davis who has destroyed the Pistons this year (I love BBD). In the end, I'm going with the obvious and picking the Celts to make it to the Finals.
4. Does the green jersey make Sam Cassell look more or less like E.T.?
Sam is the popular choice for E.T. look-a-likes, but don't sleep on Rajon. Especially when you see how freakishly long his fingers are. Sam I Am. Is this a good thing that both of the Celtics point guards look like an alien. I say yes. Who doesn't love E.T.? He makes inter-galactic communication devices out of speak and spells and can make your bike fly. In my book, that's awesome, and those are intangibles that don't show up in a box score. Hopefully those qualities will rub off on Sammy and Rondo.
5. With the Red Sox recently winning a championship and the Patriots finishing 18-1, how much does the city care about the Celtics right now? Are they a solid 1, 2 or 3 in the pecking order? My gut says Red Sox 1, Celtics 2 and Pats 3, but I'm not there so I have no real insight (I assume the Revolution are not even on the same radar).
Well if I were to answer this for you my answer would be 1. Celtics, 2. Giants, 3. Mets, so back to Donoghus to finish this up. As amazing as it sounds, I still get the sense that this team is flying under the radar with a bunch of people around here. You listen to WEEI or read the two major papers and a lot of the talk is still on the Pats offseason or Red Sox spring training. Mirabelli's release was getting a lot of press the other day. The guy's a backup catcher. I'm not sure if people are taking a "wait and see" approach with this team until they reach the playoffs or what but the city is NOT Celtic crazy right now. Best comparison I can make right now is that its a lot like the 2001 Patriots where people were happy they were winning during the season but weren't convinced that it was going to result in anything as dramatic as winning the title. Almost as if its a "let's see where this ride takes us, we're not quite sure what we have here" mentality. The pecking order is still 1) Red Sox 2) Patriots and 3) Celtics. Last year, fans pretty much had the C's and Bruins at the same level however the attendance illustrated that the C's were the more popular brand. This season, the Celtics have clearly pulled down the 3 spot and I happen to think that once the playoffs roll around, you'll see real excitement and attention on this team. Even if they win a title, I think it'd be hard to crack Top 2 just due to the multiple titles that the Sox & Pats have won this decade and the C's would still be viewed as the up and comer. It would take as stable and long term run of success along with some stumbles by the Sox/Pats for the Celtics to jump either of them.
Thanks again for the Q&A guys! Oh, and Go Rockets!
Monday, March 17, 2008
The incomparable J.E. Skeets over at Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie NBA blog asked the leading bloggers for playoff-bound teams in the Western Conference to provide a short synopsis of (a) what team do we want to face in the playoffs, and (b) what team(s) we'd very much be happy to avoid in round 1.
For some unexplained reason, Lee and I were selected to be the bloggin' representatives for the Houston Rockets. Surprising, I know!
Here's the link - and I strongly suggest reading Skeets and Kelly Dwyer over at BDL on an hourly basis every weekday. They are like witty and cool. What we aspire to be here.
Oh, and I hate the Utah Jazz. So very, very much.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The Rockets have won 22 games in a row. Yes, in a freakin' row. 22!!!
For all those who said the Rockets' Streak was just a fluke... that we didn't play any good teams... that we're really not that good of a team? Yeah, suck it - we just beat the Lakers. Who were the #1 team in the West until the Rockets decided today that it's our turn at the top.
So, yeah, that's 22 consecutive wins. The 2nd best Streak of all time.
And, in case anyone has forgotten - that is now TEN (10) consecutive wins since the Ming Dynasty abdicated his throne until next season.
It's like a double-double... 12 wins in a row with Yao. 10 wins in a row without Yao.
Before anyone says anything about it... yes, I saw Rafer score 31 points. And make eight (8?!?!) three-pointers. I am still in shock and in total disbelief. He'd have gone for 40 if he could make a layup!! (Hey - I can't completely be nice to Rafer - even after a career day on national TV!)
Okay, okay - Rafer killed the Lakers and gave a double-middle-finger to my season-long criticism. I admit it.
On the flip side... Rafer's career day effort was sorely needed. Tracy McGrady had a rough and I mean really rough day. Maybe not as rough as Kaz Matsui's backside... but rough nonetheless. 4-16? In a huge matchup against Kobe? 0-4 from the three-point line? 11 total points? Ouch, babe - very ouch.
But this is why the Rockets are a true team. And why this team kicks ass. When T-Mac has a bad day - it's not a problem. Rafer steps up. Or Scola steps up. Or Mike freakin' Harris steps up. Or Bobby Jackson? Bobby Jackson?!? Wow - awesome game from Bobby, by the way.
Of course, the real MVP of today was one Shane Battier. Considering he's a Duke grad and all - it should not be surprising given that today was Selection Sunday for the NCAA tournament. It's kind of a big deal at Duke I hear. As an SMU alum, I would not know. But back to Shane. The MVP of the NBA this year is Kobe Bryant. It is, just trust me. What does Kobe do with Shane guarding him? 11-for-33. Yes, that's not a typo. THIRTY-THREE shots. 33%. It's like Evil Rafer played for the Lakers today and wore #24. And in those 33 shots, Kobe only scored 24. That's a phenomenal defensive effort.
Shane Battier must have earned himself a spot on the NBA All Defensive First Team with today's effort (he already belonged, but today's performance should get him all the votes).
Kobe? pwn3d, bitch.
The Houston Rockets - #1 in the Western Conference. #1 in the Southwest Division. #1 in the hearts and minds of NBA fans and all of America. 22 and counting.
Next up? Rockets host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. We did a Q&A with the guys over at CelticsBlog. Their answers to our off-the-wall questions should be posted here sometime on Tuesday morning.
Also - for a gameday live-blog of today's Rockets/Lakers game - head on over to Hardwood Paroxysm. Matt did a bang-up job blogging Rafer's big day.
Rafer Alston just scored 31 on 8-11 shooting from the three point line (we'll pretend he didn't shoot from inside the line) and ran the offense very efficiently. I will personally take responsibility (Richard Justice style) for his domination of the Lakers as I feel he did it just to shut us up. In fact, just to keep it up and so I don't jinx him, you still suck Rafer (but I do like you, and that was a hell of a game).
The crazy thing is, I can't give Rafer the singular title of player of the game. I will give him co-player of the game though, as Shane Battier frustrated Kobe Bryant to no end. He held Kobe to 11-33 shooting and made him visibly upset on 5-6 occasions. Shane also only allowed Bryant to dish the ball off for 2 assists and made him turn it over 3 times. I love 2-3 Assists to TO ratios for the other teams star guard. He was in his grill like a dead bug on the front end of a Mack truck. I am openly campaigning for an injustice to be righted; every year Shane Battier does not make the NBA 1st team All Defensive team is a travesty of the utmost.
The game was so incredibly exciting that I can't even clearly remember all of the events. Tracy didn't score in the entire first half and it was so impressive of a game that it didn't even matter as the Rockets took a 15 point lead to half time. It happened so fast that I don't even remember exactly how it all transpired. I know there were a lot of Rafer Alston three pointers, some Bobby Jackson drives and some Shane Battier in your face defense but it's all a blur right now. Suffice to say, a lot of Laker tail was kicked in the second quarter.
The second half started with a huge Lakers run, driven mostly by poor Rockets defense and horrendous Rockets shooting. LA got within 2 in the third, but never took a lead after they lost it with 10:22 left in the 2nd quarter. That's a real testament to the Rockets defense; they bent after getting a big lead, but never broke. Kobe scored with 4:56 left in the game to get to 24 and cut the lead to 5. Then came sheriff Shane to lock him up, causing Bryant to miss 4 shots after that and turn it over once. It was all over after that shot, the Rockets got the difference up to 15 in the last few minutes and ultimately won by 12.
To anyone saying the Rockets haven't played anyone, Rafer's message to us is our message to you. Next up, the Rockets play the Boston Celtic at 8:30PM at Toyota Center? Could it be 23?
Saturday, March 15, 2008
The Rockets won their 21st game in a row on Friday night and I only was able to hear the 3rd quarter on the radio and the Rockets took off, then I had to mute it and the Bobcats came back. Then I got home and watched and they started dominating again. Basically I'm not allowed to miss a second of the Lakers game on Sunday. I don't have a lot to interject about the game that can't be summed up in the following: The Bobcats have a a lot of young guys that are good, but not great. They could be very good in a couple of years if they stick together. The Rockets are a much better team and road the young team wave for a bit before dominating the rest of the game. There, end of recap.
Next up, 2:30PM at Toyota Center tomorrow: The Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant minus Pau Gasol
So just to recap, the Rockets got New Orleans without David West, then Dallas without Dirk, and now LA without Gasol. You know how much sympathy I have for those teams? We have no Yao, so screw them. The Rockets have won regardless, so I just don't have any bad feelings about how other teams have showed up on the court. We're now tied for first place with the Lakers in the West, they own the tie breaker right now with a better record so far in conference. A win tomorrow would give the Rockets the season series 2-1 and they would own the first tie breaker and not need to get to the second.
Los Angeles Lakers: 44-20 (22-12 on the road) 7-3 in their last 10
Houston Rockets: 44-20 (25-9 at home) 10-0 in their last 10
The Lakers lost their last game to the New Orleans Hornets, beat the Raptors at home before that and lost to the Kings at home before that. They aren't playing as well as of late as they were right after the Gasol trade, but they are easily a top 3 team in the league right now. I'm not sure how badly the Gasol injury hurts them as much like Mike McDermott before Worm came along, they were winning before he got there. In a one or two game situation it could seriously interrupt their flow, but I'm not ready to say it will.
I actually can't wait for this game. The Lakers are a team that other tams have measured themselves against since the beginning of my basketball watching days (1986) and Sunday is no different. Kobe Bryant vs. Tracy McGrady is a huge match up. Or it would be if Tracy was actually going to guard Kobe. Instead the real match up for me is Shane Battier who has said that Kobe is the best player he's ever tried to guard. I say tried because Kobe torches everyone, even Shane hasn't found a way to slow Kobe down. I am hoping that is different this time around and the incredible team defense the Rockets have been playing of late can at least give him a small speed bump to go over. I also am hoping we can get back to a 40%+ shooting Rafer Alston and that we can control the clock a little better. In our last two games we took some really silly shots as a team overall early in the shot clock. We weren't using our offensive sets very efficiently and we need to get back to it.
What's my prediction? 22 in a row. Come on, have you seen the Rockets the last 21 games in a row???
That's 21 in a row. TWENTY-ONE!
In a row!
It was another trap game we survived. Barely. It was rather clear that everyone was looking ahead to Sunday. Or scoreboard watching. Or calculating "what ifs" for the standings. And that's okay - it's natural. I'm quite happy with winning 21 freakin' games in a row.
The Rockets are now in FIRST PLACE in the Western Conference. And in first place in the impossibly difficult Southwest Division (must still hold off San Antonio, New Orleans AND Dallas. Yikes.)
Also - do not attempt to dunk on Dikembe. It's a bad, bad idea.
That's the good.
The bad? Uh... am I allowed to say anything bad about Rafer? [yes, yes I am.]
You took another 19 shots? Where at least six or seven of those were wayyyyy too early in the shot clock or purely forced. Things to remember, Rafer: (a) you have teammates. Pass them the ball; and (b) you make about 50% of your layups. T-Mac, Scola and well, most everyone else makes a higher percentage. Pass them the ball.
There is no excuse for ever going 2-10 from the three point line. Ever.
That leaves us with... the ugly. And there's no good way to say this, but, why the hell was Tracy McGrady playing all of the 48 minutes?!?!? We shouldn't need him to play the full 48 just to beat Charlotte.
We need him for the next five games. Which, oh, by the way - FU NBA schedule maker! We have to play the Lakers on Sunday and then Boston, New Orleans, Phoenix AND Golden State... all in 7 days. Now T-Mac is going to be dragging ass because of pure exhaustion. This scares me. The only consolation at the moment? Well, for one - we have a 21 game winning streak. And the Lakers, Celtics, Hornets, Suns and Warriors DO NOT. Ha ha. But also - Pau Gasol, Chris Paul AND Ray Allen all got banged up last night. I'll take that.
I just need a healthy and rested T-Mac.
Who has won NINE in a row without Yao.
Go Rockets - make it 22 on Sunday!
Friday, March 14, 2008
The Rockets come back to Toyota tonight to play the Charlotte Bobcats at 7:30PM CST after working through an extremely tough game against the Atlanta Hawks. The Bobcats seem, to the unwatching eye, (since I've seen a grand total of 0 of their games this year) to be a similar team to Atlanta. Very young, very athletic. They will give the Rockets as much as they can to end this streak. As a young team it is something they can build on for the rest of the season.
Charlotte Bobcats: 24-40 (6-23 on the road) 5-5 in their last 10
Houston Rockets: 44-20 (24-9 at home) 10-0 in their last 10
Prior to a loss at Dallas on Wednesday the Bobcats had won 5 in a row including 2 of their 6 road wins on the season by an overall average of 10.2 points. Over that streak they beat Toronto (Without Bosh), Minnesota (on the road), Golden State, Atlanta and Washington (on the road). Not a world beating streak, but still, confidence can be breed by beating anyone, and a 5 game streak is a 5 game streak. Then Dallas caused them to crash back down to earth.
Here are the 4 other road wins this season: Miami by 2 (Nov 4), Boston by12??? (Jan 9), Chicago by 13 (Jan 25), and LA Clippers by 7 (Jan 28). Nothing special other than the Boston win, but that Boston win is a hell of a win if you are only going to have 6 on the season.
I'm pressed for time after writing 3,000 words on Rafer earlier today but wanted to get a quick preview up, so there it was.
Of note: It is not expected that Carl Landry will play tonight and it is up in the air if he will play Sunday. His presence or lack there of Sunday may or may not drive my prediction.
What's my prediction? 21 in a row, of at least 21 (We'll talk about the rest on Saturday or Sunday)
I've been inundated with e-mails the last day or so claiming that I'm being overly harsh to Rafer Alston. Which surprises me because I actually said something nice about him on Wednesday. All kidding aside, yes, I know I'm harsh on him. Yet it's nothing new. The tone of this blog has always been to critique and criticize if/when appropriate - and often when it isn't. Rafer has always been our whipping boy. Ever since post #1.
Every single time we've tried to be nice to Rafer or give him credit for not being mediocre - he goes and shoots 3-18. Or has 7 turnovers. Or participates in the Philly Debacle. So I can't trust the guy. Consequently, I make over-the-top posts comparing him to Towelie, or Warren Harding, or I say that he would be beat by a chick-with-a-dick (which, by the way, got me directly linked by NBA.com).
The word we are looking for is "hyperbole".
hy·per·bo·le /haɪˈpɜrbəli/ [hahy-pur-buh-lee]
1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.
2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”
Has Rafer played better lately? Yes.
Has Rafer improved on his November/December performances? Very much yes.
Is Rafer the starting point guard for a team on a 20 freakin' game winning streak?!?! Oh, hell yes!!!
Is Rafer an All-Star? No.
Is Rafer a career 40% shooter? No.
Is Rafer going to ever catch a break from the writers of this blog? Probably not.
Do I have to be nice to Rafer? Uh, no. Sorry. Not going to happen. Not even if we win 37. In a row. Which would be a record or something.