Preview & Chat: The Houston Rockets

Kurt —  March 30, 2007

Talking Spanish basketball. Got to meet and hang out with regular commenter Xavier last night, who is in town from Barcelona on spring break. The guy knows his hoops — and he’s dedicated. How many games would you watch if the only one a day was at 4 a.m.? (Granted, in Barcelona some of us would just be getting home at 4 a.m.).

Comparing Waltons. Heard an interview with Bill Raftery, the long-time college and NBA television basketball analyst this morning. The conversation had drifted to Bill Walton and Raftery said something interesting (and I paraphrase here): “Luke’s game is just like his father’s but facing the basket. They both see the court and make passes the same way.”

Scouting The Rockets. I watched the streaking Rockets take on the Clippers the other night, and made a few notes on how they may attack the Lakers.

Two plays they run could be big trouble. The first is they bring Yao Ming out to the three-point line straight away, then run the pick-and-roll with him and McGrady. The other guys on the floor try to space out so that if McGrady kicks out Rafer Alston or Shane Battier can drain the three. Houston only ran it a handful of times against the Clips because it was defended pretty well, but history suggests the Lakers will not play it as well.

The other play they like to run is just posting up Yao on the low block. Because he is so hard to stop one-on-one the double usually comes, and when it does Yao shows he’s also a good passer out of the post. Cutters come to the basket and other players space out for the three. The Lakers need Kwame back for this tonight, his strength can root Yao out of the block a little (he shoots 55% right around the basket but force him five feet out and that falls to 47%).

Other plays include the “Afflalo play” where they run McGrady off a couple screens along the baseline, then he curls up to the wing and gets the ball, ideally with enough room created for him to have options, If the Lakers don’t make smart switches here, well, McGrady will have options and that’s not good.

The Rockets second unit will run the pick and roll as well, with Head and Howard, and they run it well. Also, when Yao goes out Battier took on more of the offense against the Clippers.

Then there’s the defense.
Rather than explain it myself, I’ll let the always-insightful Kevin from Clipperblog do so (from his post game thoughts on their loss to the Rockets):

All three members of Houston’s frontcourt — Battier, Hayes, and Yao — are probably among the 15-20 best defensive players in the league. Not surprisingly, their halfcourt defense is ferocious. You saw it all night, particularly in the latter half of the third quarter, when the Clippers could get absolutely nothing, scoring all of four points in the final 7:40 of the period.

Things To Look For: I think we’re going to see how the Lakers look against a team playing well (8-2 in the last 10) gearing up for the playoffs tonight. The question is whether the Jekyll or Hyde Lakers show up. I expect a big effort, but then I expected to beat Memphis. You never know what you’ll get from the Lakers night to night.

Say a little prayer that Steve Javie isn’t one of the refs tonight.

The Clippers had success going right at Yao to get him in foul trouble. They had Brand in a good spot and when Yao came over to help on the drive Brand went right into his chest to draw the foul. Maggette did the same thing. Kobe and Odom can do that, and less Yao is good. Of course, Dikembe did pretty well against the Lakers last meeting.

Houston is not scoring a lot — Yao is shooting just 47% in the last 10, McGrady just 43.2% (eFG%). The thing is, with their defense that is good enough. The Lakers need a big offensive night as a team — and to play defense as a team — to get the win tonight.

Kurt

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28 responses to Preview & Chat: The Houston Rockets

  1. Good read via truehoop:

    http://www.insidesocal.com/lakers/2007/03/thursday_report_8.html

    I just don’t see how the lakers would pull it off, especially since the knicks aren’t available to dump contracts onto anymore.

  2. Some movement and activity on offense is what I’ll be watching for tonight… that and a clue how to defend the p&r…

  3. Next season it would be difficult to pull in an All-Star to the Lakers. For that to work a trade has to be made. Teams involved in trade talks with the Lakers are probably going to demand Bynum. I doubt that Buss and Kupchak will give him up. (And they shouldn’t.)

    In a couple of seasons is when it would most likely happen. As the article points out, there are currently only 3 Lakers under contract for the 2009-10 season: Kobe, Vlade and Cook. One hopes that some combination of Lamar, Luke, Kwame and Andrew would be added to that list by then. But it does seem that the Lakers should have a lot of flexibility soon.

    Insert KG speculation here.

  4. http://www.nba.com/fantasy/features/ltf_070330.html
    ” Kobe isn’t even the best player in the game today.

    That title (and the belt that goes along with winning THE title) belongs to Dwyane Wade, who is getting healthier and stronger and more determined every day. (Yeah Wade! Repeat after me: Miami in June…Miami in June…Miami in June…and pass it on…) ”

    It’s funny how all these analysts judge Kobe’s decision making, his defense, etc. but completely ignore Wade’s flaws.

    You suck Rick.

  5. Lakers must be careful. While they are a top-draw franchise, the debacle of not landing Amare or Yao (or any 2002 stud FA) still sits in my mind. NBA GM’s cannot make any guarantees, right Carlos Boozer???

    What top flight free agents might be available in the next 2 years??? Chris Paul – would he screw the city of New Orleans over and leave after his rookie contract? Chauncey will be pricey as well and seems loyal to Detroit. Jose Calderon would be very interesting to Laker fans, as would Deron Williams (A cool kid like Deron wants to stay in Utah?). But in the realistic world, we’d be lucky to even scratch the surface in landing any of these PG’s.

    I am curious to see where the Lakers go these next 2 years and how much $$$ will Buss spend before Kobe’s prime is over.

  6. Just found out my boss is totally at this game. 3 rows back of the bench. Let’s hope the Lakers win for one more reason, now! Don’t want to deal with him this weekend after a bad Laker loss.

    Amazing how basketball transcends our livelihoods, eh?

  7. I did not hear the Jim Buss interview, but I think there is some interesting stuff worth discussing there. It may be a tad dated, but I will likely make a post of it on Monday,

    Did anyone here it? Is the audio available. Siler does a nice job but more info is always good.

  8. 8 pts down as we head into the 4th…V need u,selfish Kobe

  9. we’re done

  10. Im as big a Laker fan as you’re going to find, but the Rockets are showing how important DEFENSE is to winning. Something like 90% of basketball stats focus on offense, and the few that account for defense are pretty obtuse. Yet, DEFENSE is, literally, half the game. 50% of basketball is playing DEFENSE. If you suck at this you aren’t winning jack: see; the Pheonix Suns.

    My point is that the Lakers need to improve their defense if they want to win a championship. They aren’t winning it this year, obviously. Houston plays defense, which means that when their offense isn’t working quite right, they can still win. When the Lakers offense isn’t working quite right, well … you saw what happened when they played Memphis.

    I could very well be wrong with this, but it seems like the coaching staff thinks that improving the D involves better coaching. I think it involves getting better defensive players.

    Would I be unhappy seeing Mbah-a-Moute and/or Darren Collison on the Lakers roster next season – no. Do I care that that would mean that that the Lakers have 3 UCLA players – no. It just so happen’s that Collison and Mbah A Moute play tenacious defense and have the atheletecism to thrive in the NBA. Collison is a perfect fit for all the shorter, ultra-fast guards in the league – he’s very quick, his legth makes up for his hight, and he’s the best on-ball defender at the collegiate level as a sophomore. Mbah A Moute can play four positions and that versatility is hugely valuable in the league today, he might not be “Artest w/o the crazy’ but he’s close. Can you imagine Bynum-Turiaf-MbahAMoute-Bryant-Collison lineup? Who’s scoring against them?

  11. wow, what CAN’T Kobe do?

  12. My bad…:)

  13. The Lakers just can’t finish games.

  14. ugggggg…..
    I had a post started with 4 min left, something about a horible looking triangle offense, and too much Yao.

    Then Kobe lit on fire, and it continued into OT. And then he flops on the pick into Tmac??? what what that all about? at least the travel was a good call.

    that just sucked all around. why can’t we ever close out a game?

    UPS looked really good though… that was a bright spot, before the fireworks, and even after the meltdown.

  15. Kobe nearly shot the Lakers out of the game, then shot them back in the game. And how! His luck turned against him at the end of overtime, though.

    Loved Lamar’s effort tonight, especially all the “floor time”. He was practically a stunt man, hitting the hardwood numerous times on his way to another double-double. It seems like his shoulder injury has given him a focus even greater than he had at the beginning of the season. Maybe instead of subconsciously trying to avoid injury, he’s got more of a “nothing left to lose” attitude right now.

    Solid games by Kwame, Ronny, and Luke too.

  16. If the Lakers played that hard every night they likely would have won 50 games, even with all the injuries.

  17. 10. I’ll disagree with you in a couple of spots.

    First, at the NBA level I think defense is 70% about effort. By the time a guy makes to the NBA he has the athletic skills to play decent defense if he puts his mind to it. The Lakers play poor defense largely because they don’t put their mind to it — to use the easy example Smush has the physical skills to be a good defender, he is quick and long, but he doesn’t put out the effort to stay in front of his man every trip down, rather he goes for the steal every time down.

    Another example, the UCLA team you apparently like a lot. Collison is going to be an NBA point guard, but I don’t think Luc Richard is going to stick for long. And look at the rest of those guys — Mata is not an NBA guy, Afflalo is not terribly athletic (but makes up for that with effort) and Ship, Roll and the others are not the end all be all as defensive players. However, UCLA is great defensively because of effort and system. That system is better as a whole then the sum of its parts. The Lakers are the opposite.

    And I like Collison, but he is a poor triangle fit. Luc Richard, as I said, is a borderline NBA guy. He needs post moves (he gets his points off hustle and put backs, that only goes so far at the NBA level) and to get the explosiveness back he had last season.

  18. That 3 point play was a killer, my god.

    If only Lamar would have hit that free throw! 5 point game and a different approach on both ends of the floor.

    Kobe just has WAY too much pressure on him to save the day, everyday. It’s too much for any human being what he is doing right now. We need a crunch-time shooter, a Robert Horry type player. Lamar and Luke aren’t those guys. Smush is a late-game defensive liability. Kwame and Andrew are pure post players. There is no one else that Kobe and Phil can rely on to hit the big shot except for….well Kobe. No pure clutch shooters.

    Jordan had Kerr, Paxson, Armstrong, Pippen, & Kukoc to hit big shots, and they were all solid shooters. Magic had Byron, Cooper, Worthy, and others. Bird had Ainge, DJ, and a bunch of other great shooters.

    I believe the idea was that Cook and Radman would fit this bill. But those 2 have many issues as well that enhance the Lakers problems in the first place. We have hit a big bump in the road here. Every game is close for this team, it seems. We have not played a solid 48 minutes of basketball in over a month, or since we played Utah.

    I am officially worried going into the last 10 games. Big ups to Kwame and his defense on Yao, though.

  19. Two superstars, defense, and a game plan defeated Kobe, team effort, and playground. It leaves the heart throbbing and the mind hurting with questions unanswered.

  20. 43 minutes, 11-18 FG, 17-21 FT, 11 boards 4 Blocks, 5 TO, 5 PF, 39 Points.

    Unless he put all of that up in the 5 minutes Bynum played, I don’t see how Kwame played “great” defense on Yao.

  21. #20, Kwame did play some great defense on Yao. Only problem was, he did it for less than a quarter, and it was all at the end of the game. I’d say, his defense late in the 4th was nearly as important to us in getting the 95-95 as Kobe’s scoring was. He was excellent for that late period of time; just would have wanted to see more of that, and earlier. If he could bring that for the bulk of a game, he’d be a beast.

  22. Every game is close for this team, it seems.

    Believe me, you’re not the only one who has noticed.

    1 out of every 7.2 Lakers games goes into OT. They seem somehow to be exactly as skilled as both the Grizzlies and the Rockets. Nothing at all suspicious about any of that.

  23. You mean the Lakers are inconsistent? Thanks Captain Obvious I was wondering when you would save the day..

  24. No, he means it’s all part of an elaborate NBA conspiracy to keep the beloved Lakers as the mighty 6th seed in the West.

    You know, because calls never go against LA.

  25. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say that the suspensions were to motivate Kobe’s streak.

    But I’m not, so I’m not angry at the world. :(

  26. ..everyone knows the best way to hand a team the game is to call traveling on them on their last possession…

  27. Everyone catch the 97 point performance by Kobe?

  28. chris henderson April 1, 2007 at 10:17 am

    #27- kudos for the 1st April Fool’s joke of the day!