Preview and Chat: The Houston Rockets

Darius Soriano —  November 18, 2012 — 89 Comments

Records: Lakers 4-5 (T 9th in the West), Rockets 4-5 (T 9th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 106.6 (9th in the NBA), Rockets 104.2 (13th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.9 (12th in the NBA), Rockets 103.6 (16th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Darius Morris, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Rockets: Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, Omer Asik
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Nash (out), Steve Blake (doubtful); Rockets: Royce White (out), Carlos Delfino (questionable)

The Lakers Coming in: Will the Lakers see Mike D’Antoni on their sideline tonight? That’s the plan, but word from practice says it’s still only a 50/50 proposition:

Even if D’Antoni doesn’t “coach” the hope is that the Lakers can continue to build on their offensive performance from Friday’s win over the Suns. In that contest the Lakers turned up their tempo, ran some good P&R actions in the half court, and played a lot of weak side basketball that enabled their wing and post players to operate in space off the dribble. These are principles that play to the talents of the Lakers’ roster (especially those of Kobe and Dwight Howard) and should allow them to play a lot of one on one basketball while also making their reads on passes very easy should help come.

UPDATE: Mike D’Antoni will not coach tonight so we get a second weekend at Bernie’s. Reports state that Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti convinced D’Antoni to sit this one out. It’s looking like Tuesday or Wednesday may be when we see Mike D.

The Rockets Coming in: If it weren’t for the Lakers and the news they’ve made to begin this season, the biggest story of this young campaign would have to be the Rockets trade for James Harden. In acquiring Harden the Rockets got the franchise player they’ve sought for so many years and got him while his career is still ascending. Harden has rewarded the Rockets with several huge scoring outbursts while carrying the load offensively. His efficiency isn’t quite what it was in OKC, but considering his usage has been kicked up several notches that’s somewhat expected.

Harden joins several other signings that make the Rockets a nearly entirely new team. Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik were key free agent signings, effectively replacing Goran Dragic and Luis Scola from last year’s team. Lin hasn’t quite recaptured the magic he showed in New York (his shooting numbers are way down) but he’s proven to be a nice compliment to Harden as a ball handler, off the ball worker, and secondary pick and roll threat. As for Asik, he’s brought high level defense with him from Chicago and a better offensive game (especially as a roll man in the P&R) than he showed with the Bulls.

All in all, the new additions have given the Rockets a nice boost even though they’re still a fringe playoff team at best. The Rockets have a fair amount of young talent (besides the trio mentioned, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson are nice players) but with youth comes inexperience and that will translate to lots of ups and downs. Still, the future looks bright in Houston, especially if some of their other young players can even find a niche in the lineup under Kevin McHale (who has an aversion to playing rookies).

Keys to game: From the standpoint of individual match ups, this game offers a few good ones.

First off, there’s Kobe vs. James Harden. There’s a bit of a budding rivalry here and with both boasting explosive scoring numbers, don’t be surprised to see both go off for a nice number tonight. However, I also wouldn’t be surprised if neither spend a lot of time guarding the other as Ron typically takes the other team’s best wing scorer and Chandler Parsons did a good job of guarding Kobe last season. Even if that’s the case, though, it will be fun to see the West’s two best shooting guards (no disrespect to Manu Ginobili) square off tonight.

The other match up I’m really looking forward to is Dwight Howard vs. Omer Asik. The former Bull is one of the best defensive big men in the league, performing well in all aspects of paint protection be it straight up post play or hedging/recovering in the P&R. Dwight will have his hands full in trying to score down low against Asik and would do well to try and beat him early in possessions via quick duck-ins rather than banging on him from 15 feet and out to try and establish the post.

Taking a more team centric view, the Lakers’ offense needs to work in the creases of a Rocket defense that tends to hunt steals (10th in the league) and can be taken advantage of when they gamble too much. Ball and player movement are essential against this type of D, so the Lakers need to pass, screen, and cut with purpose to keep defenders occupied and not just playing the passing lanes.

I’d also expect to see some more post up actions for Ron and Pau should the match ups hold with Parsons on Kobe and Asik on Dwight. Sure, the Lakers can run P&R’s and that will create the type of movement the team needs but after that initial action I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pau and Ron sneak into the post from the weak side and try to get the type of position that can lead to good shots.

Defensively, the Lakers must be ready to play the P&R as they’ll see a steady diet of it tonight. Both Harden and Lin rely on this action a great deal to try and get into the paint and create shots at the rim or earn trips to the foul line. Harden is especially adept at showing defenders the ball and encouraging them to reach in, only to take the ball away and swing through the contact to earn a whistle. Defenders must show discipline on his drives by keeping their hands high and contesting at the top of his release rather than swiping at the ball when it’s low.

When defending the P&R, the Lakers must also be aware of what’s happening off the ball. The Rockets love to set up a weak side screen action where the wing operating away from the ball drifts off a back pick to spot up for a three point shot after the D gets sucked in watching the ball on the strong side. Harden (especially) and Lin can both throw a skip pass over the top to Parsons and Delfino who will spot up away from the ball and just wait for that looping pass to fall into their hands where they’re ready to fire an open jumper. Rotations must be sharp and guys mustn’t get caught watching the ball to the point that they’re easily picked off and giving up jumpers (I’m looking at you, Kobe).

Their are two other keys to watch tonight. First is the tempo of the game. The Rockets play at the 7th fastest pace in the league and will use their wave of young legs to push the ball at every opportunity. The Lakers must be aware of this by keeping a balanced floor on offense and run back quickly to deny easy shots. The Lakers also want to run so tonight could quickly become a track meet so stamina (especially for the older Lakers) is something to keep an eye on.

Second, is the offensive rebounding of both sides. The Lakers must still play to their strengths by crashing their O-glass but must be careful not to have too many players chasing the ball rather than getting back. The Rockets will give up some O-boards, but when they do clean their glass they want to run so the Lakers need to balance their pursuit of second chance points with giving up easy shots going the other way. The Lakers must also protect their own defensive glass as the Rockets are 7th in offensive rebounding rate and must be boxed out. This is especially key when the Lakers’ bigs help on penetration. Wings need to help the helpers and sink to the paint to rebound.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start on TWC Sports Net. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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89 responses to Preview and Chat: The Houston Rockets

  1. No D’Antoni today folks but I guess we’re gonna run fast pace offense now…

  2. Harden vs Metta will be interesting. Metta tends to have poor Sunday’s after his Saturday nights. No more elbow gate please. Need a full game from Pau tonight. Like to see more minutes for Hill who is our bench these days.

    Close game tonight expect 3 points either way. Be great to get to .500 after embarrassing start. Watching LO last night and seeing that Andrew might not be up and running until after Xmas makes Mitch look very smart right now. Throw in Fisher for Hill and it’s brilliant.

  3. Eagle, CO Spread Offense November 18, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    shout out to andrew bynum, bowling.

  4. 210 pts over/under?

  5. Under. Good D for Houston at SG and center.

  6. any links for tonight’s game? I’m still in India til end of Nov.

  7. Kobe Alert: KB moved into 34th on the all time games list and needs 3 more to tie Derek Fisher. He needs 284 points more for 30K (chasing Wilt for 4th). Kobes is currently tied for 5th all time, with Oscar for most career 3 point games (387). He is also right behind Oscar in career FT’s, FTA’s, and minutes. When you are trying to move by guys who go by one name – you must be good !!

  8. Bernie gets a chance to push his record to.800 tonight. coulda been rambis but he couldnt kept his mouth shut.

    Rick Bucher – twitter Source: D’Antoni considered adding Kurt Rambis to his staff as an olive branch to LAL fans salty about Phil
    That was before Rambis torched D’Antoni in his role as an ESPN analyst for not developing bigs or essentially being the right guy to bolster LAL’s defense. D’Antoni is a nice guy, but I don’t know if he’s nice enough to ignore all that. about 15 hours ago

    A lot of other coaches ripped the mb firing – but they either offered support and approved of the D’antoni hiring or at least kept thelr mouth shut. Unhappy w PJ not getting hired- fine. But the Magic Johnson/foot in mouth disease just cost him a job.

    Mike D is out – mobility or lack thereof is the issue. Def should be a fun game to watch!!

  9. @chris, try or

  10. WWL: Over

    I’d be very surprised if Ron goes 5-10 from 3 tonight because Parsons plays good defense. He’s got to hit the outside shot to open up the floor tonight. Good test for Dwight Asik is a great defender and rebounder. Interested to see who controls the paint. Possible trap game Houston always plays the Lakers well.

    The perimeter matchup is key. Lin-Harden-Parsons can each take their man off the dribble. Have to stay in front of those guys to keep Dwight out of foul trouble.

  11. Gasol is seriously the weakest point in our starting lineup on defence for us, he consistently fails to rotate and box out. Just a complete lack of effort.

  12. @Joe Agreed. But it’s not as if Gasol cannot play good defense. He has the ability to be an above average defensive player – definitely need more effort overall on defense.

  13. Wonder what Mike Brown is doing tonight.

  14. Quite a quarter from Kobe. I know I mentioned Oscar, but I wasn’t expecting this.

  15. Metta with the touchdown pass to Pau…. TRADE THEM NOW!

    Sigh… 😐

  16. Kobes going for a triple double?

  17. Under Mike Brown te Lakers struggled to score 40 points a half!!!

    For those tat said the Lakers couldn’t pay D’Antoni’s high octane offense: I offer you Exhibit A.

    Small sample size but I havn’t been this entertained by a Lakers offense since Kobe’s 81.

  18. LOL Ko, that’s funny.

    Welcome to the Lakers’ offensive showcase. 5 points in last 5 seconds and 40 overall in the first quarter.

  19. What a great first quarter by the Lakers: 17-23 Fgs 5-7 Fts 40 points, 2 turnovers

    Offensive efficiency: Lakers 153.8 Rockets 103.8

  20. !!

    Lakers score 40 in the first qtr.

  21. Jamison at SF again. When is this madness going to stop?

  22. Bikerstaff just had the same reaction I did, how in the $&@?$! did half our team not make it past half court on that last bucket.

  23. Anyone know when Ebanks will be available again? I’m so sick of seeing Jamison play out of position at the 3. I would much rather see Jamison playing the 4 next to Dwight.

  24. Geez, we’re allowing them to shoot over 50%!!

    But we’re shooting 72%… so… I guess it doesn’t matter.

    72%… 18-25… holy cow.

  25. Incredible work by Kobe in the first Q. 11points, 7 rebounds, 5 assist, 1 TO… just awesome work…

  26. Annnnd just like that an 8-2 run against the bench in a minute and a half has negated the 1st. Just awful. Get Delonte already

  27. I hate watching this Harden flopping BS.

  28. Great dunk, was an offensive foul, but great dunk.

  29. Joe: If it is “entertainment” you want – then yes – that case is open and shut.

    Some of us have loftier goals : ) And that jury is out.

  30. I agree with you 100% Robert. This is fun as heck to watch, but how do we stop a team like OKC, Miami, etc… when we don’t play defense? Can you imagine Kobe in this offense when he was younger!?

  31. Robert

    Remember this is without our number one and two PG. We went from a top 15 team to a top 5 by just getting rid of Brown.

    Be happy or a will send you tapes of the first 5 games.

  32. Miami is a legit concern if our D, doesn’t improve as I don’t think we will be able to score at will agains them. Going to need to get multiple stops in stretches. OKC is not exactly a defensive stalwart so I think we could just outscore them.

  33. Lakers shooting 67% fg and 66% from 3. Only up 7.

  34. I seriously cannot watch Pau play ‘D’ anymore, terrible!

  35. Kevin_ Hits the nail on the head with that simple statement.

  36. Joe: we don’t care about defense we have showtime back. And it’s not like Pau gave up 60 points himself this half and 57 last game’s 1st half. Let’s place blame on team defense not just Pau or Dwight.

  37. Good news – scored 68 in a half without Steve Nash
    Bad news – gave up 60 in a half without Steve Nash

  38. Looks like D’Antoni has nowhere to go but up with this defense.

    Speaking of defense, it now looks like Mike Brown did a great job on preventing easy buckets. Too bad it was against his own team!

  39. Kobe triple double watch 11 points, 9 dimes and 7 rebounds.

  40. In defense of Pau’s defense (excluding this game), an article in SS&R makes a point about Pau’s defense.

    “A final note, take a look at Pau’s defensive chart. His post defense is ranked #1 in the league, allowing just .54 points per possession. While he does take plenty of heat for being problematic on the defensive side of the ball, when he’s focused solely on the post he remains an elite defender.”

  41. Not too worried about defense if we got offense this potent.

    That is, if Dwight ever recovers and if we can get our players to focus on key possessions. We still got length and with adequate coaching, we can easily disrupt key half court inbounds plays… question is whether we can keep it close enough for that, but our offense will likely make sure that we’re in it.

  42. Remember that the Lakers were 23rd in the NBA in DRTG in the five games with Brown. They are 12th as of today.

    As to tonight, D’Antoni defenses tend to look worse than they are due to the pace. And, as I said in preseason, the Lakers simply do not have great defensive personnel, other than Howard. Kobe and Metta are not close to what they used to be on D; happens with age.

  43. Playing @ this new pace, it’ll be interesting to see how we look on the second end of a back 2 back with so much energy being excerted (@ least offensively).

  44. Hard to believe they T’ed up Ron for that. But then again, it isn’t. Unbelievable, he clearly apologized to Lin.

  45. Congratulations to Pau Gasol on 15,000 career points.

  46. 19 assists and 6 turnovers so far. I must say this looks like a team and can tell learning such a difficult offense was bearing.

    harold: that could be the case. Offense is totally dominant right now.

  47. Congrats to Pau for 15,000 points….

  48. You know it’s goin’ good when MWP is making shots like that. Crazy.

  49. This Kobe guy is pretty good…

  50. Kobe Bryant with the 3 point play. Foot was on the line.

  51. Finally Kobe gets some RESPECT from the refs.

  52. It seems like they could get D12 back involved a little bit on the offensive end, but MWP and Morris have really stepped up tonight

  53. WOW. Howard with the block, runs down the court and gets reward with the ball and slams it home.

  54. Its so nice to have a center that dunks.

  55. Kobe gets his triple double.

  56. Can you imagine how good this offence will be with Nash…scary.

  57. Robert, when was the last time Mamba got a triple double?

  58. This team’s looking gooood tonight… And yes, that’s Pau included. Can’t wait to see Nash in the mix.

  59. Listening to Mychal Thompson and he doesn’t get why the starters are still in the game. I feel the same way.

  60. When Nash is back, we know he is the starting guard. When Blake is back, he better watch over his shoulder as Morris has really shown that he can play. His D has been particularly decent. D’Antoni thinks highly of Blake though, said he tried to get him previously as he thought he was perfect for his offence.

  61. Damn – you gotta wonder what Mike Brown woulda done with the 1987 Lakers

  62. They;re giving the starters a little extra run to get into Mike Dantoni game shape and continue to build a little chemistry. All the questions about Pau being slow/lethargic – i think he’s suffering a bit of olympic hangover – he’s in shape but looks a step slow.

  63. jack-in-the-box was behind the d’antoni hiring.

  64. I love that Metta was nowhere near leading the team in shot attempts. Great offensive performance Lakeshow!

  65. Best moves in Laker history

    Kareem from Bucks
    Kobe trade and draft
    Shaq from Orlando
    Fire Mike Brown

  66. Pretty impressive wins here without Steve Nash. Wow, Brown was indeed just a horrible coach. 1-4, (1-12 including preseason) and now 4-1 without him and that one loss being a very close game to a great team.

  67. This is great seeing the new showtime lakers. Their offense is incredible to watch. As for defense, as long you can outscore the opponent, thats okay.

  68. Sacre’s cheers are hilarious. If u watch the lakers highlights he’s the only one up on every single play with guns blazing. I can’t decide he should be allowed to be paid to have this much fun or if he deserves it because he’s having so much fun.

  69. nice win for Lakers, a triple double for Black Mamba..we are back at .500.. Lakers getting it back in the hunt slowly and pretty good. Now coach Bernie is .800 winning percentage now as an “interim head coach” could be hands down as the most highest percentage coaching job in the history of Lakers.Wow!

  70. You have to believe that the players, while saying all the right things, really wanted Brown out and didn’t give their best effort. Else it’s difficult to explain the difference in performance.

    It will get really, really interesting once our guys click and find their health. If we could win it all, think of all the storylines: Dwight redemption, Nash and D’Antoni getting their dues (although Nash personally got his with two MVPs), Kobe winning one without Phil (and Fisher) and establishing himself as the best player of our generation (a field including Shaq/Tim Duncan)…

    Oops, got too far ahead after winning against the newly minted Rockets, but it is so much more exciting than it was with Brown.

  71. we are back in the playoffs hunt! for the first time this season..we are at no.8 spot..yeah! nice to see that good thing for the Lakers rough start..good job lakers! way to go!!1

  72. Nice win. Some of the issues on D could be sorted with some boxing out on rebounds. Too much broken play where LA fails to recover to a man.

    But man, that was fun to watch. And Morris & Duhon are both playing above my expectations (fears!).

  73. LOL! I laughed at KO’s last line comment. Back to winning ways…

  74. Lakers had 23 fast break points tonight, not sure they had that many last year. Seriously was Mike Brown really holding them back that bad on offence?

  75. darius morris should be our primary backup. steve blake always come back from injury and plays horrible. its not like blake was playing good before.

  76. Things that stand out

    – FGA 85 for 54.1%. 9-20 from 3
    – 7 turnovers thru 3 quarters and only 13 for the game
    – Metta w 8 shots is perfect, 8-10 is a good number for him – more than that and he’s chucking.
    – bench provided 25 points and great energy
    – point guard play w the Steves out has been good, both duhon and Morris played well w low
    turnovers and both hit shots (4 3’s)
    – lackidasical defense after made baskets, Lakers got burned more than a couple times. this wasn’t an issue in Phoenix as players understood they had to get back and in fact that was the point of scoring quickly so that it gave the Suns (who were a small team) a chance to get set. Very lazy team effort in that regard. you can live with teams beating you in transition in this offense or off turnovers, but the easy scores of made baskets were way to easy
    – big’s slipping picks often and too early instead of waiting until they actually made contact and sealed their guy and then rolled, congestion more than a couple times.

    Aside from that you have to start getting pretty nit picky – Kobe was great as a distributor in this system, only prob with him playing steve nash role is that when the shot clock hits 8-9 secs Nash is still looking for a open shot for other players, where as kobe starts to revert to iso/hero mode a little.

    off looked good – little disorgainzed at times but flowing at least – d needs effort. We won’t have a real idea of how good this team is until Fri when they play the Grizzlies.

  77. Could the Lakers have traded Drew at a better time? Not only is Howard developing into the beast we all knew he could be, but Drew is now out in Philly being Drew. People are bemoaning the fact he went bowling while still rehabbing one knee, but if either knee can’t take bowling…seriously how much longer does this guy have in the league?

  78. The Steve’s injuries are a blessing in disguise w the weak schedule this week. the extra playing time is allowing one of the backups to get some serious burn and they’re playing themselves into legit trade bait – though Morris is a young change of pace pg that would be nice to have and the money on Duhons contract makes him a little harder to move (plus he played great in D”antoni’s system under him in NY and Mike D likes him). once blake comes back and gets accustomed to everything (and if him and Meeks are consistent from outside – look for him to spend sometime at backup 2 guard and the lakers spreading the flr w darius or duhon, blake at the 2, and meeks at the 3 w some combo of Howard/Pau/Hill up front. D”antoni did this lots w Nash, Bell, Barbosa.

  79. The good is obviously this Lakers team is certainly playing better, they are having more fun and are starting to believe in themselves a little. Now, these last two wins were at home against two not very good teams, but still impressive wins without Nash. I agree we won’t really know where this team is until they play more top competition. You can use this outscoring the opponent method against weaker teams and win, but against stronger teams the Lakers will need to play better defense. I will say this, if the Lakers can start getting consistent production from Metta, along with at least two other bench players, this Lakers team would be a nightmare for the rest of the league.

  80. D’Anotni already gave Blake the vote of confidence but it sure would be nice to see Morris get backup pg minutes. We finally see some upside and he’s improved each and every game. We know what Blake brings hope we can see Morris continue to improve.

    All season long the shots have been distributed evenly and no offense is being forced. Kobe, Melo and Durant are playing kind of different than in years past. I would say seeing LeBron dominate the way he does as an all around player opened Durant’s eyes. And showed Kobe another way he can be extremely effective. Kobe has been adamant his way wins rings but watching LeBron showed him another way to glory.

    Can’t believe Mike brown was really holding the team back offensively. But something about D’Anotoni’s offense instills confidence in players because he gives everybody the green light. And it’s really a simple concept. I always expected the offense to overwhelm teams. Can’t really judge the defense fully until they play tough games against playoff teams.

  81. Howard is starting to look real sharp. Most consistent tenacity/energy we’ve seen from him all year, and his numbers bear that out.

    I don’t get why everyone is dumping on Pau’s defense. He’s a center playing out of position often, guarding PFs in a small ball league. He had a few miscues tonight, but so did Dwight. I think both he and Howard need to box out a little better, but its a team effort. The bigs duos don’t seem to be completely coordinated on D yet. Once they’re on the same page, Pau will look a lot better all of a sudden.

  82. i really do think the olympic play has caught up w Pau – between world championships, qualifiers euro championships etc…plus extended playoff runs w Lakers he just looks run down a little. He’s obviously very effective in this offense as people are starting to see (post to post lobs – lots of open mid range shots) – he just looks like he needs some time to get acclimated and back into the grind of the NBA. Hill is playing great though – so provided Hill stays healty – both Howard and Pau will be getting a little more breathing room to ease back into things

  83. After two long hard years of intense suffering, order seems to be getting restored in the Laker Empire!

  84. What a turn around from 1-4 with all of us whining every game, now it all smooth sailing at 4-1 and Lakers finally get to .500. Morris and Duhon became the go-to-guys, did we expect this to happen two weeks ago? Nooo, they will continue the turnover derby so it must have been the great coaching of Bernie B. as prelude to Mike D’Antoni. Next assignment with by the Nets and then the road games. If Lakers handle these challenges the way they paced themselves in the lat five games, we got a contender.

    One thing noticeable also, there are more posters coming to this site with sunshine posts than ever. Why would a Laker fan deal on negatives when they are winning?

  85. Kobe has a PER of 27.2 right now. This is statistically the best season he has had since 2006.

    Just crazy.

  86. Love Morris’ effort on D, but still has a ways to go. Many mistakes, several lucky breaks off pure chaos. Blake will backup Nash, and he’s got a good chance to excel.

  87. If DHoward is only at 80% and putting up numbers like he is right now… then the league better watch out once he gets to 100%.

    On other news, Bynum needs someone to sit him down and talk some sense into him. Who the hell goes bowling while rehabbing a knee??? Hell, why the does he do anything but rehab his knee? There’s a lack of focus there that is unbelievable.

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