The Rockets gave the Warriors a good run Thursday night, but things fell apart in the fourth quarter as Golden State, powered by Klay Thompson, pulled away for a 124-114 win.
I didn’t expect the Rockets to win this game, so their play exceeded my expectations. I don’t think the Rockets can beat the Warriors without James Harden yet they gave themselves a decent shot to do that. Sure, Golden State was without Kevin Durant, but as great as he is, he doesn’t have the same impact there that Harden does here. The Warriors are loaded, experienced and very familiar with each other, with or without KD.
I saw a lot of positive in this game.
Chris Paul was brilliant, dropping in 29 points, nine assists and seven boards — and all but murdering his former teammate David West.
Former Hornet on Former Hornet crime right here. Chris Paul with no love for those NO days with David Westpic.twitter.com/VWbzAZnrI6
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) January 5, 2018
Eric Gordon looked like a hairless Harden out there, attacking the basket over and over and making things happen for his teammates. He didn’t shoot the ball well from deep but still dropped in 30 and added seven assists.
And Gerald Green… I mean what else is there to say? Bill Worrell said Gerald had the “Green Light” and may have inadvertently coined his nickname here. He launched 15 three-pointers, making eight of them in scoring 29 points off the bench. The Rockets have found a rotation piece here, quite possibly even when everyone is healthy. Obviously they recognize this as they now plan to guarantee his contract for the rest of the season.
He’s going to crash back to Earth as far as those unsustainable shooting numbers (21-37 from three for 56.8% since becoming a Rocket), but you’ve got to love what he’s doing right now.
As far as the other side of the coin, there are clearly problems.
The Rockets defense has been just abysmal for some time, now coughing up 113.5 points per 100 possessions in their last eight games. I’ll wait until everyone is healthy before cranking up the worry level, but there are issues that can be fixed no matter the personnel. “We’re just not quite there defensively, communication, all the stuff we can control we’re not doing,” said Mike D’Antoni.
Clint Capela had 15 points and 10 boards, but this matchup has always been his kryptonite. Even if you go back and look at Houston’s season-opener win in Oakland, it wasn’t until Draymond Green left the game with an injury in the fourth where Capela was truly effective. There are just instances where he’s soft or not authoritative and the Warriors feast on that. Love Capela but this is the matchup where I truly measure his growth.
Trevor Ariza had a poor night (1-8 FG) but that was just one of those games. But Ryan Anderson? He has been in an epic slump in his last 14 games, averaging 7.1 points and looking like Corey Brewer from deep, connecting on only 25.4%. We can talk about his poor production in relation to his salary all day, but it’s his salary that makes him almost impossible to trade. They need him to get going in the worst way.
On the other hand, PJ Tucker’s struggles are much harder to figure out. Tucker is known for his defense, but he isn’t having a major impact there right now so his (lack of) offense is grating. He hasn’t scored more than three points in any of his last seven games, despite gobbling up serious minutes (24.5). During that stretch, he’s shooting 23.8% from the field and is 1-13 from three-point range. He’s a better player than this but he’s almost a zero for the squad right now.
Long Overdue Move
With Green securing a spot, the Rockets will release Bobby Brown, which saves me from finishing up a blog rant asking… why the Rockets haven’t yet released Bobby Brown.
Think about this. Bobby is 33 years old. He’s not a kid they’re developing. Daryl Morey treats roster spots like Wonka treats golden tickets, so why are the Rockets using one, for over a year, on a guy they don’t trust in any way for meaningful minutes? They’ve lost CP3 and Harden at times to significant injuries and yet they’ve turned to guards off the street over Brown. If James and Trevor need a travel buddy, then carve out a nice assistant coach spot, but I struggle watching Brown lock up a roster spot on a contending team when he can’t help in a pinch.
The Rockets hit the road for a pair in Detroit and Chicago before coming home to face Portland. This is a stretch where they can try to build some momentum and, hopefully, get Luc Mbah a Moute back healthy by the time it’s over.