April 14, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Playoff scenarios for the Houston Rockets on the final day of the 2014-15 season

Houston Rockets Fans Playoffs

With the Los Angeles Clippers getting a win Tuesday night in Phoenix, they are now guaranteed either the 2nd or 3rd seed in the West. This simplifies the scenarios for the Rockets, who are in a very good position so long as they take care of business against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, which won’t be an easy task.

So let’s take a look at the breakdown as we arrive at the final day of the 2014-15 NBA regular season.

If the Rockets beat the Jazz…

The Rockets would clinch home-court advantage, facing either Dallas or Portland depending on the Spurs game in New Orleans.

Dallas

If San Antonio loses, Houston will be the 2nd seed and face Dallas. The LA Clippers would be 3rd. If Memphis wins, they go to 5th and San Antonio falls to 6th. If Memphis loses, they fall to 6th and San Antonio is 5th.

Portland

If San Antonio wins, Houston will be the 5th seed and face Portland. The LA Clippers would be 3rd. The Memphis game no longer matters — whether they win or lose, the Grizzlies would fall to 6th.

If the Rockets lose to the Jazz…

Then it gets more complicated. Memphis’ home game against Indiana becomes more important.

Portland

If San Antonio wins and Memphis loses, Houston will be the 5th seed and face Portland. The rest would be 2) San Antonio, 3) LA Clippers, 6) Memphis.

LA Clippers

If San Antonio wins and Memphis wins, Houston will be the 6th seed and face the LA Clippers. The rest would be 2) San Antonio, 3) LA Clippers, 5) Memphis.

Portland

If San Antonio loses and Memphis loses, Houston will be the 5th seed and face Portland. The rest would be 2) LA Clippers, 3) San Antonio, 6) Memphis.

San Antonio

If San Antonio loses and Memphis wins, Houston will be the 6th seed and face San Antonio. The rest would be 2) LA Clippers, 3) San Antonio, 5) Memphis.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
April 13, 2015 at 5:08 am

Hack-a-Rocket and the Emerging Playoff Picture

James Harden Dwight Howard Houston Rockets

For the Houston Rockets, it was a weekend full of highs and lows — and not necessarily in that order.

MK Bower of CultureMap joins me from the scene at the Toyota Center after James Harden, Dwight Howard and Corey Brewer powered the Rockets to a 121-114 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday night. We discuss what we saw in the win, the massive opportunity lost against the Spurs, the latest opponent strategy to intentionally foul the Rockets early and often, the impact of Donatas Motiejunas’ injury and potential playoff matchups for the Rockets as the NBA season draws to a close this week.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
April 8, 2015 at 2:20 pm

Donatas Motiejunas out for the season and playoffs

Donatas Motiejunas injury

It wouldn’t quite be the Houston Rockets if injuries didn’t pile up as the team heads to the playoffs.

USA Today reported the bad news today — Donatas Motiejunas, who has been out the last six games with a back injury, will miss the rest of the season and playoffs.

It’s a big blow to the Rockets as they could really use Motiejunas’ versatility inside. Donatas was having a breakout campaign on both sides of the ball in his third NBA season, averaging 12.0 points on 50.4% shooting and hitting a stellar 36.8% from three-point range. At times, D-Mo was lethal inside, unleashing a series of deft post moves, fakes and hook shots to score in the paint. Frankly, Motiejunas was the Rockets’ second best scoring option behind James Harden.

“He was one of the guys we definitely went to,” said coach Kevin McHale. “He was able to get down in the low box. A lot of nights, if our offense got slowed down, we were able to play through D-Mo, especially late. He got us baskets, put pressure on the defense. We’re going to miss him.”

This is the second key rotation player that the Rockets will be without throughout the playoffs as Patrick Beverley was lost to a torn ligament in his wrist.

Motiejunas said yesterday via Twitter that he was working to return and posted a photo of a workout:

It’s just a real shame we’re at this point as the Rockets seem to be having a special season. With Dwight Howard back along with D-Mo, Josh Smith and Terrence Jones, the Rockets were poised to have a slew of strong and versatile options inside as they entered the postseason. Instead, the four Rocket big men were never healthy at the same time — they never played in a single game all together.

Look for Smith and Jones to pick up the slack at the four, but the injury means the Rockets will continue to run more Joey Dorsey as their backup big man and that’s not all good. We are likely to see a lot of intentional fouling in the playoffs, as we have seen the last few games, as Dorsey shoots just 28.0% from the charity stripe.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
March 30, 2015 at 11:45 am

Patrick Beverley will have surgery, out for the season

Patrick Beverley Houston Rockets

Injuries have been a big part of the story for the Houston Rockets this season and the narrative just kept on going on Monday.

Patrick Beverley will indeed opt for surgery on his wrist and is out for the rest of the 2014-15 season and playoffs, the Rockets announced today. Beverley will undergo the surgery tomorrow.

The Rocket point guard suffered torn ligaments in his left wrist last week in a game against the Pacers and was waiting a week, talking to specialists, before deciding how to proceed.

Beverley’s shooting numbers were down this year — the third year guard averaged 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 30.8 minutes per game in 56 appearances with the Rockets this season. He also played some games this year where his defensive impact wasn’t quite the same as previous seasons, but he’s been a key cog to the Rockets’ attack in that he plays strong defense, keeps the turnovers down and knows his spots for kickouts for threes. His absence will definitely be felt.

The Rockets will turn to Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni to fill the void, but both players are 37 years old. Look for Corey Brewer to likely pick up the defensive slack on opposing point guards (and there are plenty the Rockets could potentially face in the West playoffs). Rookie Nick Johnson, who has been seeing some meaningful minutes the past two games and tackled the challenge of defending John Wall for stretches on Sunday, could help here as well.

As for the future, Beverley is a restricted free agent this summer, meaning the Rockets will have the right to match any offer made by another club — the same situation the Rockets were in with Chandler Parsons last summer.

So the situation raises the question of whether Beverley has played his last game as a Houston Rocket. The Rockets want Beverley back, but they are all about value — there will be a number that they won’t cross, and it’s going to be lower than the bar they set for Parsons.

There’s also the matter of other point guards the Rockets may be looking at. The Rockets have had interest for years in bringing over 2009 second round pick Sergio Llull, but he has resisted NBA pitches. That may be changing as an ESPN source was quoted as saying there’s a “pretty decent chance” Llull comes over next season. Hoopshype claimed the Rockets have already made a financial pitch to the seasoned combo guard. Daryl Morey and company should also have a decent first round pick from the New Orleans Pelicans (Asik trade), currently projected 14th overall, that could potentially be used on a point guard.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
March 24, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Dwight Howard set to make his Rocket return Wednesday in New Orleans

dwight-howard-return

The hints were there that he was close and Kevin McHale alluded to it in post-game on Monday, but it’s now happening…

Dwight Howard will make his return to the court for the Houston Rockets on Wednesday in New Orleans as the Rockets take on Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.

“We plan to play him unless what we did today bothers him,” McHale told the Houston Chronicle’s Jenny Dial Creech after practice on Tuesday.

Howard, who has missed 39 games this year, including the last 26 with this knee issue, will have 12 games left to hopefully find his groove before the playoffs begin. The Rockets have an immediate need in the middle as well as Terrence Jones is out and recovering from a partially collapsed lung while Josh Smith is nursing a rolled ankle.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
March 19, 2015 at 11:52 am

Vernon Maxwell speaks openly about… everything

Vernon Maxwell Houston Rockets

If you know the Rockets history, you’re aware that Vernon Maxwell has basically been a ghost in Houston since his NBA playing days. So it was a huge surprise that Maxwell agreed to come to the Toyota Center for the Rockets Championship Reunion Thursday night at halftime of the Rockets game against the Denver Nuggets.

In fact, getting the chance to talk to Maxwell was such a catch that I bailed immediately on a Rudy Tomjanovich interview the moment I saw Maxwell started speaking to the media.

Mad Max didn’t disappoint.

Maxwell spoke openly about his days with the Rockets and the unfortunate end when he and the team parted ways after Game 1 of their first round playoff series against the Utah Jazz in 1995. Maxwell admitted he felt “disrespected” by the trade for Clyde Drexler and said he regrets how he handled it.

“I handled it the wrong way,” said Maxwell. “I shouldn’t have left the way I left. I got upset because they brought Clyde in and nobody ever said anything to me about the trade. I just felt like they disrespected me. Then we went to Utah and played in Utah the first game. I didn’t really play and I felt disrespected again.”

“I overreacted like I normally do,” added Maxwell. “Bad decision. I wish it wouldn’t have happened.”

He also talked about his much-discussed defense on Michael Jordan.

“I wanted to fight him, really,” said Maxwell of Jordan. “That’s what I really wanted to do.”

And the idea that the Rockets won championships because Jordan went to play baseball?

“Google it,” said Maxwell. “I say just Google the times we played them. They couldn’t beat us. Like we couldn’t beat Seattle? If we get past Seattle, we get to the championship and we knock Chicago off. We were a team they couldn’t match up against.”

There’s so much more here to write, but to get you started, check out the full interview:


Vernon Maxwell Rudy Tomjanovich

Posted in Houston Rockets |
March 5, 2015 at 4:33 pm

NBA admits they botched the no-call on James Harden’s late drive

James Harden bad call

The NBA released their “Last Two Minute” report, reviewing the calls made by officials in the final two minutes of Wednesday’s games, and the league ruled that the no-call on James Harden‘s late drive against the Memphis Grizzlies was “incorrect.”

“Randolph (MEM) makes contact across Harden’s (HOU) arm/wrist, causing him to lose the ball on the drive to the basket,” said the report.”

See: Full Report

With the game tied at 100 and just seconds remaining, Harden was blatantly fouled across the arms on a drive by Zach Randolph. No foul was called. Memphis quickly called timeout with 5.4 seconds left, Marc Gasol hit the game-winner with 0.1 ticks showing and that’s the way the cookie crumbled.

The game, pitting two of the top three seeds in the West against each other with a tiebreaker on the line, was huge for both squads and the lack of a call there had a significant impact on the outcome. It really wasn’t a tough “call” to make, then or now, as the video evidence shows.

Harden had plenty to say in the locker room after the play.

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged |
March 2, 2015 at 10:19 am

James Harden makes his play for the throne

James Harden LeBron James

What a game!

James Harden and LeBron James battled head-to-head on Sunday in a nationally-televised matchup between two strong NBA teams and a couple of MVP leaders.

Sportswriter MK Bower of CultureMap joins me from the Toyota Center as we tackle several topics after Houston’s 105-103 overtime win over LeBron and the Cavaliers. We discuss the clash between two NBA icons and everything that went along with this classic game, Trevor Ariza’s defensive impact, Terrence Jones‘ emergence, Donatas Motiejunas‘ rebounding woes and Daryl Morey’s decision to pass on Goran Dragic at the trade deadline.

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts | Tagged , |