Why the Rockets will not win the title, or get out of the first round.

james harden
This started as a post of pessimism with some reverse-jinx potion, but as I began laying out my facts, what began as nervous fan paranoia morphed into a palpable, and comfortable, place of realism, where I do not expect the Rockets to go all that far in their post-season journey, despite being the 3 seed and having Harden deliver an MVP performance all season long. Here is why:

On January 10th the Rockets were 31-9. They have gone 24-18 since then. That is a larger, and more importantly, more recent, chunk of the season at a much lower rate of winning.

The Rockets simply lean too much on the consistently poor shooting of their “shooters” to win. On top of that, size, defense, rebounding and turnovers have been issues all season long. If the 3s aren’t falling, they literally have nothing.

Shooting, defense, rebounding, and not taking care of the ball. That IS basketball. At the time of 31-9, the Rockets actually played like contenders (albeit still a lower tier than the GS/SA/CLE group). Since then, the Rockets have floated just above .500 for months without any consistent indication that Mike D’Antoni can scheme SOMETHING else when the 3s don’t swish. Living and dying by the 3 has never been closer to the truth, and it breaks my Rocket’s heart a little bit to not feel excited about the playoffs. As recently displayed, playing this style of ball makes it difficult to beat any NBA team, let alone a playoff team.

Even if the Rockets survive OKC in the first round, they will find themselves once again outmatched by a more consistent and talented Warriors team. Could the Rockets beat them? Sure! Will they? Sorry, nothing they have done supports that they could put more than 2 good games together against quality competition within 1 week’s time.

Eric Gordon lost his shot after the 3-pt contest.
Lou Williams lost his shot after his first game with us.
Trevor Ariza lost his shot in January.
Sam Dekker fell off the face of the earth and then broke his hand.
Ryan Anderson is either all on, or all off, and either way can only be productive for either the 1st or 2nd half.
Harden has not shot well for more than a single game in a long, long time.

Is this team better than last year? Of course it is. Mike D’Antoni has solved James Harden. Kevin McHale failed in that he tried the “James, do whatever you want” approach. J.B. Bickerstaff failed in the “James, you’re not going to just do whatever you want,” approach, but Mike D’Antoni succeeded with “James, do whatever you want, but I’m going to make it where doing whatever you want works out for everybody” approach.

Either way, this season is a success after losing Dwight Howard and expecting just another .500 finish. I don’t think record is nearly as important as your current play, and the Rockets’ current play right now is just head-scratching.
All that said, this is Clutch City, the city where a bad chemistry’d 6 seed (Vernon Maxwell quit the team in the middle of the first round!!) figured “it” out and won the whole damn thing in 1995. Go Rockets!

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