Houston Rockets: The 10 Biggest Hurdles Between The Team and the Playoffs
The Rockets were supposed to be a dark-horse team capable of getting a top four spot in the Western Conference this season. Like usual, injuries overtook the season and two of the top players on the team suffered major injuries. Those players are Yao Ming (shocker), who is now out for the season and Aaron Brooks, who got undercut by Manu Ginobili on a halfcourt shot and is still recovering from that injury and still not 100 percent.
The Rockets, according to John Hollinger, have around a 20 percent chance to make the playoffs at this point in time. That percentage could raise quite a bit after the trade deadline in a few days as Houston plans to be one of the more active teams involved in possibly acquiring Carmelo Anthony or a number of other players.
But here are the 10 biggest things keeping the Rockets out of the playoffs.
The Rockets defense is definitely not what it used to be. After a decade of defensive dominance, the Rockets have turned into a more offensive-minded team. They allow 104.8 points per game which puts them at 24th in the league. It is quite an embarrassing stat, especially when the fans in Houston expect you to play good defense.
Obviously, losing a 7'6" player hurts and having his replacement be a whole foot shorter doesn't help things out. Then add in the fact that Houston's best defender, Shane Battier, has lost a step or two due to age. Things just keep piling on when you discover Rick Adelman is an offensive minded coach.
Yes, I know they have Kevin Martin (23 points per game) and I know they have Luis Scola (19 points per game). But neither of the two are "go-to scorers." They can put up quality scoring numbers, but neither are very good at creating shots for themselves. That's why Houston has emerged as one of the favorites to land Carmelo Anthony, the elite scorer out of Denver. Carmelo can draw fouls and has one of the sweetest jumpers in the NBA.
You see, Houston has these droughts during games when they simply forget how to put the ball in the hole. Enter Carmelo.
Certainly Carmelo would help fix Houston's problem and possibly help them get a playoff spot.
It's not exactly something you can prevent, but every day it seems like someone is hurt. I think Houston has actually set a record this year for ankle injuries. I know it's at least five and probably a lot more. But Houston's shattering injuries have crushed loyal H-Town fans once again. Yao Ming (shockingly) is out for the season with a foot injury and Aaron Brooks was out for quite a while after Manu undercut him during a halfcourt shot. He still isn't back to normal.
Same thing every year, though. Message to Portland fans: stop complaining.
The West Is Deep
Phoenix is 26-26 and is the 10th seed. They would be the seventh seed in the East and .5 games back of the sixth seed.
Another example, New York is the sixth seed in the East. If they were in the West, they'd be the ninth seed.
With how deep the West is, even if the Rockets go on a 10-game win streak, they might not even have a playoff spot. If they want a spot, they need to win at least 20 more games and that doesn't look good right now.
OK, I know I'm going to get some hate for this slide, but bear with me.
I know he is recovering from an injury and I know he is an outstanding scorer.
Here are my major beefs with him: shot selection and defense. I'll elaborate.
Lately Brooks has thought that it's a fantastic idea when you are shooting 29 percent from deep on the season to jack up threes in transition. I would have no problem with it were he shooting 40 percent like last year. But he isn't and those shots are costing us transition points and possessions, a 4-to-6 point swing.
Defensively, it's just ugly to watch. Standing barely six feet tall and barely 161 lbs, Brooks has a tiny stature and struggles, to say the least, at slowing down some of the league's top guards. Sure he scores 20 points, but he allows 20-plus points at the other end with his dreadful defense.
Wrote an article about moving Brooks if you want to check it out (http://bit.ly/fJMK10)
Rick Adelman's Rotations
One of the NBA's most prolific scorers is only playing 31 minutes a game? Why? Kevin even says he wouldn't be adverse to playing 40 minutes per game. It's not like you're saving him for the playoffs or anything. At this point the playoffs are looking grimmer and grimmer. It's just one of those duh! moments that Rick isn't seeming to grasp.
Another thing is, you spend a first round draft pick on a guy, Terrence Williams, who'd be starting on half the teams in the NBA and you aren't even playing him. This guy is inactive every night and even when he is active, he doesn't play. He is an excellent defender and one of the few guys who can create a shot for himself on this team. C'mon Rick!
Maybe he should retire?
The Rockets have faltered mightily late in games this season. Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming being injured certainly don't help, but the only wins in late games that I can think of off of my head are in overtime against Utah and at home against the Lakers.
The Rockets blew a lead to the Timberwolves in the waning moments of a game and lost.
They've also had about 10 games they could have won if they knew how to keep a 10-point lead with less than five minutes left or made free throws, etc...
Kevin Martin has started to step up in those situations and that's exactly what Houston needs.
Last year the Rockets wanted it. That's why they won 42 games with a 6'6" starting center (pictured above). This year, at least IMO, it's not the same. I just don't see that energy or enthusiasm of going out and playing every game like it's your last. I don't get why you would choose this year, seeing as you had a solid chance to make the playoffs. But I'm not the players, maybe they just felt like the season was over when they heard Yao was out.
But energy wins you regular season games and obviously they haven't showed that type of energy throughout the season.
Winning Games You Should Win
This season, the Rockets have lost to the Timberwolves, Raptors, Charlotte and Washington.
Those are games a playoff team would win. If they had won those games they would be four games over .500. They would have a playoff spot and be looking good. But that didn't happen and here they are sitting four games under .500, begging for a playoff spot.
Rockets fans pray those losses don't come back to haunt them.
Up to this point, the Rockets have had a road-heavy schedule, playing against the top teams in each conference. This has definitely attributed to their sub-par performance this season. Also, playing lots of back to backs and games on one day of rest doesn't help either.
But with a home-heavy schedule coming up, we'll see if the Rockets can turn it around and make a push for the postseason.