Houston Rockets Recap – 15-21 Dec 2013

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Headline of the Week

It was a busy week for Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, and the entire Houston Rockets’ front office. The Rockets’ self-imposed trade deadline for disgruntled center, Omer Asik, came and went without Asik being moved.

photo credit: thepanamerican via photopin cc

Daryl Morey was interviewed by radio station SportsTalk 790, and discussed the Asik situation.

“We were definitely trying to move (Asik),” said Morey. “It was trending towards something happening, but sometimes when you get to those last approvals and the owner, I think as Houston fans know from past deals that didn’t come off that looked like they were done, they don’t happen.”

Morey felt that no offer he received would help Houston. “You’re obviously never going to do a deal that doesn’t help the team or keep you at least even,” said Morey. “And those didn’t present themselves.”

As for the future of Asik as a Rocket, Morey went on to say:

“It’s pretty likely that Omer is here for quite a long time, a lot of the dynamics that went into things not working out don’t change, in terms of the contract and things like that. We did feel like we owed it to Omer to give a strong look at it, but nothing ended up materializing.”

However, this does not mean Asik is no longer available. Morey will still be open to listening to offers, and if he feels it will help the Rockets win a championship, Asik will get moved.

On the court, it hasn’t been a great week for the Rockets either.

December 15, 2013: Houston 91 @ Sacramento Kings 106
This was one of those games for Houston. The Rockets played like they really didn’t care about this result. This wasn’t the first instance of the Rockets going into a game with a lacklustre attitude. They were down by double digits to the Kings early on, and could never get back into the game. Every time the Rockets went on a run, the Kings countered with a run of their own.

Turnovers and free throws proved to be a problem for Houston. James Harden led the team with 25 PTS on 8-18 shooting, while Dwight Howard posted a 13 PTS/ 10 REB double-double. One positive for the Rockets was the return of backup big Greg Smith, who had 6 PTS and 9 REBS off the bench in only 20 minutes of play. Unfortunately, Smith has always struggled to avoid foul trouble, and this game was no different. Harden went over on his ankle, and was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain that limited him to jacking up three point attempts when he returned in the fourth quarter.

December 18, 2013: Chicago Bulls 94 @ Houston 109
The Rockets turned in a dominant performance against the offensively challenged Chicago Bulls. Howard scored 23 PTS on a very efficient 11-14 shooting against Joakim Noah, who is undoubtedly one of the better defensive centers in the league. Harden led the Rockets in +/- with a +22, whilst scoring 19 PTS and creating shots for teammates with 6 ASTS. This was a good turnaround game for the Rockets after the Kings debacle.

December 20, 2013: Houston 81 @ Indiana Pacers 114
The Pacers showed why they are considered a serious contender to win the championship this season, leaving the shell-shocked Rockets in their wake. Howard led Houston this night, scoring 19 PTS to go with 12 REBS and 5 BLKS in a dominant performance on both ends of the floor. His counterpart, Roy Hibbert, had 9 PTS and 6 REBS, shooting 3-8. However, the Pacers’ brilliant defense took the Rockets out of their comfort zone, and Houston could never adapt. Paul George locked down Harden, who could only manage 12 PTS despite 14 shot attempts. The Rockets connected on only 4-22 of their 3P-A (18.2%).

Additionally, the Pacers forced Houston to take a lot of mid-range jumpers, something they’ve successfully avoided this season (as of Friday, LaMarcus Aldridge had attempted 98 more midrange shots than the entire Houston roster). This was always going to be a tough game, the Pacers coming off back-to-back losses for the first time all season as well as it being Danny Granger’s first game for 2013/14.

December 21, 2013: Houston 114 @ Detroit Pistons 97
The injury bug continued to trouble Houston. Jeremy Lin missed his fourth game in a row with back spasms, Asik, with a right thigh contusion, did not make the trip and Harden was rested for the first time, since spraining his ankle against the Kings. Then 14 minutes into the game, Patrick Beverley fractured his wrist and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Greg Smith played even less (4 minutes), reinjuring the knee that has kept him out of the line-up for most of this season. It did not seem to be anything major, but was still enough to limit the Rockets to only 8 players for this game. As it turned out, 8 was more than enough to roll past the Pistons. The ball was moving and the 3’s were falling as the offense clicked. The core of this offense was Howard, who played his best game as a Rocket. The Pistons elected to cover Howard with just Andre Drummond, and Howard schooled the second-year center in the post, scoring 35 PTS on 13-18 and 9-14 free throws. Howard also pulled down 19 REBS, and when the Pistons changed tactics and double teamed him in the second half, Howard created openings for his teammates, finishing with 5 ASTS. Previous Rockets to put up these numbers (since 1985/86 season) were Yao Ming and Hakeem Olajuwon. The whole supporting cast played their roles, and the Rockets looked smooth on both ends of the floor.

This week fluctuated between bad, good, terrible, half great and half bad. Expect Houston rookie Isaiah Canaan to be called up from the D-League in Beverley’s absence. Lin should be back to face Dallas on Monday. No word on Asik’s return and Harden plans to sit out until full healed. The Rockets play the Spurs on Christmas Day, The last time the two teams met; Houston won a thrilling game in San Antonio, arguably their best performance of the season.

Rocket of the Week

Dwight Howard with 22.5 PTS, 12.5 REBS and 3 BLKS per game, while shooting a crazy 67.3% from the field. He’s been dominant on both ends of the floor, as well as becoming increasingly more comfortable in the post.

Who was your favourite Rocket this week?

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