I was so looking forward to the Rockets-Mavs game Friday to really see where the Rockets stand as a team. Are they really as good as that 31-17 record indicates, or just pretenders and have a lot of work to do before they can even consider winning a championship?
That question was answered quite profoundly Friday night. The Rockets have a long way to go, losing 95-74 in a game reminiscent of that 40-point blowout in Game 7 of the Rockets-Mavs playoff series a couple of seasons ago. The bright side is that at least this time I had the wisdom to NOT attend this game.
In fact, for the first time in a long time, I turned off the game in the third quarter when Dallas went on a 16-0 run, 13 of those coming in just under 2 minutes to put the game out of reach. It was a complete disaster.
Luther Head kept turning the ball over (4 for the game, most on the team). Rafer Alston went back to his inconsistent self in the third quarter, driving into the lane and missing easy layups to help Dallas extend their scoring run and pull away. But you know it’s bad when Alston’s 6-for-13 shooting for 14 points was one of the best on the team.
Shane Battier was 1-of-9 (5 points). Juwan Howard was 3-of-9 for 11. Luther was 1-of-8, and 0-of-4 from three-point land. And Kirk Snyder was 1-of-7. Tracy McGrady was 7-of-16 with 20 points, which wasn’t bad, but he missed lots of shots in that pivotal third quarter before sitting out the fourth quarter. As a team, they shot 33%. Just as bad, they were outrebounded 55-40.
Even worse, they got rattled once Dallas started putting on the pressure in the third quarter, just like they did 2 years ago in that Game 7 I mentioned earlier, and extending their lead to 29 at one point. At least T-Mac admitted their softness after the game, “When things got tough, we folded…You just have to have heart, man. You just have to want it. Each individual. You can’t coach that.”
Now it’s almost not fair that Dallas has had virtually no injuries this year while the Rockets have had Yao out for 6 weeks and counting, and their X-factor-to-be off the bench, Bonzi Wells (well, he is one of their best bench players), had to sit out because of a sore back.
You know those two guys would have made a big difference, but still, the Mavericks are too fast and deep for the Rockets. But that’s what a huge payroll will help do for you.
What has to happen now is that the Rockets cannot be content to be good against the average teams and cupcakes. Every player has to ask, “Who is my counterpart on the Dallas team, and how can I get better than them, or at least close, if we face them in the playoffs?” A 21-point blowout instead of a 40-point one is not considered progress enough.
You can read more about the carnage in this Houston Chronicle game story.