Well, we’re going to have to wait at least another game to see if the Rockets’ renewed emphasis on ball movement will be effective. Despite Rick Adelman‘s vow to not lean on Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady (especially) to have so much of the scoring load placed on their shoulders, in the second half he absolutely threw that philosophy out the window Monday night in a victory over the hapless LA Clippers.
In the third quarter when the Rockets finally got some separation from the Clippers due to them missing tons of shots (Sam Cassell’s injury in the first quarter really hurt their cause), they just kept feeding McGrady who put the entire offense on his shoulders by scoring 9 points in the third, and 19 in the fourth. This was quite a change from their commitment in the first quarter when I thought McGrady did a good job taking it to the hole and not settling on jump shots.
In the second half, I can understand the philosophy of “feeding the hot hand,” but this was ridiculous. There was no ball movement at all – just McGrady going one-on-one as he scored 28 of the Rockets’ 48 second-half points, and 36 overall.
Where is the commitment and the will power to stay the course, and not to be tempted to go back to the “old way” of scoring points (which we know doesn’t work in crunch time), and work out the kinks in the new system?
The same thing happened during a stretch of the second quarter when the Rockets hit their first 6-of-8 shots, then suddenly went 0-for-8 settling mainly for long jumpers without any ball movement. There was no timeout called to make adjustments – just letting the team flounder, reverting back to its old ways.
The other frustrating part of this game was 0-fer Alston, as usual. Although his stats looked decent (14 points on 7-of-14 shooting, 9 assists and one 1 turnover), when the game was still tight in the second half, he made only 1-of-5 three-pointers in the 3rd and 4th quarter (why is he still shooting those?), including an airball, followed by stepping out of bounds when he got the ball behind the three-point line (how many times have we seen that happen with him?), then Alston showing his frustration with a delay of game call.
After Alston pulled that delay of game stunt, Adelman was visibly pissed at Alston from the bench, but he didn’t pull him from the game immediately.
What the hell? So not only did Adelman abandon the plan for the new offense, but he kept playing “awful Alston” a ton of minutes (40) compared to only 7 for Francis. I don’t want to hear any of the nonsense the Houston announcers seemed to be promoting (“He made 3-of-7 three-pointers,” or “He had 9 assists,” or “He had only one turnover”). The fact of the matter is that he was a huge liability in that second half when he was left wide open by the Clippers (the rest of the league obviously knows how bad of a shooter he is), and he didn’t make them pay. That puts even more pressure on everyone else to make up for that gaping hole on the perimeter.
Similarly, Shane Battier was back to his normal self, not taking it to the hole and shooting 6 of his 7 shots from three-point territory, and making only 1 of those 3-point attempts. And the awesome firepower of Luis Scola? He took only two shots, back to his old self of deferring to McGrady. I was also quite surprised that Adelman brought the struggling Bonzi Wells back so that it cut into Steve Francis’ minutes. Bonzi finished playing 17 minutes while Francis only played 7, as mentioned earlier.
So unfortunately we’re back to putting Adelman on the hot seat for being such a flip-flopper in his commitment toward giving minutes to the right guys (Scola, Francis) and not staying the course with his ball movement read-and-react offense. How long has he been coaching again?
I can tell you if the Rockets would have lost this game after the Clippers shot a pathetic 33% from the floor, including 4-of-21 in the fourth quarter, there would be lots of howling going on. But fortunately for Adelman he got the ‘W,’ and that tends to call the dogs off temporarily until the plan eventually backfires.
The lone bright spot for the Clippers was the much improved Chris Kaman, who was determined to outplay Yao Ming, which he did. Kaman came out with a vengeance against Yao, scoring 18 first half points to Yao’s 9. He scored from all over the place – down low and a couple of jumpers he swished. Wow, he has improved!
Kaman tapered off in the second half, scoring only 4 points on 2-of-7 shooting, whereas Yao only scored 5 points to finish with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 6 turnovers. Who knows how many points Yao and the others would have scored if McGrady had been forced by Adelman to move the ball around to other players.
The only player that keeps getting the ball from players like Alston and McGrady who shouldn’t is Dikembe Mutombo. I love Deke, but I swear he continues to drop passes that are delivered right on the money. Perhaps his age is catching up with him.
It will be interesting to see what happens in Phoenix on Wednesday. Will they try to play the old way or the new way? If they play the old way, they will have no chance.