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Rockets win 16th straight to set franchise record

March 6th, 2008
by John
Houston's Dikembe Mutombo celebrates during a great play in the Rockets-Pacers game which Houston won 117-99 for their 16th straight victory, breaking a 14-year old franchise record.  Dikembe wasn't needed much in the victory where 5 Rocket players scored in double figures.Houston’s Dikembe Mutombo celebrates during a great play in the Rockets-Pacers game which Houston won 117-99 for their 16th straight victory, breaking a 14-year old franchise record. Dikembe wasn’t needed much in the victory where 5 Rocket players scored in double figures.

The Rockets took care of business Wednesday night like everyone they thought they would, winning a franchise record 16th straight game and their 20th victory in 21 games. I’m going to resist the temptation to use the over-used “Sweet 16” phrase that every media outlet seemed to use and fans who brought signs into Toyota Center. It’s just too easy.

As monumental as the 117-99 victory was against Indiana, I’m not going to spend too much time talking about this particular game because:

* A much bigger game against Dallas is being played Thursday night, so I’ll save my energy for that one (more thoughts about that game at the bottom of this post).

* Wednesday’s victory was against a 24-36 team that has been missing Jermaine O’Neal for 6 weeks and had lost 6 of their last 9 games, all against Eastern Conference teams

With the streak, though, it’s kind of fun to watch what the national media is saying about the Rockets. Below are some screenshots from the home pages of ESPN.com and NBA.com late Wednesday night. I especially like the one with the banner ad with Yao looking over Hakeem and Tracy McGrady. Kind of symbolic, huh?

Wednesday night ESPN Sportscenter devoted a significant amount of time talking about the Rockets and showing highlights from the victory over the Pacers that represent why they are playing so well, like this quote as they showed the Rockets passing the ball around for an easy score:

“This is what they do. They share,” and “Everyone on the Rockets gets involved.” ESPN even pointed out this interesting factoid from the game: 8 different players had an assist in the first half. Thanks for showing the Rockets some love, ESPN.

The Pacers made a game of it at first by focusing more on offense than D. But they paid for it by letting the Rockets score 34 first quarter points.

The score was tied at 36-36 early in the second quarter before the Rockets went on a 15-0 run to open up a 51-36 lead. Toyota Center was rockin’ during that stretch as their offensive attack resembled something akin to the ’86 run-and-gun Rockets, and the fans rewarded them with a cascade of applause as the lead grew.

The Rockets would open up a 23-point lead near the end of the first half, but the Pacers would cut the deficit down to 8 points in the third quarter after going on a 21-6 run as the Rockets defense slacked off and they started missing shots. However, the Rockets turned it on again and opened up a 25-point lead to coast to a victory.

After the game, Pacers coach Jim O’ Brien had the following quote about the Rockets:

“They are a really good basketball team and we didn’t have it…They are a better basketball team by a large margin.”

Tracy McGrady continues to play at an extremely high level, leading all scorers Wednesday night with 25 points on 10-of-22 shooting, including 4-of-9 three-pointers.

Luis Scola was incredible in the third quarter, scoring all 13 of his points in the third quarter.

You can’t complain about Rafer Alston, who scored 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting, 7 assists, and 1 turnover. A lot of people are stepping up to make this win streak happen, but without Alston hitting some big shots, who knows if they could have won all of them.

Luther Head hit all 5 of his shots to score 14, and Carl Landry was 5-of-10 for 13 points.

Even Chuck Hayes made a contribution on offense, hitting 4-of-8 shots around the rim to score 9 points, as well as grabbing 11 boards.

As ESPN noted, the impressive part of the attack continues to be the ball movement. 30 assists on 47 field goals Wednesday night, and 49.5% shooting.

The only guys who had off nights were Shane Battier, who was 1-for-6 from 3-point land and scored 7 points. And Bobby Jackson was 2-for-11, including a missed layup, and is starting to show why the Hornets probably were willing to give up on him.

Jackson was hitting only 39% of his shots this season with the Hornets up until he was traded to Houston. With the Rockets in his last 4 games he is 6-for-28 from the field (21.4%). Uh-oh. Not a good sign.

Why are they so much better on offense this year?

Moving away from the details of the victory over Indiana, I was thinking that the Rockets’ success of sharing the ball has been MORE of the key to great shooting, not because a few players have been abnormally streaky, like what I had been thinking Rafer Alston has become. I hope I’m right because if he goes cold, it could spell some trouble.

The wonderful thing is that the Rockets’ penchant to share the ball is much more SUSTAINABLE than just relying on a couple of guys to stay hot. And chances are that not everyone who shoots well is going to go cold at the same time. Since so many players have been involved in the rotation, they’re getting shots and making them, then someone is always ready to come in if the guys in the game start struggling.

All of this success lately has also made me start thinking why the same players who played under Jeff Van Gundy are all of a sudden scoring so much this season compared to under JVG? Was JVG really that bad of an offensive coach?

Absolutely, and almost everyone knew it at the time. Just look at how well Battier, McGrady and Alston and Luther are shooting this season. I think another reason is that Rick Adelman‘s system breeds confidence among talented players by telling them that it’s okay to take open shots and not “sweat it” if they miss. And once a teammate sees other teammates getting hot, it becomes infectious. I think Alston is the epitome of a player who has gained confidence because of this new system, along with a lot of hard work after understanding he was going to have to score in Adelman’s system in order to get playing time.

And although Adelman isn’t the most enthusiastic guy, he’s light years ahead of JVG when it comes to optimism. I’m a realist and I like it when a coach says what he thinks, but I also think all that negativity that JVG brought to the team affected their confidence when it came to shooting. To shoot well, I believe it helps if you have confidence that your coach believes in you.

I’d really like to hear what some of Leslie Alexander‘s critics (like a newspaper columnist who doesn’t cover the Rockets) are saying now after complaining in the off-season that JVG got screwed, and that there was “no basketball reason” for him to be fired. They obviously didn’t know what they were talking about when you look at what Adelman has been able to do.

Thoughts about Rockets-Mavs

I have a really good feeling about the Dallas game on Thursday night. The Mavericks will be without Dirk Nowitzki because of his 1-game suspension for taking down Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko the other night.

Without Dirk, I don’t think the Mavericks chances are all that great against the very hot and confident Rockets. After all, the Mavs are 5-5 in their last 10 games and are obviously trying to figure it all out with Jason Kidd in the mix. If the Rockets come in focused and are mindful of that 40-point blowout in Game 7 in 2005, then I think they will their 17th in a row.

6 Responses to “Rockets win 16th straight to set franchise record”

  1. Joseph Says:

    John, I think we all owe Rick Adelman an apology earlier in the season. He’s no “Idleman” at all. He’s a great coach!

    No way regarding the apology. He waited too long to make moves that everyone was saying he should do, like starting Luis Scola instead of Chuck Hayes. And look how it’s turned out for them — they haven’t lost since. If he had done it earlier, the Rockets would probably be at the top of the conference. I will give him credit for other things he’s done, though. He’s a great coach, but he was idle for too long. — John

  2. D Says:

    Hi John,

    What is your feeling that the Rockets are winning without Yao? Some media is saying that McGrady is carrying this team or it is McGrady’s team all along as shown by the Rockets’ losing record when he is not in the game.

    Since I am not reaaly a Rocket fan (even though I keep coming back to this site when Yao is out), I am a little torn between the Rockets keep winning and Yao is not part of the success (playing on the court).

    Do you feel that Aldeman was unfairly criticized earlier this year when the Rockets were not wining while they were learning his system?

    I think the Rockets are a better team with Yao, just like when people were saying a few weeks ago when the Rockets were winning without McGrady that they were a better team with him (like me), which ended up being correct. You can never have too many weapons. There will come a game where the Rockets lose because they didn’t have Yao.

    Regarding Adelman, I don’t think he was unfairly criticized earlier this season. Please see my response above about how he made personnel moves way too late. However, he is a great coach in other areas, and I think he has improved in the personnel area as seen by giving Carl Landry a chance, which has worked out brilliantly for them. — John

  3. curtis Says:

    It is obvious Aldeman can make something happen for this team, I noticed early in the game, when the team were lacking speed in defense where couple of pacers storm by defenders and score easily, aldeman made a really bold and smart change to play small, he took out mumtumbo and scola early and have brooks and hayes on the floor, it was a great and smart move, it paid off for them, he is a smart and bold coach, dare to try different things, I don’t think he should be critisized for what he did early in the season, because he was just learning his way thru the team and it wasn’t smart to start all the rookies and not trust your starters who played for your team for so long, just look what happened to brown in new york. With aldeman, the ball moves and the offense is flowing, that is what a great coach do. so I hope you guys agree with me on that. on a side note, I noticed this site likes to use a lot of “big” words, I find myself looking up on the dictionary reading it, no complaints just thought I mention it.

  4. jeff Says:


    No matter what, Idleman is a slow learner. It took him half a season to show some faith in Scola who won MVP in the Spanish League and another MVP in a most recent Olympic Qualifying Tournament involving a NBA dream team of USA.

    He may be an average to good coach, but never an exceptional one. How can a man without a scouting sharp eye be an exceptional coach? I do not believe it. He is not the man to bring a championship to Houston. He has no special feeling for the game. That is why he is such a slow learner. Do not be over-carried by some short-term success.

    Once again, Dekembe shows that he is a model as an athelete and as a person. When he is not in the court, he cheers from the bottom of his heart for the good plays of his team mates. When Yao is out, he again gives all what he has — rebounding and blocking. Yes, he does not score much. But that is not what he is good at. He gives a hundred and ten per cent in what he is good at, which is defence. When other guys are in his situation, they would have grumbled and asked for trades or simply retired. But not Dekembe. He demontrates what is respecting one’s profession and what is loyalty to one’s team. The Rockets should think of a spcial way to say good-bye to such a respectable member of the team at the end of the season.

  5. James Says:

    I can’t agree with you about JVG. I think he did a great job given what he had. Despite long injuries to Yao and T-Mac over two seasons, and having someone like Chuck Hayes as the starting power forward, he led the Rockets to winning seasons and the playoffs. Imagine building on top of that with a healthy Yao (until two weeks ago) and T-Mac plus the additions of Scola and Landry. If JVG was still the coach, their offense probably wouldn’t be as dynamic or entertaining, but it’s reasonable to think that they’d achieve a similar level of success as they have under Adelman.

    And don’t forget, the incredible defense that the Rockets are playing can largely be credited to JVG. As the players themselves said, they still hear JVG’s voice when they’re playing defense on the court.

    No dispute about JVG’s influence on the defense. My statement was about his offense. The main problem JVG had was not trusting rookies or young players. He would have never given Landry or Brooks the playing time they received, and it would have taken him a long time to probably give Scola a shot. That’s why he always brought in old washouts like Mark Jackson, Charles Oakley, Charlie Ward, etc., which never did anything exceptional in their old age. His walk-it-up, halfcourt style was also a huge problem. Rockets are scoring many more points this season compared to the JVG era. — John

  6. chocolate Says:

    I am not sure I can judge Adelman’s ability as a coach. But I do agree with Curtis on Adelman’s usage of Scola.

    First, although Scola is a great player. He need some time to get used to NBA. I am not sure about all the games. But I remember in the beginning of the season, he did make some unnecessary fouls, which in turn influenced his performance. I think the way Adelman slowly increased his play time is the best way for his development.

    People may argue that it took Adelman toooooooo long to give him enough time. I kind of agree with that. But here comes the second reason, which I think is more critical. As a coach, Adelman not only should find the right system, but also should make sure the team is united, make sure players obey his instructions. He is the one who replaced JVG, who has high reputation in the team. He is the one who start a whole new system in the team. During the difficult period, the whole team was losing confidence on themselves, and on him. Then how dare he use Scola to replace Hayes? Scola was not like Landry and Brooks. Those two young guys shined at the minute they were on the field. Instead, Scola improved slowly and consistently.

    This is also related to Adelman’s personality. If he is a tough guy, he may insist on using someone he likes in the right beginning. Prove he is right later. However, he is not this kind of people. He is good in encouraging players, adjusting the team to players’ specialties.

    Right now, I think he is a good head coach for Rocket, given the assistance from those two assistant coaches, who learned the tough defense from JVG. Adelman encourage the team and give them creativity, while keep on using the tough defense from JVG. Rocket has great chance in the playoff.

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