« Poking the Bear
Pelicans M.A.S.H. Unit Can’t Close Out Rockets
With 2:47 left, the Pelicans led the Rockets 104-96. When the horn sounded, the Rockets looked up and the scoreboard read 111-104 Houston. The 15-0 run was part Pelicans collapse, part Rockets clutch offense, and a whole lot of questionable decisions by the zebras.
After Dwight Howard split two free throws to bring the Rockets to within seven, the refs swallowed the whistle on strong drives by Rivers and Withey. Each time it led to turnovers, which led to wide open three-pointers in transition, which Patrick Beverley calmly nailed. Then, on the next two Pelicans possessions, we went to a video review to see who the ball was out on. Each time it was admittedly debatable. Both times it went to Houston. All this followed another questionable sequence in the fourth quarter that saw Alexis Ajinca’s face foul Dwight Howard’s hand amongst other things.
But, it is what it is and the refs only played a part in the meltdown. The Pelicans led since the midway point in the second quarter, and were up double digits most of the way, but they just couldn’t put Houston away. And to their credit, Houston hit huge shots late, scoring 39 in the fourth quarter after putting up 22, 24, and 26 in the previous three. They could have packed it in, but they did what they needed to do to get a much needed win. And that’s why they are a playoff team.
Other Notes and Observations
– Austin Rivers made three mid-range jumpers tonight. THREE. Coming into this game, he had made six off-the-dribble jumpers from 16-23 feet out. Six. Made three tonight. Teams keep going under the screens to keep him from getting to the rim. If he can add that weapon, it opens up so much.
– Luke Babbitt didn’t hesitate in the first half, and in the second half he took James Harden to the hole and got some easy buckets. His points were needed tonight, and it will be interesting to see if Dell keeps him and what Monty has him work on this summer if he does.
– Nothing great from James Southerland tonight, but I like his fearlessness. He doesn’t hesitate like Miller tends to do. If he has the shot, he rises up and takes it.
– Ajnca and Withey were just terrible in pick and roll defense tonight. They are so slow and they constantly came out way too high. The result was several wide open layups, including the two biggest ones down the stretch to give Houston the lead, and then extend it to three.
– Rivers had an up and down game, as he put up some good numbers early. He would have had a triple double, but he didn’t register an assist in the second half. Not because he didn’t pass, but because his teammates wouldn’t shoot. Just tons of pump fakes instead of rising and shooting. Ryan Anderson would have had a field day tonight, but nobody else on this team can get a shot off like him.
The issues with Rivers tonight was the free throw shooting (2-6) and the inability to make big shots late. He had an open three with just over a minute left that could have been the dagger. Still, he is a backup guard, not a guy who should be getting 45 minutes against a playoff team. He did fine tonight, all things considered, and if he grows as much this summer as last summer, we have a very good rotation player in Rivers.
– Anthony Morrow was fantastic again offensively, but the Rockets keyed on him late and he couldn’t get free. Gonna be much easier for him when he is the 5th guy on the court that the opposition has to worry about and not the first. Hope we get to see him in that role next year.
– Greg Stiemsma did not play tonight. If we are all lucky, we have hopefully seen the last of Da Steamer. I enjoyed the experience in one respect – He brought us all closer together. Normally there is arguing and disagreement, but we all bonded over our desire to see Stiemsma permanently benched. A round of applause for the man who created Unity!
– I went into this game not knowing who I would root for in a Houston/Portland series, but now there is no question in my mind. I dislike Houston WAY more. People give the Clippers grief, but Houston flops and whines and complains just as much, if not more. Go Blazers!
– I often see people say that Monty never shows he cares; that he just sits on the bench looking lost. I call BS. He was so into this game that I was afraid he was gonna get a tech for being on the court during gameplay. He was pacing up and down, constantly talking to players and the refs. Animated at the bad calls, and on and on. He cares and he made these players care about a meaningless game.
A lot to critique about Monty, heck I do plenty of that myself. But that one criticism doesn’t hold up in my opinion.
– Two games left; Home against OKC and these same Rockets. Then, a long offseason full of upgrades, recovery, and if we are really lucky, maybe some lotto magic. Go to at least one of these last two games and show your support for these second and third stringers playing their freaking heart out.