Rockets 86, Mavericks 88 - It's Time To Hang It Up

The Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks battled for their playoff lives tonight. Everyone played hard, and everyone wanted to win. Neither team was on a back to back, as both got multiple days of rest and time to prepare for this crucial game. This was as close as it gets to a playoff game, and both teams had everything to play for.

The game was a grind. Both teams struggled to create much of anything. The only thing the Rockets the Rockets struggled with on defense was containing JJ Barea pick and rolls, which not only created points for him but open 3s for everyone else.  For some reason, Bickerstaff elected not to switch. It's hard to say why. The Rockets have had great success switching those Dirk screens. The 5 game series victory in the first round of the playoffs last year speaks for itself. Ariza did a great job on Dirk, Harden played very good defense in the second half, Dwight rebounded, the defense really was solid.

Where the Rockets really lost the game was down the stretch on the offensive end. The offense was too cute. Harden saw a plethora of Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, and Corey Brewer screens in the last 5 minutes, and they never worked. Never. Not one of them. When David Lee and Dirk Nowitzki were on the floor, you saw no simple pick and rolls involving Harden and a big to take advantage of Lee and Dirk's lack of mobility. When Dirk Nowitzki was in as the only big and the lone center, you saw nothing to take advantage. No Harden-Dwight pick and rolls that terrorized teams the previous 2 years. Even if pick and rolls with big men were inexplicably not an option for some reason beyond comprehension, a simple Harden isolation at the top of the key would have been infinitely better than Beverley or Brewer setting a screen for Harden only to see James trapped and forced to give it up to one of the two players.

The Rockets have gotten away from what made them one of the best team's down the stretch of close games. The simplicity is gone. The identity is gone. They aren't a pick and roll team anymore, despite having perhaps the most lethal pick and roll shooting guards in NBA history and in theory one of the best rollers in the league in Dwight. Hopefully a newly hired head coach can come in and correct this.

It was perhaps one of the worst coached games of the season in perhaps the most important game of the season. There was no guidance. Nothing. The 6th seed is now realistically out of reach, and the Rockets are doomed in a Golden State or San Antonio match-up. It's time to accept that missing the playoffs might the best option at this point. The best course of action at this point is probably to re-tool with an extra asset in a first round pick, hiring a new head coach, and letting Dwight Howard walk in free agency for the large amount of cap space should he exercise his player option for next season.

Goodbye Dwight. Goodbye JB.

In a season filled with disappointment and frustrating losses, the Houston Rockets delivered the most disappointing loss as of yet, and they'll probably top this at some point in the last 4 games, because Rockets.

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