Suns 124, Rockets 115 - Goodbye Playoffs, Hello Offseason

Tonight, the Houston Rockets all but sealed their fate by losing to one of the worst teams in the league. At this point, they probably aren't going to make the playoffs. Make of that what you will. Some might be disappointed with this loss, and that's perfectly understandable. Some might be ecstatic with keeping the first round pick, and that would be understandable too. There's no wrong answer here, because there's no right answer. None of the scenarios are a happy one. It's essentially choosing between a  quick and painless death  and long and painful one.

The team came into the season with huge expectations, and missing the playoffs might be too much to take for some fans. That being said, it feels fitting that Houston's playoff hopes died with this game. Can anyone think of a better representation of the Rockets season?  Think about it: it had bad rebounding, bad defense, streaky offense, boneheaded mistakes, poor communication, and inadequate coaching. What a night.

After blowing a game that they should have won last night in Dallas, the Rockets got outplayed. JB got out-coached, and the effort was spotty at best, especially when it came to rebounding. There was no accountability on the boards. But like last night, and most nights, this game was lost in the fourth quarter.

A really good Harden game was wasted. He tore Phoenix to shreds, but all of this season's minutes have caught up to him, unfortunately. You can see him lose all his energy in the 4th quarter, as JB has sent him out to play the entire second half for what seems like 10 games in a row. In the fourth quarter, there were a lot of presses where Phoenix loaded up on a tired Harden and made him give the ball up. No one could do much. On defense, Phoenix just crashed the glass time after time on every miss, and it resulted in 20 offensive rebounds for the Suns.


This is where Bickerstaff lost the game. In a game where Phoenix crushed Houston on the the glass, JB inexplicably elected to play small with Ariza at the 4 with Terry and Beverley at the guard positions. It was just an inexcusable mistake. JB has struggled with his lineups all year, especially his final 5 minutes of games. Instead of feeling out the game, making note of what the team is struggling with, and making the proper tweak to the closing lineup that potentially solves the team's said struggles, he just sort of goes with who got them to where they were last year.

It's perfectly understandable for a rookie/interim head coach to make these mistakes, but not when a team has James Harden and Dwight Howard on it. There's no time for learning on the job. It's also important to mention that JB just cant seem to get guys to do what he wants to do, which is an issue that a head coach with a golden reputation probably doesn't face. They don't play hard for him. It's clear as day.

Some people aren't good at relationships. Anyone can love something, the real challenge is showing it. That's kind of how I feel about the Rockets. I genuinely believe the Rockets care about winning. They want to put forth the effort, but a weak training camp that enabled bad habits and an indifferent start to season made them forget how to play hard on a consistent basis.

That terrible effort at the start of the season led to them to forgetting how to be resilient. Maybe someone goes on a rampage when the season is over. Maybe everyone aside from Harden gets traded. Nothing would surprise me at this point, but this is all probably for the best. Harden can't keep playing as much as he is. He can't play 40+ minutes for 7-10 more games. There's only so much pounding that a man's body can take. There's only so much he can carry on his shoulders. It's just not wise to sacrifice a player's longevity for a half hearted attempt to make the playoffs, so it's best to move on and look forward.

Starting now, the Rockets are on the clock. They have 2 years until Harden is a free agent. They have 2 years to get an adequate head coach and supporting cast to give Harden the lift he needs. Dwight's as good as gone and JB hasn't done a good enough job to warrant bringing back. This is the most important offseason in Daryl Morey's tenure. What he does with that first round pick, with free agency, and with that vacant head coaching spot will ultimately decide whether or not Harden walks in 2 years. No pressure.

It's time to look forward to, and enjoy the process of change, because this team has no hope of bouncing back next year. In a season of negatives, it's best to be positive, hold your head up as a fan of this team, and look forward.

Harden bounced back after the All Star break and played as well as ever, and that's all I needed to see to feel good about the future again. He'll play for the olympic team this summer, and people should expect him to make another leap. Somehow, someway, at some point in the future they'll suck everyone back in, and remind people what it's like to see good basketball.

Because, Rockets. Because, basketball.

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