Friday, March 14, 2014
Scouts Takes: Can Rockets go all the way?
By Marc Stein
The Rockets have plenty of firepower, but do they have what it takes to be a true contender out west?
Eastern Conference scout on the Houston Rockets' 23-8 surge since Jan. 1:
"All the top teams [in the West] have certain flaws and the Rockets are no exception. But I like that they stay true to themselves. They don't hesitate about who they are. So as a result the players' minds are free to just go play.
By the time Friday night's games are complete, each of the NBA's 30 teams will have fewer than 20 games remaining on their schedules.
It's the perfect time, then, to roll out one last regular-season round of Scouts Takes. As the playoffs inch closer and closer, let's get some press-row perspective from the guys who travel to three or four games weekly to chart every play their team's upcoming opponents are running.
The observations running on Stein Line Live this weekend were collected from a group of five advanced scouts from around the league who were granted anonymity so they could speak as candidly as possible.
"They run, they shoot a lot of 3s, they want to get to the rim ... and anything else is post-ups for Dwight [Howard]. And they're not going to make a lot of adjustments.
"Maybe I'm in the minority, but I think Kevin McHale should be getting more credit than he does. People want to see a coach calling a lot of plays, because they make so much money, so [McHale] opens himself up to criticism with the approach he takes. But it takes a pretty strong person to sit through some of the low points without trying to change things because he wants to stay true to what they do.
"They're like that NCAA team, that seventh seed that can knock off a No. 1 seed but doesn't have enough juice to go all the way to the Final Four. The Rockets are going to be a pain in the ass for somebody in the playoffs and can definitely knock somebody out if the matchup is right. Especially if Dwight continues to bounce back; he's moving so much better than he was a year ago.
"The problem in the playoffs is that, eventually, execution matters. [The Rockets] play at one speed -- and they play great at that speed -- but at some point they're going to run into somebody who makes that a problem for them.
"The one team that nobody wants to mess with in the playoffs is Memphis. They're the one team that can make every series a street fight and really play a nasty, physical game. Who else in the West can really say that?
"But Memphis and Houston aren't all that different in this one sense: Can they run the table and go all the way? Like Houston, you have to say probably not."