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Chron: Trip around West full of NBA peril

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by olliez, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. olliez

    olliez Contributing Member

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    HoustonChronicle.com -- http://www.HoustonChronicle.com | Section: Sports

    Feb. 27, 2004, 3:12AM


    Trip around West full of NBA peril
    Rockets see next foe, not standings
    By JONATHAN FEIGEN
    Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

    Cuttino Mobley might want to turn the page. Steve Francis better check out the college basketball scores.

    They're not going to like this.

    The Rockets are in seventh place in the Western Conference, a game behind Memphis, two games ahead of No. 8 Denver and four games ahead of ninth-place Portland, winners of five consecutive games and tonight's opponent in Toyota Center.

    This might not be bad news, or for that matter, news at all. But Mobley, Francis and many Rockets players insist they pay no attention to the standings, playoff seeds or even the race for the Western Conference playoff spot that has eluded them for four seasons.

    The Western Conference standings that were once posted just inside the door to the Rockets' locker room were removed long ago for reasons team officials will not reveal.

    So the Rockets, in an effort to consider every game equal in importance, are working to ignore the playoff race.
    But beginning tonight -- and for the next few weeks -- they will likely fail.
    Despite their best efforts, the Rockets know how vital tonight's game and the next few weeks of the schedule will be to returning to the postseason.

    "Every game is critical," Rockets forward Kelvin Cato said. "We're at that point right now. What people normally say about the second half of the season is that it's do or die. You've got to win games to make the playoffs. It's not going to be like where you're going to be under .500 and you can sneak in. You can't sneak in on the Western Conference side."

    A win tonight would give the Rockets a five-game cushion on Portland with 24 games to play. But after four lottery seasons, and after losses in Dallas and San Antonio in the last week, the Rockets can't help but think of themselves like an NCAA Tournament bubble team trying to build its credentials. But in their case, they know that they might need to make their move now.

    The Rockets, however, will insist on ignoring the playoff implications of tonight's game.

    "I never look at it, I told you that," Mobley said. "I just play. People tell you, but you just blank it out. I can't get caught up in that. I have to stay in my own tradition."

    Wednesday's win over the Cavaliers began a stretch in which nine out of 10 games are at Toyota Center, where the Rockets have a four-game winning streak.

    But they play three of the six teams they are chasing -- the Mavericks, Lakers and Grizzlies -- at home during that stretch, and they play at Midwest Division-leading Minnesota next Friday.

    And they begin these crucial 2 1/2 weeks knowing that then they are over, they will play 11 of their last 16 on the road.

    "It's huge, man," Mobley said of the stretch of home games. "We've got to get as many wins as possible now. Before you know it, we're on the road, and April is brutal."

    The Rockets are 2-13 on the road against the Western Conference, and all but one of their remaining 12 road games are against Western Conference teams, all of which makes the home games seem more vital. (They go east to play at Milwaukee on March 28.)

    "It could put us in a great position for when we go on the road, because the road is going to be tough," Rockets forward Jim Jackson said of the next 10 games. "So we do have to take care of home."

    There could be some help. The Rockets are 7-3 in home sellouts and expect to sell out in at least three of their next four games, including tonight's.

    The Rockets have noticed that the visiting team -- with the exception of tonight -- generally draws the sellouts in Houston. When the Hawks, rather than LeBron James and the Cavaliers, were at Toyota Center on Sunday, the Rockets drew just 10,952.

    "Everybody wants to see them, like everybody wants to see LeBron," Mobley said of the Mavericks and Lakers. "I don't know, but the more people that help and support us the better we'll play as a team. That's what Sacramento has. You go out there and play, you know you don't have just those five players, you have 20,000 on your backs. That helps us out a lot, too."

    There is evidence to argue that the average Toyota Center crowd of of 15,187 helps them out, too. The Rockets average 90.1 points at home and 86.1 on the road. They allow just 83.6 points per game at home, while giving up 86.5 on the road.

    "I think it's still early to be talking about (the playoff race and seeds) really," Rockets center Yao Ming said. "Nothing is easy at this point in the season, but it's good to be home and be able to get more rest and get used to the environment."

    Whether it is too early or just the right time to keep tabs on the standings, even the most recently acquired Rocket refused to sneak a look, arguing that the team cannot afford the luxury of considering any game more important than another.

    "Every game is a big game for us," Clarence Weatherspoon said. "You can't sit there and watch the standings. You have to take care of the game at hand. We have another hard one coming up. That's the most important one.

    "A win is a big game, any way you look at it. It doesn't matter who you play."

    The Rockets don't need the standings to tell them that. Still, they know a win over the Trail Blazers can mean more to playoff hopes than Wednesday's against the Cavaliers.

    "We just got to keep winning," Cato said. "We've got to continue to keep winning if we're going to make this playoff run. We still haven't secured a playoff spot yet. Even though we're tied for sixth, seventh, eighth place, it's not going to be easy to make it in."

    For the record, it's seventh -- not that he would have any way to know.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Rockets summary

    Mobley's mouth

    NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Thursday the league is "investigating" Cuttino Mobley's comments about the officiating in San Antonio on Tuesday. Because Mobley was not considered subject to a suspension, there was no need to reach a decision before Wednesday's game against the Cavaliers.

    Mobley described the officiating as "r****ded" and said the officials were incompetent.

    Turnstile watch

    The Rockets have an outside chance at selling out Sunday's day game against the Seattle SuperSonics.

    If so, it would extend the Rockets' sellout streak to five games.

    The Rockets had a sellout Wednesday for the one appearance of Cleveland rookie LeBron James in Houston this season, marking their 10th sellout this season to match last season's total.

    Tonight's game against the Trail Blazers is close to a sellout. Next month's first two home games, against the Lakers and Mavericks, also are expected to draw capacity crowds.

    If the Rockets do sell out Sunday's game, the five-game streak they would expect would be their longest since their 147-game regular-season and 172-game streak including playoffs ended with the 1999-2000 season opener.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Scary, huh? I honestly think the Denver & Raptors games cost us dearly
     
  2. lost_elephant

    lost_elephant Contributing Member

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    why did you highlight those words?

    So the Rockets, in an effort to consider every game equal in importance, are working to ignore the playoff race.
    But beginning tonight -- and for the next few weeks -- they will likely fail.
     
  3. AroundTheWorld

    AroundTheWorld Insufferable 98er
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    "..., man"...
     
  4. Sane

    Sane Member

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    Beating Portland would basically guarantee us a playoff spot, and that's all I really care about.

    Memphis' next 5 games are difficult.

    It starts with beating Portland and guaranteeing playoffs. Then they can focus on taking that 6th seed.
     
  5. HillBoy

    HillBoy Contributing Member

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    Here are the two statements that will determine the fate of their playoff chances:

    To make the playoffs, they will have to finish up by playing the majority of their remaining games on the road where:

    This has the capacity to get real ugly real fast.
     
  6. Deuce

    Deuce Context & Nuance

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    This is where the Rockets BETTER make some ground or they are in trouble with the April part of the schedule looming.
     
  7. SamFisher

    SamFisher Contributing Member

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    You highlighted it because I guess you think Feigen is saying that the Rox will "fail" to make the playoffs, no?

    I don't think that is the correct reading.

    It is pretty clear to me that "fail" is in reference to the Rockets "working to ignore the playoff race" in the previous sentence, which is reinforced by the "Despite their best efforts, the Rockets know how vital . . . " in the next sentence.

    Accordingly, he is saying the Rockets won't be able to ignore the playoff picture, rather than will fail to be in that picture.

    Those of you worried about Portland, here's there schedule during their recent five game win streak:

    Wed 18 LA Clippers Win 101-86 25-28
    Fri 20 at Golden State Win 94-93 26-28
    Sat 21 Boston Win 105-84 27-28
    Mon 23 at Miami Win 89-81 28-28
    Tue 24 at Orlando Win (OT) 94-91 29-28

    And here is their next 11:

    Fri 27 at Houston Tickets KGW 8 8:30 PM
    Sat 28 at Dallas Tickets KGW 8 8:30 PM
    MARCH OPPONENT TICKETS TV NAT TV TIME (ET)
    Wed 3 Memphis Tickets 10:00 PM
    Thu 4 Detroit Tickets TNT TNT 10:00 PM
    Sat 6 Utah Tickets KGW 8 10:00 PM
    Sun 7 at LA Clippers Tickets KGW 8 9:30 PM
    Wed 10 Minnesota Tickets NBA TV 10:00 PM
    Fri 12 Sacramento Tickets KGW 8 10:00 PM
    Sun 14 at Minnesota Tickets 3:30 PM
    Tue 16 at Milwaukee Tickets 8:00 PM
    Wed 17 at Indiana Tickets ESPN 7:00 PM

    Anything short of a .500 performance during that tough stretch basically kills Portland's playoff chances, even if the Rockets play mediocre from here on out.
     
  8. Toast

    Toast Member

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    I look forward to watching this Rockets team grow together on the road. I see an opportunity here. We have played so few games on the road at this point in the season, we haven't proven we can win on the road. I think the Rockets will come together in that last leg of the regular season and discover their road game. At least, that's what I hope :)
     
  9. olliez

    olliez Contributing Member

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    SamFisher, you are theoratically right, but remember last year? Rox lost all their chance of play-off 3 games before the season ended.

    I calculated there are 4 game that Rockets could 've /should 've won.
     
  10. nocore

    nocore Member

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    If there exists no Eastern Conference, Houston Rockets would be the third worst team in the NBA, only slightly better than Clippers and Phoenix.

    We have only 3 games left against eastern teams, while Portland has 8, Memphis and Denver have 9. If Portland continues to play at high level, we might actually miss the playoffs again.

    My prediction: 43-39 eighth seed.
     
  11. DnD

    DnD Member

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    The Rockets are 2-13 on the road against the Western Conference, and all but one of their remaining 12 road games are against Western Conference teams, all of which makes the home games seem more vital. (They go east to play at Milwaukee on March 28.)
    -----------------------

    That is pretty damn scary. Oh, fudgecake...
     
  12. Bogey

    Bogey Contributing Member

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    Has anyone noticed that all teams ahead of us in the standings have gone 8-2 over their last ten games. That makes it hard if we wanted to (god forbid) move up in the standings. I thought winning 7 out of the last ten would help make up the ground on someone.
     
  13. oliver_67

    oliver_67 Member

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    First, these team don't have as great a record against the East as the Rockets have.

    Second, Portland has 6 games left against the East conference, with home game against Pistons and road game against the Pacers. These are not chopped liver. They also play Dallas once on the road, Spurs twice, Lakers twice, Minny twice, Kings once. And they will Houston twice, Denver and Memphis once each. Pretty tough stretch to me.

    Dnever is gonna play Spurs twice, Minny twice, Kings once. They will play us twice and Portland once. Among their rest 9 games against the East conference, they are gonna meet Pistons twice, Pacers once, Nets twice. Very very though schedule ahead. They can easily lose 10 out of these 13 games. Assuming that they go 7:3 for the rest of the 10 games, they will end up 42:40 for the season, thus battling either Rockets or Trailblazer for the 8th spot in the West.

    Grizzles has the best chance to lock in a 6th seed. But I don't want that seed anyway.
     
  14. annthuyn

    annthuyn Member

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    That's true.. With more people attending the games, the more motivated they probably will become.. but I don't understand it.. The players don't seem too involved in the community, but they expect a lot of people to attend the games? Don't get me wrong, I've been to several games and plan on going to several more. If the players were more involved, I'm sure more 'regular' fans will attend the games, because they'd feel like they've "connected" with the players and feel closer to them. Of course it depends on the performance of the teams playing, but I feel this is part of the factor in why there's such a small crowd of people attending the games.
     
  15. SamFisher

    SamFisher Contributing Member

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    Olliez, we are in a much, much better position this year as opposed to last year. Our record is much better and the competition is nowhere near as tough. Even with a mediocre finish by the Rockets, an outstanding stretch by the blazers (something like 16-9 over their final 25) is required for them to even get to 45 games. That is just not going to happen.
     
  16. GRAYsquirrel

    GRAYsquirrel Member

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    In the article Mobes said, "I don't know, but the more people that help and support us the better we'll play as a team. That's what Sacramento has. You go out there and play, you know you don't have just those five players, you have 20,000 on your backs. That helps us out a lot, too."

    Man, if I was still living in Houston, I'd be at as many games as I could, sneak down to the lower section, and yell and cheer my ass off.

    Instead, I watch the Rox on League Pass, and every time the lower section looks half empty and the place sounds like a freakin library. It's almost embarrassing.

    I say they make the corporate ticket holders tell them if they're going to use their tickets for any given game, and if not, auction or sell them to the public at reduced prices. That would be great extra revenue AND support for the team.

    A thunderous and intimidating atmosphere [like Sac/Dallas] makes all the difference in making opponents wet their pants a little and pumping up our own players. All it takes is a couple of plays, one or two baskets, to determine the outcome a game. It's a game of inches, and every little thing counts.

    This current 10 game home stand is very very crucial. If I was in still in Houston, I'd be going to these games and I'd drag my friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, cable guy, etc. with me too. You should do the same!!

    :D
     

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