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[RealGM] Houston Playoff Preview

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by The Hungarian Rocket, Apr 18, 2007.

  1. The Hungarian Rocket

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    http://rockets.realgm.com/articles/79/20070416/houston_playoff_preview/

    Houston Playoff Preview
    Authored by Elliot Cole - 16th April, 2007 - 12:55 pm

    For all the accolades given for Tracy McGrady’s playmaking abilities or the unstoppable progression of Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets have been unable to translate star power into an appearance in the second round of the playoffs. They’ve been chronic underachievers since acquiring McGrady, often due to his ongoing back problems. Entering the 2007 playoffs, the Rockets haven’t strayed away from this general pattern; again having to play through injuries to McGrady and Yao (the two have played only 40 games together through Sunday).

    However, something is different about this year’s Rockets team. This year’s team has shown a newfound resiliency, a never-say-quit attitude written all over the organization. Coach Jeff Van Gundy has made no excuses for losses, despite the injuries. Yao Ming has been more aggressive than ever, even throwing in the occasional trash talk. McGrady has adjusted his game to become a better distributor, removing some of his scoring burden. They achieved the 50-win plateau and seem destined for home court advantage in the first round, despite playing in the toughest division in the NBA.

    Whether it’s a change in mentality or their approach to the game, the Rockets are ready for the playoffs. Healthy and playing good ball with great chemistry, the Rockets are the sleeper team of the 2007 playoffs. They have superstars that demand the ball in crunch time, a solid defensive mentality, playoff tested coaching and a good supporting cast. Rafer Alston has shown significant improvement at the point position, averaging a respectable 13.4 PPG and 5.4 APG while upping his three point percentage. Dikembe Mutombo has been ageless, showing fresh legs while starting for an injured Yao. Shane Battier has been everything the Rockets wanted; a lockdown perimeter defender with a team-first mentality and a tireless worker.

    The only hang up for the Rockets has been their failure to incorporate Bonzi Wells into their bench. Wells, who came to Houston out of shape and somewhat miffed over his inability to find big dollars over free agency, never meshed with the hard line approach of Van Gundy. Unfortunately for Wells, the organization refused to tolerate his unprofessional work ethic, and after failing to appear for a game against the Sonics he and the Rockets respectfully agreed that he was done for the year.

    How has all this affected the Rockets? Not much. The team was never able to rely on Wells, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Instead, the Rockets were able to rely on the improved play of guard Luther Head, who brought 11 PPG with help from a stellar 44% shooting from downtown. While Wells seemed a perfect fit for a weak Rockets bench, the play of Head and Kirk Snyder has negated his absence, allowing the Rockets to chug along towards their first round matchup with Utah. Here’s a breakdown of the 4-5 seed series in the West:

    UTAH JAZZ: Utah is the sort of team that nobody wants to play. They are physical, frustrating, have a terrific home crowd (let me rephrase, a vicious home crowd), and dominate the boards. So why should the Rockets be happy that they’re matched up against the Jazz? Because the Jazz are limping into the playoffs both literally and figuratively, losing 6 of 7 and going 6-12 since March 13th. Injuries to Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko have slowed them down considerably over the last few months. Coach Jerry Sloan can take solace in the fact that his team is built for the playoffs, but the Rockets aren’t an easy draw.

    Yao Ming, despite injuries, has had his strongest season yet. Most teams struggle to defend Yao, and Utah is no exception. With a finesse center in Mehmet Okur and an undersized Boozer at the power forward, Yao should have a field day whenever he finds 1 on 1 coverage. On the flip side, Okur should be able to drawn Yao away from the basket, allowing Deron Williams and company access to the lane. The Rockets perimeter defenders are disciplined enough to make up for the open lane, but any penetration could put Yao at risk for picking up fouls.

    McGrady offers another difficult matchup for Utah. Starter Derek Fisher is too small to guard McGrady and Matt Harpring doesn’t have the footspeed. Although physical, the Jazz defense is susceptible to both Yao and T-Mac, and if Houston is able to consistently dictate their offense through their two stars Utah could find itself in a compromising position.

    There are several variables in the series. Deron Williams has never made a playoff appearance, and Andrei Kirilenko’s return from a thumb injury could either give the Jazz a valuable defender or throw off their on court chemistry. The Jazz do have the potential to win; their sets are clever, they are tough minded, and the combination of Williams and Boozer has excelled in the pick and roll. However, they may have peaked too early in the season, and it’s hard to see this team suddenly turning it on. While the Jazz haven’t been able to readjust to their injuries, the Rockets have managed to win under any circumstance, and the home court advantage may prove to be the difference in the series.

    Bold Prediction: Rockets in 7.

    Elliot can be reached at elliot.cole@yahoo.com
     
  2. WyoRox

    WyoRox Member

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    Bold Prediction: Rockets in 7.


    My, my, my... That WAS a bold prediction.
     
  3. rayrocket

    rayrocket Member

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    Rockets in 5.
     
  4. texanskan

    texanskan Contributing Member

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    that's what I got

    then Rockets in 6 over dallas then I am not sure
     

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