Daily Rocket Science: Blast from the past

The Rockets ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard after their visit with Dwight Howard.

James Harden did all he could to keep his Houston Rockets alive in the first half. His 24 points and 9 assists in the first 24 minutes allowed the Atlanta Hawks to hold a small six point lead. After that, however, he couldn’t do enough. Dwight Howard took over towards the end, leading his team by scoring 11 of their first 13 points of the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Harden was held rendered useless in the final period, tallying zero points or assists.

From Dwight Howard dominating the paint to the Rockets forgetting all about defense, last night’s game was a blast from the past in many ways. In future contests, the Rockets can look back to their first meeting with the Hawks and learn from their costly mistakes.

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D12 had a classic D12 game against the Rockets, reminding Houston fans what could have been. There were times when Howard looked as dominant as ever in Houston, but never on a consistent basis. ESPN’s Calvin Watkins wrote on Dwight’s impact on the younger players in Houston, and how he helped them develop. Clint Capela is especially thankful for the tutelage that Dwight offered him, now that he’s taken over his old role.

Capela watched closely how Howard handled reporters and teammates. While Howard is talkative and playful, Capela is quiet and friendly.

“I really had a chance to see a superstar on our team and how the pressure was on him and how to focus for every game,” Capela said. “I learned from that, and I’m really glad to [have seen] that every single day.”

Another aspect of last night’s game that was reminiscent of the past was the Rockets’ attitude towards defense. The Hawks are not known by anyone to be a offense-minded team. And yet, the Rockets allowed them to score as many as 35 points in a quarter. The dip in defensive effort from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 was the biggest reason for the drastic difference in the win column. This year, the Rockets are hoping to be different. James Herbert of CBS Sports went as far as claiming that Harden could win MVP if his team commits to defense.

Harden put up 30 points and 15 assists against the Knicks and it looked easy. Playing Steve Nash’s old role in Mike D’Antoni’s system, he could be on his way to his first Most Valuable Player award. All his teammates are getting open looks. Most of the attention, understandably, is on Houston’s high-powered offense.
The Rockets, though, also held the Knicks to 99 points in a fast-paced game, and that might be just as significant.

One final blast from the past is the fact that the Rockets’ roster might include Donatas Motiejunas before too long. After he originally demanded $8 or 9 million, Houston upped the offer from $4.4 to 7 millionSpace City Scoop editor Tamberlyn Richardson wrote that the impasse might finally be over between the Lithuanian and the Rockets.

The stand off between the Houston Rockets and Donatas Motiejunas has been going on all summer. October 1st came and went signaling the cut-off of the Rockets $4.4 million qualifying offer. New deadlines are now in place with November 23rd being a critical date. If Motiejunas remains unsigned past that date, but finds resolution thereafter the club cannot include him in any future trades this season.

That’s not to say the intent of the club is to trade him, but GM Daryl Morey and the franchise would want to keep those options open.

The Houston Rockets will look to learn from the past in preparation for tomorrow’s game against then Washington Wizards. Harden will continue his bidding for MVP, and the whole team will hopefully focus on not allowing triple digit points.

Keep up with SCS as the Rockets’ attempt to play better defense and win a respectable number of games. 3-3 is eerily reminiscent of 41-41, so the Rockets could use a win in Washington.

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