Rockets' Road Woes Continue In Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA - A season-long bugaboo came back to bite the Rockets again Saturday night. The team’s transition defense broke down, breathing life into an offensively-challenged Sixers squad. Suddenly emboldened, Philadelphia put forth the sort of scoring stretch it hadn’t seen in weeks. And just like that, a rocky road trip became a miserable one as Houston fell 107-100 at the hands of the Sixers.
The loss represented the Rockets’ third straight defeat, dashing so many of the good vibes the team brought with it at the outset of this three-game journey. Whereas Houston seemed to have an answer for everything during the five-game winning streak that had immediacy preceded the club’s current slump, Murphy’s Law appeared to reign supreme from the second the fourth quarter began in New Orleans – the site of Houston’s first stop, and loss, of the road trip. But while missed shots were largely to blame for defeats at the hands of the Hornets and Celtics, Saturday night’s letdown had far more to do with a defense that simply disappeared at the worst possible time.
The Rockets actually began the game brightly, seizing an early 11-point lead in the opening quarter as Chandler Parsons (23 points, 9 rebounds) sparked the club with his terrific energy and playmaking on both ends of the floor. The Rockets appeared to be locked-in defensively, allowing the Sixers to take all the bad shots they wanted, and as a result the Rockets’ transition game clicked into high gear in a hurry.
But as quickly as Houston had seized control, the club ceded it back to Philadelphia even faster. The Rockets got lazy on defense, lagging well behind their men on close-outs and rotations, and the end result was an 18-2 Sixers run that laid waste to all the positive play Houston had established earlier in the period. Suitably energized, the Sixers, one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA, would go on to hit more than 52 percent of their field goal attempts in the first half, taking an 8-point lead into the break.
The third quarter began with more of the same as Philadelphia’s lead ballooned to 14 in the opening minutes, prompting a quick timeout and tongue-lashing from head coach Kevin McHale. And though the Rockets responded with improved effort afterward, Jrue Holiday’s terrific play (30 points, 9 assists) kept Houston at arm’s length heading into the fourth quarter.
Facing the very real prospect of a winless road trip, the Rockets finally began to chip away at their deficit in the final frame. Carlos Delfino (16 points, 4-7 from 3) caught fire from beyond the arc and James Harden (29 points) repeatedly ripped Philadelphia’s defense to shreds via the pick-and-roll. When Omer Asik tipped home a Harden miss midway through the period to bring Houston within three, it seemed as if Houston had finally rediscovered the comeback mojo that had rescued the team during come-from-behind victories at Milwaukee and Cleveland the weekend before.
But with the game hanging in the balance, the Rockets’ transition defense tipped the scales in the wrong direction once more. On multiple occasions in the final few minutes, Houston allowed the Sixers breakaway dunks following missed shots and turnovers, providing Philly with the cushion it required to snap its five-game losing streak. All told, the Sixers racked up 24 fast break points – a massive boon for a club that has experienced more than its fair share of offensive droughts when forced to regularly operate out of the half-court.
“Our transition defense was terrible, especially in the first half,” said Parsons after the game. “It’s all mental breakdowns. Everyone knows their role and everyone knows what they have to do.
“Individually, everybody just got worked today. Every single one of their players scored and did whatever they wanted to do, especially early. We made some changes and adjustments in the second half, but I thought individually our defense could have been way better. When we’re not getting stops, it doesn’t let us do what we’re great at doing so we definitely need to bring it more at the defensive end.”
Our transition defense wasn’t good. That’s been a bugaboo. We had turnovers for awhile before we got that under control. We got within three and had three or four possessions in a row where we got stops and then we had a long, contested 3 early in the clock that we shouldn’t have taken, we had a miss and didn’t get back and then Young had a run-out. That was kind of the game.
You have to value each possession. Hopefully that goes without saying. You can’t just throw possessions away. It all started off when they started going at us one-on-one. Their schemes didn’t hurt us; they just went one-on-one. When they got some separation, Holiday was going at us, Hawes was posting up and shooting over us. They ran an iso to start the third quarter and Young went left – well, he hasn’t gone right yet. It’s just a bunch of stuff.
Every team goes through some adversity and we’re going through a bit right now. We had a three-game road trip, didn’t win any of them, had chances, got Boston down to a couple points last night, got this game down to three points with five minutes to go, but didn’t win them. You’ve got to find a way to win them.
Turnovers, we’re not rebounding the ball like we need to be and we’re not getting stops. During that five-game winning streak we were getting stops and getting out in transition scoring the basketball. If we don’t get stops it slows us down and that’s key.
The last couple games, teams are getting out to good leads on us and we’re having to fight back. We get it back to a two- or three-point game and then run out of energy, so we’ve got to do a good job of sustaining it for 48 minutes.
They hit some tough shots but our transition defense was terrible, especially in the first half. Holiday got going a little bit. It’s just one of those games where they had three days of rest and we’re on our fourth game in five nights. Not making excuses. It’s one that we felt like we could have hung in there and battled more and got at the end but it was just a bad game.
(why does transition D continue to be poor?)
It’s all mental breakdowns. Everyone knows their role and everyone knows what they have to do. Sometimes it’s just lapses and they don’t do it. Ones and twos have to get back every single time. People have to take ownership. Even me at the three, I have to know when I go to the boards and when I don’t.
(other aspects of defensive breakdowns)
Individually, everybody just got worked today. Every single one of their players scored and did whatever they wanted to do, especially early. We made some changes and adjustments in the second half, but I thought individually our defense could have been way better. When we’re not getting stops, it doesn’t let us do what we’re great at doing so we definitely need to bring it more at the defensive end.
Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach Doug Collins
That was a terrific win for us tonight. That team is so difficult to defend because they have so many guys who can play off the dribble. They shoot threes, which is witnessed by 32 threes that they took. Each night seems to be a different guy. Tonight, [Carlos] Delfino hit us with some threes.
[Chandler] Parsons is a terrific player. I thought one of the keys, I thought we did a really good job on Jeremy Lin. For the most part, we did a good job on fouling, except in the third quarter, I think they shot 13 free throws, but other than that, they got nine the rest of the game.
Tonight to me was as good of leadership by our captains as I’ve had in the three years that I’ve been here. The way they spoke to each other, the way they encouraged each other, and the way they just were in the huddles with one another. When things got tough and mistakes were made, if guys got out of line with a T or something, they were holding each other accountable, which is a wonderful thing to hear. That’s one of the things that I’ve told you, that I talked to the guys yesterday, talked to the captains about taking more responsibility, and I think the key to that is going to be Jason Richardson. J-Rich is going to be real key to that. Playing great for us tonight, and the guys off the bench, Dorell [Wright], Spence [Spencer Hawes], Royal [Ivey], I thought they gave us great minutes tonight. So, terrific win.
Col just turned four so he got some too tonight by the guys, so happy birthday Col. I lost on your mommy’s birthday, but you got your win tonight buddy.
Q: They closed within three there with three or four minutes to go…
Yeah, we missed a couple point-blank layups, and we played through it. We had that one segment where we couldn’t come up with a defensive rebound. They had about six threes that, fortunately, they didn’t hit. I thought Thad [Thaddeus Young] was as lively tonight as he’s been in a long time. He was just all over the floor. When he does that, what he means for our team…we had a couple lulls where I thought the ball was stuck a little bit. We talked about that in a couple timeouts to keep that ball moving. Twenty-six assists tonight, only 11 turnovers. Last time we played this team, they had 23 points off our turnovers; tonight, only 11. So, 18 points at the free throw line. I think last time they had 30, and tonight 11 points off turnovers so I thought those were critical as well when they made 32 from three.
Philadelphia 76ers Guard Jason Richardson
Q: Jason, do you feel you had a productive conversation with Doug yesterday?
Yeah, I think it was very productive going in there and talking to him. It almost took some pressure off of myself. I just kind of worry myself, I’m really tough on myself, and I didn’t know what was going on with the minutes. Once he explained that to me, it made a lot of sense to me and I just went out there and played without pressure, just played ball.
Q: You said if you could change something when you were younger, it would be to be more vocal, and maybe you could be that for this team. Did you feel like you couldn’t talk as much just because you were new?
No, no, not at all. That wasn’t the case at all. I think it was just not being on the court, not being involved. I kind of had to pick and choose, so I think now, being out there, I can talk and be a little bit more vocal. I think the guys respect what I have to say,, and I want to try and say the right things, so I think that kind of helped a little bit more.
Q: Can a veteran help a Jrue [Holiday] and a Thad [Thaddeus Young]? Obviously they are older guys on this team because they’ve been here, but they’re young guys…
Yeah, definitely, helping those guys out, always talking to Jrue. I definitely want to see his growth. He’s just an amazing point guard. I said, in three years, he could be top five, but I think next year he could be a top five point guard.