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School Of Hard Knocks

October 14, 2012 5:22 pm EDT

Rockets receive tough lessons at the hands of experienced Spurs during 116-107 defeat

HOUSTON - Sooner or later, the Rockets were going to experience a game like this.

In basketball, as in life, there are no short cuts, no routes that allow any player or team to skip some of the less pleasant and occasionally painful steps along the natural learning curve.

This is a young team with a ton of new faces and, as such, it was only a matter of time before that youth and inexperience resulted in a game that would serve as a treasure trove of teaching points; a contest filled with myriad mistakes from which learning and ultimately growth will ensue once those errors are corrected and finally mastered. But doing so takes time; time of the sort that simultaneously serves as the Spurs’ best friend and greatest enemy these days.

The vast majority of the players dotting the Rockets’ roster currently find themselves near the very beginning of their basketball journey and though they possess no shortage of talent, all the talent in the world can’t completely compensate for a noticeable dearth of professional experience. True, talent can speed up the process somewhat, but there is no way of avoiding it altogether. There will be bumps and bruises along the way. That’s why it’s called growing pains.

The Rockets experienced their first dud of the 2012-13 season Sunday afternoon, falling 116-107 in a game that probably wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. That it occurred against a Spurs team capable of embarrassing even the NBA’s best defenses probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, especially given Houston’s insertion of a pair of rookies into the starting lineup (Jeremy Lamb started in place of Kevin Martin, who was given the day off, and Terrence Jones took the place of Patrick Patterson, who was feeling a bit under the weather). Such rotational maneuverings against San Antonio typically have the effect of fighting fire with gasoline, and sure enough, San Antonio torched Houston by generating one good look after another on offense while the Rockets too often got caught with their heads turned the other way on D.

This was always going to prove a stiff test; far and away the toughest Houston has faced in the preseason to date. In a way, it was akin to taking a calculus pop quiz before coming anywhere close to completing Algebra 2. The end result was similarly gruesome.

And you know what? That’s OK. Because the fact of the matter is it gave the Rockets an invaluable opportunity to not just learn about themselves and what they need to work on, but also what it takes to succeed at the highest levels of the NBA. And the sooner they discover that, the better.

“It’s a frustrating game,” admitted Chandler Parsons afterward. “But a game like this, when we play a team of their caliber, it’s good to play them early like this so you can learn from it and see how a team like that plays, how a team like that comes together, all the little things that they do and how sharp and how hard they do it.

“They outplayed us. They’ve been doing it together forever. We’re young guys and have just been watching them do it on TV. I think it was good for us to get a taste of it.”

No doubt the taste was sour, bitter and bilious going down. But as the Rockets move on and learn from this game, they’ll undoubtedly discover something else as well; a lesson that in basketball, as in life, might be the most important one of all: What matters most in such ignominious moments lies not in the defeat, but rather the ensuing response. 

And 1s: In addition to giving Kevin Martin and Patrick Patterson the day off, Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale seized an opportunity to rest Toney Douglas as well. The Rockets’ guard has been nursing a minor groin injury for the past week. As for Royce White, who also did not play, McHale says the rookie will likely make his Rockets debut either Monday night against the Mavericks or Wednesday when Houston plays host to Memphis.

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(just a game full of teaching moments?)

Yeah, I mean I told our guys: that’s a team that plays with a purpose; they know their offense, they make reads. You do silly things, they make you pay, and we did a lot of silly things defensively – a few silly things offensively, too. It’s something we have to learn from and something we have to get better from.

We never got them reacting to us with any kind of ball movement or body movement; we just got stagnant and that’s the one thing we’ve really got to work on and get better at.

(on Jeremy Lin)

Jeremy struggled. He’ll have to be better. I think if you asked Jeremy, he probably wasn’t too happy with the way he played either. He’s a young kid. We’re not talking about a 30-year-old, nine- or ten-year veteran. He’s only got 20-something starts under his belt.

The Spurs are a smart, disciplined team; they know what they want to give you and they know what they want to take away. We didn’t take what they gave us and we attacked what they wanted to take away – that’s the worst of all scenarios.

(on Omer)

He’s playing hard. He’s making free throws. I couldn’t be more happy with Omer. Omer played a lot when he was younger over in Europe and also played two years on a team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals – that played in big games. He played against guys who, if you went to sleep on them, they made you pay. We had guys who were out there for the first time ever and they’re ball watching … (Omer) has been there. He doesn’t make those mistakes because he knows if you make those mistakes coach isn’t going to play you in the Conference Finals. He just brings another level of experience. Even though he’s only got two years under his belt, he just has played in big, big, big games.

JEREMY LIN

(on his rough day)

I had a bad game. I did not really make quick decisions, couldn’t really finish or shoot. It was one of those where you just have to throw it out the window.

I’m just trying to find my rhythm and comfort level again. I’m just happy it’s a preseason game to be honest.

You’ve gotta go through bumps and bruises. I’m young so I’ve got a lot to learn. If I do it right, I’ll make sure I learn from this.

CHANDLER PARSONS

(what do you learn from a game like this?)

It’s a frustrating game, but a game like this, when we play a team of their caliber, it’s good to play them early like this so you can learn from it and see how a team like that plays, how a team like that comes together, all the little things that they do and how sharp and how hard they do it.

It was frustrating because it felt like, especially me, it felt like I was in quicksand all night. I couldn’t get anything going. But I’ve got to find other ways to impact the game.

(how do you make up for the lack of experience when you face a team like the Spurs?)

We’re very young. We’re not going to hang our heads from one game. Obviously we were missing Kevin and Pat tonight, but no excuses. They outplayed us. They’ve been doing it together forever. We’re young guys and have just been watching them do it on TV. I think it was good for us to get a taste of it.

Everybody has bad nights. Being so young, we’re going to struggle sometimes. I think it’s all about how we respond: are we going to hang our heads and play like this again tomorrow in Dallas? Or are we going to move forward and get better and learn from it.

DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS

(what do you take away from playing a team like the Spurs?)

You just try to learn and get as much experience as possible because these guys are really experienced. Like Coach said, as soon as I turn my head my man is getting behind me. So now I can learn. They’re really smart and they’re really good players. It’s a pleasure to play against them.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS HEAD COACH GREGG POPPOVICH

(Did not speak after the game)

MANU GINOBILI

(On the team’s play) “I think you can see improvement and still there’s a long way to go. We were able to get everybody involved in the game and there were some good things and some bad. It’s just preseason so we have a lot to work on.”

(On his play and conditioning) “My conditioning is getting better. I tried hard to keep in shape after the Olympics because I just didn’t want to lose the conditioning.”

WESLEY WEATHERSPOON

(On the starting assignment) “I learned about 20 minutes before the game that I would be starting. I’mn surrounded around a great group of veteran guys. My job is to come out and play hard every minute I’m on the court. I can’t take plays off and I have to get back on defense.”

EDDY CURRY

(On his play) “I played alright. We got a win and that’s what’s important. I try and contribute as much as I can and that’s all I can do.”

(On the Rockets) “This is a totally different team and I’m impressed with what I see. Jeremy Lin will do a good job for the Rockets and I’ve always liked Jeremy Lamb’s game. They will be a team to be reckoned with.”

NOTES

The Rockets dropped their first game of the preseason by a 116-107 count to the Spurs today. Houston netted 63 second-half points, but allowed 64 points to San Antonio over the final two quarters.

After holding New Orleans to just 28-of-83 (.337) from the field at Houston (10/12/12), the Rockets allowed the Spurs to hit 46-of-87 (.529) from the field today.

San Antonio (29) and Houston (23) combined for 52 assists today. Overall, the Rockets have dished at least 23 assists in each of their first three preseason outings.

The Rockets hit 11-of-28 (.393) from 3-point range today. Houston reached double digits from downtown on 16 occasions in 2011-12.

Both teams placed seven players in double-figure scoring today. Houston placed seven players in double-figure point totals just four times in 2011-12.

Omer Asik posted 13 points (4-6 FG, 5-6 FT), 11 rebounds (6 offensive), five assists, two steals and one block today. Asik owns one career double-double in the regular season with 11 points and a career-high 16 boards at New Jersey (3/17/11). His career best in assists for a regular season outing is three, done twice (last on 3/26/12 vs. Denver).

Donatas Motiejunas, who came off the bench for 13 points on 6-of-10 (1-1 3FG) shooting vs. New Orleans (10/12/12), topped the Rockets in scoring with 16 points (6-11 FG) to go with eight boards today.

Jeremy Lamb made his first start at guard today after missing the last outing with a sore foot. Lamb had 11 points (4-9 FG, 3-5 3FG) and five rebounds.

Terrence Jones, who also got the start today at forward, picked up 10 points (4-9 FG) and six rebounds today. Jones previously topped all scorers with 20 points (8-14 FG) to go with six boards vs. Oklahoma City (10/10/12).

Scott Machado, who with Iona was the NCAA Division I leader in assists (9.9 apg) in 2011-12, came off the bench with nine points (3-8 FG) and a game-high 11 assists today. He also dished out a game-high 10 helpers in a 113-91 win over Sacramento (7/16/12) in NBA Summer League action.

Wesley Witherspoon started at forward for the Spurs today and recorded a game-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting (2-4 3FG).

DeJuan Blair registered 16 points (7-9 FG, 3-5 3FG) and six rebounds today. Blair averaged just 9.8 points in four starts for the Spurs last season against the Rockets.

Danny Green who came into this game averaging just 4.3 points this preseason, netted 15 points (6-9 FG, 3-5 3FG) today.