Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale was a power forward, maybe the best power forward ever (depending on how you classify Tim Duncan).
The identity of his Rockets team often hinges on who is playing power forward. Tonight, 7’0″ rookie Donatas Motiejunas gets his first-ever start. Paired with former Bulls center Omer Asik, Houston will begin the game with a conventional two-big-men lineup.
But the Rockets also love speed and three-pointers, so it won’t be unusual for them to go small and spread the floor, either. For most of the season Houston started Patrick Patterson or Marcus Morris, but when both were traded to Houston the job fell to old friend Carlos Delfino.
At times it worked, but at other points it left the Rockets vulnerable on defense. In a loss to the Wizards, Washington exploited the mismatch defensively in the paint in the fourth quarter.
Rockets: Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Donatas Motiejunas, Omer Asik
Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders
Yesterday morning Jennings certainly wasn’t shy when it came to talking about the prospect of playing in Dallas:
“Yeah, of course,” Jennings said when asked if he could see himself fitting in Dallas. “Who wouldn’t want to play in an environment like this every night?
“You’ve got an owner [Mark Cuban] who’s so into his team. Every time you see the Mavs, you see him cheering or going crazy. They won a championship. They’re about winning.”
Normally a fourth quarter staple in the Bucks lineup, Jennings has played four minutes or less in both of the fourth quarters since J.J. Redick‘s arrival. This pattern bears watching, both for its basketball implications and for its impact on the often emotional Jennings.
By the points scored, points allowed, and strength of schedule numbers, the Rockets should be sporting a much better record than their current 31-27 one. Conversely, the Bucks should be a hair worse.
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Houston ranks fourth in three-pointers made this season — they’re high volume takers and makers of the shot. If the Bucks can hold Houston to anything like the 1-17 mark to which they held Dallas last night, they should have a shot at success. But if the Rockets start firing with success, the Bucks could also get buried in an avalanche of points.
Both teams play at a high pace: the Bucks are fifth out of 30 teams, but the Rockets are the fastest. They get an average of 96.2 points per possession. If it’s the sloppy, chase-down-tipped-balls kind of fast, then the Bucks gain the upper hand. If it’s a drive-quickly-and-kickout-for-the-corner-3 type of fast, then the Rockets get the advantage.