STAYING ALIVE

5 keys for the Rockets to bounce back in Game 4

James Harden needs to play like a superstar. Kevin C. Cox

Houston finds itself once again in a must win situation after being completely dismantled Sunday night at Golden State. The Rockets will need to correct several issues before tonight's game if they are to stand any chance against the Warriors. If they play the same way as Game 3, expect the same result. Here are five things that need to happen to pull this series even:

1) Control the ball

In both losses the Rockets have more than doubled the Warriors in turnovers. In their win, the teams were practically even. Turnovers lead to easy fast break points, and the Warriors, not surprisingly, crushed Houston in that category 23-10 as a result. The Rockets look nervous, and seem like they're trying to play outside of the game the have used to win 65 times during the season. You can't score without the ball, and the Rockets need to take much better care of it or they'll be run out of the building again.

2) Dial in on layups

In both losses the Rockets missed wide open layups time and time again. The only way Houston's offense works is if their isolation plays free up someone capable of making the open layup. Otherwise you end up with an easy fast break for the Warriors, who converted theirs as never more clearly indicated by the scoreboard.

3) Hurry up

The Rockets are fully capable of running the court and upping the pace. That's what they did in Game 2, and it yielded great results. Games 1 and 3 were much slower on the offensive end, leading to way too many last second low percentage shots as the shot clock expired. Pick up the pace, continue to isolate Stephen Curry, and we should see a version of the Rockets we've been used to seeing all season.

4) Step up

Chris Paul and James Harden need help and their teammates have been woefully absent in answering the call. It's clear that Luc Mbah A Moute is still affected by his shoulder injury, as his offense has been nonexistent. That leaves Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, Gerald Green, and Eric Gordon. With the exception of Game 2, their collective production has been uninspiring. Someone needs to step up if the Rockets are going to have a chance because not only does it stretch the defense for easier layups, it also opens up the potential for lob passes to Capela as a result. The most likely candidate to step up would be Gordon, and he will need to to give the Rockets a shot.

5) Be the MVP

James Harden is playing good basketball, don't get me wrong. But in both Golden State wins, we watched as one of their stars simply willed the team to victory. This is Harden's moment. He has a perceived history of shrinking in the playoffs, but now he has the opportunity with the best team ever assembled around him to erase all of his past playoff woes and show just why he deserves to be the MVP this season. Harden is capable of that extra gear, and we've seen it here and there in these playoffs. The Rockets will need Harden to maintain that MVP level throughout the series in order to remain competitive.

Things don't look great for Houston at the moment, but they're not as bleak as you would think. It is absolutely imperative that the Rockets even up the series in order to regain home court advantage, and we saw in Game 2 what the blueprint was. Game 3 they lost it. Game 4 they'll need to find it again or else the offseason will be here much quicker than Houston fans would prefer.

 

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Texans fall to 1-6. Photo by Getty Images

Don't you worry, son. It will all be over soon.

- Teddy KGB, Rounders

The Texans horrible season continued on Sunday when they were soundly beaten by the Green Bay Packers. The Texans got some garbage points to make the score look better late, but they were never in this. They could not run the football, and even though he had a receiving score, maybe it's time the David Johnson experiment ended. Aaron Rodgers ate their souls with four touchdown passes and the Texans fell to 1-6. Five thoughts on the game:

1) First impressions? Not so much. For the seventh time this season, the Texans failed to score on their opening drive. They had ONE touchdown last season on their opening drive, week 17 against the Titans. While Bill O'Brien still gets a lot of that blame, Tim Kelly is now 0 for 3 as an OC. Whoever takes over next season has to fix this. Especially against good teams, the Texans simply can't afford to get down early. They were down 21-0 at the half and never had a real chance.

2) There is good news! Hopefully this lets the team know that there is no chance of anything this season. With the trade deadline looming, any veteran not named Watson or Tunsil should be available for draft picks. It remains unlikely they will do anything, but they have some pieces that might bring a return. Hopefully they no longer think the season can be salvaged.

3) They really aren't close against good teams. The little things continue to be a problem. Key penalties to hurt drives; untimely failures on third down. The offense has to do a better job staying on the field, because the defense just is not good enough to stop solid offenses. Things got worse when their best corner, Bradley Roby went out with injury. Overall, the Packers were better on both sides of the ball, and they made the Texans look bad throughout. The Texans needed some breaks to go their way in order to be competitive, like what happened last week against Tennessee. That didn't happen, and they were never in the game.

4) They won special teams! They blocked a punt in the fourth quarter that helped make the final score a little closer. They also blocked a kick last week. Other than their overpaid kicker (who missed a field goal), the special teams have been solid. Their punter might be the best player at his job on the entire team. So there's that. A positive, right?

5) The future? Meh. The Texans get the Jaguars, Browns and Patriots next, so they should have a chance at some wins, but they could also lose to all three of those teams. And with no high draft pick reward at the end of the year, there is little left to play or root for in this season.

With nine games left, you would like to think there was something left to care about. But if it isn't over yet, it's as Teddy said: It will all be over soon.

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