REST FOR THE WICKED

Barry Laminack: The Rockets need to start resting players NOW

James Harden and Chris Paul need to get more time on the sidelines. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With all the talk of landing the No. 1 seed going on in this town and in Oakland, it's probably not the most popular opinion to have but I think the Rockets need to start resting players.

At the very least they need to start cutting  back on James Harden and Chris Paul's minutes (and for that matter Clint Capela’s, too).

I understand that the one seed is important, but with all of the teams sitting at three through eight only being separated by 4fourgames, there really isn’t that much of a difference between the rest of the West (and while I still say Portland is a scary out, after that no other team in the west below Portland should scare the Rockets).

Let's be honest, at this point the Rockets and Warriors are on a crash course to face each other in the conference finals anway, and while home court advantage is important, both of these teams are capable of stealing one on the road and capturing the home court advantage that is being so coveted right now.

Watching Chris Paul grab the back of his leg and limp around two nights at the end of the Portland game is when it hit me.

Add to that James Harden getting banged around on a nightly basis and Capela’s sprained thumb and it’s clear to me that at some point the Rockets have to look over at the Warriors, see how banged up their squad is and takes steps to avoid the injury issues they are suffering through right now.

Especially with the playoffs right around the corner.  

Now is the perfect time to scale back on the minutes of Harden, Paul and Capela. 20 to 25 minutes a each would be great (and no, there's little chance that doing so would cost Harden is MVP).

If you’re still not convinced this is the right thing to do, need I remind you the big complaint from everyone as the Rockets got bounced from the playoffs last year was how “tired’ Harden looked?

Hell, I’d even be good (ok, great) with Harden and CP3 sitting out a few games between now and the playoffs. I’m not so sure the Warriors can catch the Rockets at this point anyway - what with all the problems they are having - plus the 2 teams having similar remaining strength of schedules favors the Rockets 4 game lead as well. So with teams like Atlanta, Phoenix, Chicago and Sacramento left on the schedule, any of these games would be the perfect time to sit Paul and/or Harden in hopes of letting them get as close to 100 percent as possible.

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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