KEYS TO SUCCESS

Here's how the NBA shutdown helped the Rockets

Composite photo by Brandon Strange.

The NBA shutting down for the Rockets was a good thing as it allows this new reformed Rockets squad to get more comfortable with each other. This also gives coach Mike D'Antoni time to analyze his players more. After four months of rest, this team can become much more dangerous for the playoffs.

Before the All-Star break started, this team had a lot of changes. They had just traded Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks. Inside that trade, multiple players from opposing teams were moved. In that deal, the Rockets received Robert Covington from Minnesota Timberwolves. Covington became a great fit because of his shooting ability, length, and athleticism. He came up huge against the Los Angeles Lakers by shooting 57% from three. The Rockets also required Jeff Green, so they were able to stretch the floor more. Green has become useful because he averages 10.4 points per game and shot 41.2% from three. Now the Rockets have acquired Luc Mbah a Moute which will help the defense when he arrives in Orlando.

Covington feels more comfortable with the Rockets offensive set now but it took some time to get used to. Covington was able to grab additional help from his teammates when it came to learning this offense.

"Just getting more accustomed within the offense. I didn't know too much; I was just out there playing and being guided. Its helping me be more fluid with everything," Covington said on Sunday during the press conference.

Since practice has begun for the Rockets, they have focused more on defense. The Rockets are ranked 19thth in points allowed on the season. The first thing each player has said is that the communication must be better. They lacked communicating on the floor this year because of the holes on defense. Tons of breakdowns on defense allowed easy scoring for opposing teams. The Rockets are ranked 20thth in field goals allowed and 25thth in steals.

"We're getting better every day." We've been doing [a] really good job of communicating on the court," Covington said. "We're paying attention to the little things. Some guys are getting better because we're holding each other more accountable."

If the Rockets want to win a championship in Orlando, their defense must be better.

Now that D'Antoni was given more time to analyze his players, he has put a new offensive set in. GM Daryl Morey told the media on Friday that D'Antoni was working on a new offense. D'Antoni wants to explore the offense more, so he is able to use all of his weapons properly. His focus is not to over coach them because of their individual talent. Having James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Eric Gordon, guys who can get their own shot, it is better to be hands off at times.

"You've got to be careful; you don't want to overcoach them. Most of the emphasis is on turning up what we do, and just trying to make it better," said D'Antoni on Sunday. "We did try to add some wrinkles."

Now that Westbrook and Harden both know their roles, things can become much easier for the Rockets. Both players know how to be effective at the same time without getting in each other's way. This team will become much better because of the rest, and urgency to correct their past mistakes.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans loss rests squarely on this decision

Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Getty Images.

There are times in which you gamble and it pays off. Then there are times in which you gamble and lose badly. Today was definitely the latter. The Texans fell to the Titans 42-36 in an overtime thriller. The loss rests squarely on the head of interim head coach Romeo Crennel and his ill-timed gambling at the end of the game.

It started with the gamble to go for it on 4th&1 on the Titans' 35-yard line with 4:37 left in the game. That move said two things: A) we're on the road at 1-4 against the 4-0 division leader up by one point so let's try to end this, or B) I don't trust our kicker to make a 53-yard field goal. They converted because David Johnson is good for slamming into the backs of the offensive line for at least a yard or three. The next gamble came eight plays later. It was 4th & Goal from the 1-yard line. The play call was a pass. Deshaun Watson found Randall Cobb after scrambling to extend the play and putting the ball in a tight window on the sideline where only Cobb could catch it. Here's where I started to have a problem with the gambling.

That touchdown made it 36-29 in favor of the Texans. Up by seven with less than two minutes left in the game, the "right" call would be to kick the extra point to potentially go up by eight. That forces the opposition to have to score a touchdown and convert a two point conversion in order to tie the game. Alas...Crennel gambled by trying to force things, went for two, and came up short. Kenny Rogers once said: You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.

The porous defense, however, gave up the game tying touchdown and extra point with four seconds left to send the game into overtime. From there, the Titans got the ball in overtime and drove down the field for the game winning score. A team that played a game on Tuesday evening bullied a team on Sunday at noon. Let that sink in. Sure, Derrick Henry is a linebacker playing running back, but the amount of yards you gave up to him was unacceptable.

Not kicking that extra point to go up by eight with less than two minutes left (1:50 to be exact) was the key coaching move that I feel cost them the game. There's no coming back from blunders like that when you're now 1-5 and would need to go at least 8-2 with tons of help down the stretch to have an outside shot at the newly created seventh spot in the playoffs. You had the division leader down and were in position to get a division win to go to 2-4. Instead, you're now in position to help the Dolphins continue to improve their franchise from the boneheaded decisions Bill O'Brien made before his exit. Crennel and staff coached a good game, until the end when it mattered most. With an extra playoff spot available, they still have an outside shot to make it, but it'll be difficult.

This city and fanbase deserve better. One day, they'll get it and get a winner. Until then unfortunately, they'll have to settle for purgatory, disappointment, and mediocrity. Hold tight. I see good things coming one day Houston football fans.

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