NBA PLAYOFFS

John Granato: Rockets showed off some new toys in Game 2, and it was like Christmas morning

P.J. Tucker was a big factor. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I don’t want to accuse anyone of lying but since we were kids we were told that some lies are OK: little white lies that keep us from hurting other people’s feelings and lies we benefit from like the ones on Christmas morning.  After Game 1 we were told that that’s who the Rockets were. They were an isolation team. That’s what they did to win 65 games and they weren’t going to change now. Maybe they were still an isolation team last night but you’re lying to yourself if you think that was the same offense we saw on Monday night.

My favorite possession of the season: up 11 with 4:36 left in the first half James Harden runs the ball up the court. Before Andre Iguodala can get set Harden drives into the lane and creates some space. He hits Eric Gordon at the 3-point line. He hits Chris Paul on the wing. Paul drives by Curry and hits James at the left 3-point line. He swings it to Ariza in the left corner who pump fakes the defender and dribbles toward the hoop, stops and hits Gordon who drains the 3.

The crowd erupts.

That was wonderful basketball. That was what this team can and has to do to win this series.

It was so good Charles Barkley actually said something nice about the Rockets. He finally admitted that this team could not only compete but could beat the Warriors. He also said that the Game 2 version did not resemble the Game 1 version. And he was right.

We were told that the supporting cast just wasn’t good enough, that James had to command the basketball, had to do it all because the other guys sucked. Granted, they weren’t very good in Game 1. It was amazing that they scored 106.

Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, Gerald Green and Luc Mbah Moute were a combined 5 for 22. That’s bad. Why would you want to move the ball around and give it to those guys?

Game 2 is why.

While James did James things the other guys got to do their thing too. Back in the day when the Bulls owned the NBA, Michael Jordan knew how to get everyone involved. Of course Scottie Pippin and Toni Kukoc would get their fair share of shots but Mike made sure the role players would get a taste as well. It was a lock that in the first three or four possessions of a big game Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright would get touches in the low post. They might not get any more but Mike knew those touches would keep them engaged the rest of the night.

It’s not that Ariza and Tucker didn’t try in Game 1. But it ain’t easy to hit a shot when you only get three in 48 minutes. It’s tough to get into any kind of rhythm watching James dribble down shot clock after shot clock.

Last night TNT put up a graphic that was jaw dropping. In Game 1 James dribbled 550 times. Curry, Durant and Thompson combined for 549 dribbles. 550 dribbles??!!! That’s a ton but it seemed more like 8000. That’s not good basketball.

After Game 1 Coach D’Antoni told us they weren’t going to change their style after a 65 win season. After Game 2 he stuck to his guns.

“Oh yeah,” he sarcastically told reporters. “We went from the wide open California offense to the triple threat. No. We did exactly what we did. We played harder. We got into them. They felt us physical. We didn’t have that same intensity in the first game. Our guys are great and they learned from (Game 1), snapped back and did the job.”

First of all I think he meant the triple option, not the triple threat. That’s a radio show not an offense.

Second, saying they were the same in Game 1 as they were in Game 2 is like saying Les Miles’ offense is the same as Mike Leach’s. Sure they both use a football and 11 players but that’s where the similarities end.

Quite frankly, that’s a pretty good analogy. In Game 1 James Harden was Leonard Fournette running for 202 yards in a 10-6 loss to Alabama. He got his but no one else was involved. They used all of the play clock and even had some delay of games because they didn’t get out of the huddle in time. LSU has proven time and again they can beat Alabama every once in a great while playing like that but not in the biggest games. And it’s boring as hell.

In Game 2 they turned into a high flying, pass happy offense where they spread it all over the field and got everyone involved. The defense had no idea where they were coming from and guys were running wide open all alone for easy scores. They played up tempo, no huddle. They opened up the run game by throwing passes instead of the other way around. And they scored at will. The only difference is that unlike Texas Tech the Rockets played defense too.

The only similarities offensively in Games 1 and 2 is that they both used a basketball. I’m OK with Coach telling us it was the same. I’ve been lied to before. I knew who bought my Christmas presents. If mom and dad wanted Santa to get the credit I was cool with it as long as I got what I wanted.

Last night was Christmas morning for all of us. We opened up a couple toys called early offense and basketball passes. Let’s play with them for a while.


 

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Upton and Verlander are headed to the Big Apple. Photo by Elsa/ Getty Images.

News erupted on a relatively quiet Monday, December 5 that Houston Astros superstar ace and Cy Young Award-winnerJustin Verlander inked a deal with the New York Mets.

According to the New York Post, Verlander, a free agent, agreed to a two-year, $86 million deal with the Mets, with a vesting, third-year option for $35 million. While that's huge news in the world of pro baseball, Verlander's superstar model wife Kate Upton has been also trending on Twitter.

No surprise there, as cover girl and fashion influencer Upton boasts more than 6 million followers on Instagram alone and one of the most followed models on the globe. But it's not a cover shot or sizzling bikini pic making the rounds, but rather, a video of the supermodel shooting the bird to Philadelphia Phillies fans.

Upton, an oft-smiling mom and wife, had no problem backing down from Philly Fan with a double-barreled, middle finger salute. While the audio is hard to decipher, we're guessing Upton didn't edit her smack talk in the dubious City of Brotherly Love.

Plenty of local talk (if one is interested in that sort of thing) points to the Mets being the team for "real" NYC baseball fans, while Yankees fans are said to be band-wagoning, late to games, and full of corporate partners. It's also good optics that Verlander didn't bolt for the team that the Astros dispatched in a four-game sweep on the way to their second World Series title.

Houston fans will no doubt miss Upton, who wed Verlander, gave birth to darling daughter Genevieve, and essentially broke the internet when she donned a retro Astros jacket — making it an instant sellout — all while here in the Bayou City. As transplants from there regularly point out, Houston is notoriously friendlier than the Big Apple.

But, something tells Upton, who has proven that she's not afraid to go publicly potty-mouthed in defense of JV, will have zero problem handling any mouthy NYC fans.

Upton clearly gives zero bleeps when defending her man. Kate Upton/Twitter

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