THE Z REPORT

Lance Zierlein: 3 simple steps for the Rockets to bounce back and win Game 2

Somebody freaking cover Klay Thompson. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Is the sky falling? Frankly, maybe it is. James Harden put together a huge Game 1 and Chris Paul added 23 points and 11 rebounds and they still lost by double digits. How do you stop Kevin Durant? How do you keep Klay Thompson and Steph Curry from finding their rhythms and burying you this series?

Look, this is going to be a difficult series to win, but it’s not impossible and Game 1 also showed that the Rockets could definitely matchup with the Warriors - they just struggled to do it in the third quarter which was enough to turn that game into a boat race.

How to Erase -13

When you look up at the scoreboard and see a loss by 13 points, at home no less, it looks insurmountable. Maybe it will turn out to be a foreshadowing of the series. I know that the entire TNT crew seems to believe that Game 1 was representative of how this series will look, but it doesn’t have to.

Over the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Rockets were +4 in the turnover differential but they found themselves on the other end of that number in the series opener after turning it over 13 times and forcing just 9. The Rockets must win the turnover battle because the entire key to beating a team with elite shooting is to take away some of their possessions. Houston won the rebound battle, but must pair that a “W” in the turnover column as well. Win the turnover battle and that is worth at least four points.

The next step is to actually not lose Klay Thompson in the half-court sets. WTF?! When 4 of Thompson’s 6 3-point makes are wide-open you are going to lose. These shots are basically layups for him. If the Rockets can eliminate some of those defensive breakdowns, maybe two of those baskets go away and that would be worth six points.

 

And is it too much to ask Luc Mbah a Moute to make an actual layup? After going 0-for-6 including five missed chipies near the basket, he’s got to finish when he gets near the rim. Hell, the entire team needs to finish when they have easy looks near the rim. If he had made just two of those six shots, we are talking about four more points.

Winning turnover battle

+4 points

Actually guarding Klay Thompson 3s

+6 points

Making two easy layups at basket

+4 points

New Point Differential

+14 points


We haven’t even talked about how the Rockets shot free throws poorly and they allowed too many easy back-cuts to the basket for layups. I’m not telling you that the Rockets are going to win the series or even Game 2 (although they are favorites again), but I am telling you that those 13 points aren’t as insurmountable as you might think.

 

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Let him cook! Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets are in the midst of a rebuild. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr are studs. KPJ just signed a four-year extension with the team. Other guys like Jabari Smith Jr, Kenyon Martin Jr, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher, Tari Eason, and Jae'Sean Tate are really good pieces to surround Green and KPJ with. The only issue with this group: they're REALLY young! Tate is the elder statesman at 27 of the young nucleus. Most are barely old enough to buy a drink. Some still aren't old enough! They're a bunch of green bananas waiting to turn yellow to slightly brown and be ripe enough for consumption.

We need to give it time. Just like bananas, they take time to ripen. Coach Stephen Silas is known for developing young players. His most prized student is the star player for that team in South Oklahoma up 45. Number 77 for that team credited Silas with helping him realize his All-Pro potential while Silas was a part of the coaching staff there. To a man, all his former players credit him with being a positive influence on their careers. So why are fans in a rush to get rid of him?

When you look at the Rockets' record over the last few years, it's gross. Sure, they've been a lottery team the last couple of seasons, but that was by design. As part of the Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook trades, they gave away pick swap rights. Had they not been that bad, they wouldn't have been able to draft Green or Smith Jr. Those two guys are building blocks for the future, along with KPJ. Giving those picks away would've put this team further down the totem pole of developing themselves into a contender. Losing pays off when you can hit on high lottery picks.

If you give a chef dirt, bread, ham, molded cheese, and spoiled mayo, can you expect anything else but a nasty ham sandwich? How about if the chef was given a steak that is almost rotten, potatoes with root growth, and spoiled butter? Could you expect a better meal than the sandwich? Yes! However, that meal may still cause a stomachache. Now, give said chef a full complement of gourmet groceries and guess what you'll get?

This is why I say let Silas cook. He's the perfect coach for this group of kids. He can teach them all the fundamentals of the game at this level and help them grow into their full potential. If there's a change to be made on the sidelines, move Silas into a front office role, but DO NOT get rid of him! Guys like him are too valuable. Why do you think Mark Cuban hated losing him, but knew he couldn't retain him because he had a head coach already? Cuban knew what he had in Silas and what Silas did for Luka Doncic. He can do something similar for the Rockets if given the time to work his magic.

Should Tilman Fertita find the need to move on, I'd look for a more experienced coach who can guide them from bottom of the playoff ladder into top four in the West and real contenders. For now, Silas is the head chef. Continue giving him the groceries he needs, and he'll continue giving these kids the lessons they need to develop. Changing the coach now could stunt their growth. Let him cook!

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