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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans out-Patriot the Patriots

Texans take down the Pats. Photo by Getty Images.

Every dog has its day. A broken clock is right two times a day. All the clichés about it being better to be lucky than good can apply here with the Texans 27-20 win over the Patriots. In a matchup that broke a record for the oldest combined age for opposing head coaches, 141 years old, Romeo Crennel beat his former boss Bill Belichick. There were other narratives at work here, as well as a few things (good and awful) that the coaching staff did.

First thing I saw that I liked was the spread and no-huddle on offense. If you've been following this series of articles, you know I've been on this train quite a while now. This allows Deshaun Watson to find the matchup he likes, exposes the defense because they can't sub, takes advantage of Texans' speed at receiver, and creates a tempo most defenses can't keep up with. Not to mention the spread is the offense Watson operated in at Clemson. 28/37 for 344 yards and two touchdowns of production from Watson was enough for me to say they need to have this as their M.O. moving forward.

Tim Kelly called a great game. He used the short, quick pass game in lieu of the run game. This also helped since Laremy Tunsil was out and Roderick Johnson had to play at left tackle. This offensive line is not very good at run blocking. Hence, why Watson was again the team's leading rusher with only 36 yards. Almost all of those were on scrambles. By going spread and no-huddle, Watson can take advantage of man and zone coverages to extend plays or scramble because most teams won't spy him. Even when they do, he makes them look silly.

Not everything was on the up and up. The defense continued to look like booty juice. Cam Newton threw for 365 yards and Damiere FREAKIN Byrd torched them for 132 of those yards! When I heard the quote from Crennel that defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver is getting the most out of his guys, I found it laughable. To double down on that, Weaver was quoted as saying, "This narrative that's being painted like my guys aren't disciplined and running around blocks, quite frankly and to put it bluntly, is bull---t!" Sorry guys, but you're both wrong. This defense can't fight its way out of a wet paper bag if you gave them knives. The worst part about it is that the offense's best chance at success sets the defense up for failure. Their hurry up scheme leaves little time for this porous defense to catch its wind. If they could get some turnovers or just off the damn field and get stops, it would help the offense.

With six games left, their three games outside the AFC South (Bengals, Lions, Bears) are all winnable. The two matchups against the Colts and the season finale against the Titans will prove to be their biggest tests. However, this is the same team that has four one possession losses. 3-7 could look a lot different if the offense stepped up against the Browns, or the defense made stops against the Steelers, Vikings, or Titans. Let's hope they can build off this win and salvage whatever they can of this season.

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