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Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with a team that, by way of Phoenix's loss last night, recently clinched a playoff spot: the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets are a throwback to the old days. They include everyone in the offense, play a physical style of basketball and have tremendous defenders at nearly every area of the court. The Rockets throw two tremendous on the ball defenders in Ron Artest and Shane Battier at your best players, making it nearly impossible for anyone to get into any kind of rhythym and then have 7'6" Yao Ming waiting around the basket for whenever Artest and Battier gamble and their defenders gets past them. It's extremely difficult to score on Houston and they are also fantastic at rebounding the basketball, which limits any second chance opportunities for the oppositon.
On offense, the Rockets are very balanced with a nice inside-outside game. Yao Ming, for all of his height, has a beautiful touch around the basket and can draw defenders away from the basket. He's a weapon that a lot of times simply don't have, and because of his height and shot is difficult to guard. Rick Adelman's motion offense includes everyone on the court and forces teams to hold all of their players accountable. But with Luis Scola and Yao Ming holding the paint area, and with Ron Artest, Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks streching the defense, they're not as inept on scoring as most teams that rely on their defense are.
The Rockets, although they run a fantastic offense and have solid players on every position, really don't have anyone who can take over a game in the clutch. Yao Ming is capable but lacks the killer instinct, and Ron Artest doesn't shy away from taking big shots, but is way too inconsistent to be reliable for every game in the postseason. They don't have that wing player that can really help them get over bad slumps and get the ball going around to everybody. Aaron Brooks is also a solid point guard and has more upside than Rafer Alston did at this stage in his career, but I'm not convinced that Brooks is an upgrade at this point in time. Also, the team has a nice starting five but doesn't necessarily have the explosive bench necessary for spelling those starters. Von Wafer, Kyle Lowry and Carl Landry are good energy players but neither has the capability of changing games off the bench.
The Rockets also aren't a very athletic team. When they play potent offenses things can get difficult for them, and this team really struggles coming from behind. Their defense has to be on point every single game, and it is, but they can't fall behind by double digits and hope for a comeback. Their team isn't built for that. The Rockets are very good at controlling the pace of the game, but if they can't dictate the pace and teams escape the half court game then the Rockets are going to be hard pressed for options.
Why They Will Win It
The Rockets could easily win it this season because they have two things that so many teams are lacking in the postseason: defense and a fantastic post game. The Rockets have depth at the big man positions and all of them can score around the basket. They've been on the brink of succeeding the past couple of seasons but always seem to defeat themselves in the postseason. Ron Artest brings an awesome sense of confidense in tight games and this team now believes that they can win.
Why They Won't Win It
The Rockets may struggle to find someone who can consistently take over games for them in crucial situations. They have all of the role players, defensive mentality and post game but don't necessarily have a good wing player who can come up with big shots consistently. In this regard, I think they'll miss Rafer Alston and Tracy McGrady. McGrady was never effecient at taking the big shots, but teams really focussed to stop him and that opened up shots for other people. Most teams will live with Ron Artest's low shooting percentage because he doesn't utilize his main strength: taking smaller defenders to the basket.
It's still mental in Houston. They have to escape the first round and once they do that things can fall into place. The first playoff series will be the most difficult but if Houston wins then they can make a nice run at a championship. There are no excuses to not get out of the first round this season, because Tracy McGrady is not there to blame, Yao Ming is healthy for the first time in four years and they have, arguably, the best defensive team in the NBA. They have to avoid teams that also excell at half court offense, but if they can face a team that relies too heavily on offense then the Rockets can shut them down and come out victorious. The Rockets, though, may be lacking the consistent offensive star to take this team to the next level. Aaron Brooks, Ron Artest and Von Wafer can be great in spurts in certain situations but they're going to lack any bit of consistency. The Rockets are a championship team with a championship defensive mentality, but they have to have someone step up and hit big shots consistently. If anyone can step up and do that, the Rockets can make a run at a championship.
The next team to clinch will be covered in the next preview.