With still five minutes, left in the game, the empty bleachers and the deafening silence throughout the Toyota Center says more about the untimely outcome. The sea of red shirts with prints right in the center “Run as one”, was supposed to be a battle cry for the Houston Rockets to go all out in a do-or-die game. With their backs against the wall and when push comes to shove, the Rockets simply gave up as San Antonio bullied their way to victory without Tony Parker and without their number one player, Kawhi Leonard.
The Coach of the year candidate, Mike D’Antoni has somehow rejuvenated his career and is pushing all the right buttons to bring back the Rockets into glory. His “Seven seconds or less” system that he introduced in Phoenix way back in 2003 laid a foundation of spreading the floor with 4s and 5s shooting threes and making the game a little faster. It somehow created an influx of admiration from the NBA today. It was fun and entertaining while it lasted. Although, Mike never won a championship with the Suns but it made a lasting mark.
When Mike took the job as head coach in Houston, he wanted James Harden, the Rockets prolific scorer and all-star to be a point guard. Mike wanted James to be like Steve Nash, the mercurial guard who loves to pass and makes his teammates feel good. Many thought it was a risky move, and many questioned if Harden is ever capable of being a facilitator than a scorer. However, it was just more on putting the right pieces to the puzzle. With James as point guard, Mike added shooters and scorers in Eric Gordon, Lue Williams and Ryan Anderson. D’Antoni’s system suited well but it was flawed with its spine clearly visible. With just one man running the show, in Game 5, the Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich put on some fresh legs against a tired and already exhausted Harden. Moreover, the result came with the Spurs winning in Overtime on James Harden’s crucial turnovers.
The cloak of invisibility that gave the rockets 55 wins in the season that brought them to the semi-finals in the West, has slowly been uncovered. Down and exhausted, the Rockets had just a little fight left on themselves. James Harden needs all the help; all Mike has to do is make his rotation a bit longer and maybe less predictable.
Mike D’Antoni has to realized this, his system while in Phoenix gave him fifty something wins each season, but it never gave him a championship.