Howard Beck: ‘Writing Rockets Off Is Foolish’

Believe it or not, people are actually criticizing Houston head coach Kevin McHale for not calling timeout on the Rockets’ final possession in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday. The Rockets, down a point, were pushing the ball in transition and had a numbers advantage – briefly – but were unable to get a shot off.

Golden State won, 99-98.

Should McHale have called timeout there? Even though James Harden had the ball in his hands and was leading the break against a scattered Golden State defense?

“I generally believe that calling timeouts lets the defense get set,” Bleacher Report NBA analyst Howard Beck said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “You’re much better off trying to find something in transition, especially when you don’t have a lot of time to work with anyway. Depending on when you actually got the timeout called or when you get the referees’ attention and the timeout gets called, how much time are you actually giving yourself to run a full play? Now the defense is set. I think (Andrew) Bogut was off the floor. They would have brought him back in.”

Beck called the criticism of McHale “silly.”

“You’ve got one of the greatest creators in the game in James Harden,” Beck said. “You leave the ball in his hands and let him do his thing. Harden made a bad decision. He passed the ball when he shouldn’t have. He should have taken the shot. But that happens. There’s no perfect outcomes. There’s no perfect planning. The percentages play to your team’s strengths. That team’s strength is James Harden creating and in transition with guys on their heels as you said. That is their best play. It didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean anybody screwed up.”

For Beck, the deficit wouldn’t have mattered, either. The Rockers were down by one point, but even if they had been down two points or three points, Beck still wouldn’t have called timeout.

“I think it’s still the same premise,” he said. “I don’t let the other team plan for anything and get set. Find the shot with everything still on the move, guys in rhythm. I think it’s fine.”

The Rockets now head back to Houston having lost both games in Golden State by a combined five points. Did they need to steal a game at ORACLE to have a chance in this series, or will they be fine if they can hold serve at home?

“I’m not a big believer in anything being inevitable, irretrievable, done,” Beck said. “It’s two games in. The holding serve thing is kind of a dumb playoff cliche because 2-0 does matter. We know that the majority of teams that (are) up 2-0 go on to win a series. But look, 15 teams in NBA history have come back from 2-0. Only four in the conference finals, but whatever. Fifteen is 15. And this is a Rockets team that just became the ninth team ever to come back from 3-1, which was supposed to be a death knell. So writing them off after two close games in Oakland seems kind of foolish.”

Dwight Howard, it is worth nothing, went a long way in reversing his personal narrative last night. The Rockets didn’t know if Howard would even play. Well, not only did he play, but he also finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds.

“Let’s consider how that narrative was created,” Beck said. “It was created in large part because guys like Kobe and even Kevin Durant and other guys around the league have been calling him soft. So this isn’t one of those media creations or just fan perceptions. This is how he’s been regarded by other players. And the way he gutted it out last night through that knee injury – we didn’t even know if he was going to play. He ends up going for a double-double and (made) a lot of big plays last night. That’s great.

“You got to keep doing it, though,” Beck continued. “If they lose the series, will people remember that he gutted it out and had a couple of nice games? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact is, this is a guy who was the best center in the NBA for a certain period of time. He’s still one of the best centers in the NBA. I don’t know if he still has the title of best, but you have to come through at some point. Getting to the conference finals again is great – first time for him since Orlando. But he needs a breakthrough. Playing through injury is only part of it.”

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