HULK SWAG Rockets avenge bad losses during current five-game winning streak.
If you are familiar with the old television show, “The Incredible Hulk” which was derived from the comic book by the same name. You know that the basis of the show is about a physicist named Dr. Robert Banner who is a mild-mannered, law-abiding citizen who lives a normal average everyday life.
Well that’s until someone upsets him and then he becomes this massive immoveable green object that normally destroys everything in his path. His anger is usually brought on by someone or something that disrupts his normal way of life.
During one episode of the show, he uttered a sentence to a reporter that has become the Houston Rockets mantra over the last month.
“Don’t make me angry. You would not like me when I am angry.”
Figure 1Lou Ferrigno as the Incredible Hulk
Houston defeated the Memphis Grizzles on Wednesday night by a score of 140-112. It was the Rockets fourth win since the All-Star break and they are currently on a five-game winning streak dating back to the victory over the Boston Celtics right before the break.
But this wasn’t your typical mid-week regular season game at the Toyota Center. This game mirrored the victories over the Golden State Warriors (135-105) on February 20th and Utah Jazz on the 22nd (120-110). The “Hulk” like result that personifies who the Rockets have become lately.
The aforementioned teams caught Houston during a Bruce Banner passive phase where they were still trying to figure out some things that had their minds clogged and for lack of a better term, the lane as well. One common theme in those games were the Rockets blowing big leads and only playing hard for three quarters. They had truly embodied the life of Robert Banner, but they would soon embrace the agrresive monster from within and unleash the Hulk.
A terrible 116-104 loss on Christmas Day to a Golden State Warriors team that had superstars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson out due to injuries perplexed the Rockets. Instead of taking advantage of the stars sitting out, they allowed a second-year player from Louisville, Damion Lee to play the role of Curry as his constant drives to the paint resulted in 22 points as he ended the game as the Warriors leading scorer in the victory.
It was a very bad loss for the Rockets as Golden State notched only their eighth win of the season with that victory over Houston.
"For whatever reason we just didn't get it done," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It's too bad we didn't play with the spirit and energy we usually have."
The next time the two teams met, Houston didn’t even allow that Banner mentality to get on the team bus. They stepped on the court in Hulk mode and proceeded to take their anger and frustration out on the Warriors and ended up blowing them out by 30-points. Lee would be held to a measly 13 points while the Rockets got a combined 37 from their newly acquired players (Robert Covington and Jeff Green).
Russell Westbrook picked up 2 technical fouls and was ejected late in the fourth quarter when he got into it with a couple of Warriors players including Thompson who was barking at Westbrook from the bench in street clothes. As Westbrook walked back to the locker room one thing was made perfectly clear that night. Only one part of the Hulk mentality was leaving the court. Golden State would have to deal with the rest of the Hulk’s still on the floor.
“Tell that mother f–ker about me!” yelled Memphis Grizzles rookie guard Ja Morant after nailing a deep three-pointer in the first quarter of the game against the Rockets on January 14th.
The person that Morant wanted everyone to talk too was none other than former NBA MVP and league scoring leader, James Harden. Morant finished that game with 26 points and eight assists on 10-for-11 shooting in the 121-110 victory over Houston. He also became the first rookie in NBA history to score at least 25 points while dishing out at eight or more assists and shooting 90% from the field.
Here was another team that was struggling to get to a .500 regular season record that the Rockets lost too. These are the types of games that could haunt them when it comes to playoff seedings in the Western Conference. Every Rockets fan can recall how losses to teams like the Grizzles hurt them last year at the end of the season.
Houston wasted no time letting the Grizzles know that the trash talking and arrogant walk, the likes that would make MMA champion Connor McGregor proud from the last meeting would not be tolerated. Harden and Westbrook walked on the court with that “Hulk Swag” that has the team with an 8-2 record over the last 10 games.
The tone was set from the beginning as Houston led 35-17 at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Westbrook had 13 in that quarter and the Rockets used a blanket type defensive scheme to slow down the young Grizzles and hold them to just 27% shooting from the field. Morant finished the quarter with five points and would end the game with just 12.
To make sure that the Grizzles learned their lesson about provoking Dr. Banner in the last game, Houston hit 23-three pointers on their way to the rout.
James Harden (30 points) didn’t even check into the game in the fourth quarter, so I am wondering if Morant got to tell him who he was during the other three.
The Rockets head out on the road to take on the team that started Houston’s five-game winning streak (Boston Celtics). They will face a team that has carved their own identity in the Eastern Conference and has a rising superstar in forward Jayson Tatum who is averaging 31.1 points per game in the last 10 games.
I am pretty confident in saying, I believe that the Dr. Banner mentality will not travel to Boston but the “Hulk Swag” mindset will have several seats occupied.