Carl Landry's been through a lot as an NBA player. A knee injury sidelined him for much of his rookie year, Deke knocked out one of his teeth in practice, its replacement was knocked out by Carlos Boozer in the playoffs, a few routine injuries kept him out of games in 2009, and he got shot one night. And, tonight, he broke five teeth in a collision with Dirk Nowitzki (which was totally a charge, btw, but I digress), leaving pieces of two of those teeth in Dirk. Let no one ever say that Landry didn't give as good as he got.
But prior to this game, Dave noted that the Rockets' main risk right now is injury. How will they handle an injury to the frontcourt (or, for that matter, to one of the point guards)? Chuck, Scola, and Landry are such vital parts of the Rockets' strategy that an even moderately lengthy injury to any one of them could spell a bad slide for Houston. Well, now we get to find out in miniature, as it is unlikely that Carl will return tonight to play against Oklahoma City.
The game was obviously a very physical one. Both teams fought hard for rebounds and position, but the key difference is that - just like the Cavaliers not long ago, and just like Trevor two games back - the Mavs lost their shit down the stretch. Jason Kidd threw an elbow at David Andersen's head, Erick Dampier seemed personally offended by the Rockets' efforts to guard him, and Rick Carlisle was very vocal in his opposition to several calls. Altogether, 7 technical fouls and one flagrant foul were assessed in the game, all but a single technical (Andersen, for taking exception to Kidd's attempt to assault him) and the flagrant (on AB for reasons I can't fathom) went against the Mavericks' players and coach.
As the fourth quarter progressed, it seemed likely that the Rockets would win simply because the Mavericks failed to keep their cool. But Dallas rallied, and in a testament to the value of working on things other than defense, conditioning, or a post game, Tim Thomas hit the game-tying three to send the game to overtime. But the Rockets came out strong, kept their composure, and executed their offense in OT, pulling out the win on the strength of Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks.
Now, there isn't really much else to the game beyond that. As I noted in the gamethread, the two teams' stats are weirdly similar: they made the same number of free throws, shot and made the same number of threes, committed the same number of personal fouls, and shot the same number of field goals. Dallas outrebounded the Rockets, but the game ultimately came down to the Rockets' superior efforts on offense. This was a game that was very winnable by either team, and had a few more calls gone against Houston, or had a few Rockets shots rimmed out and some similar shots by Dallas gone in, we'd be the ones feeling jobbed.
Dallas played excellent defense for much of the game, and supreme efforts by JJ Barea and Shawn Marion kept the Mavs in it until the very end. But the Rockets' bench - particularly Kyle Lowry and David Andersen - was fantastic. To put it simply, the Rockets' bench's "better" really was better than the Mavs' bench's "best" (that wasn't really that simple).
Mavs fans will no doubt complain about a variety of calls at the end. First, as I've stated previously, the Rockets weren't getting calls for most of the game, either. And at the start of the fourth, the Rockets got into the penalty quickly off of a series of questionable loose-ball foul calls. Now, unless you want to make the claim that calls at the end of the game are more important than calls at the start (in which case you need to reexamine your understanding of how reality works), this game was called no worse for the Mavericks than for the Rockets. Cuban has a variety of specific complaints about the review process and whether or not more time should have been on the clock at the end of regulation, but my advice to him is to get the stick out of his ass and get over himself.
Kyle Lowry: Monster game for the Bulldog (on the same night Villanova won the FCS Championship Game, too!). 26 points on 13 shots, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, and 5 steals. What more can be said?
Aaron Brooks: 25 points on 20 shots, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Wasn't so great in regulation, turning the ball over in the Rockets' final possession, but AB turned it on in OT. Beyond raw statistical numbers, he (and Lowry, for that matter) penetrated into the paint and broke down the Mavs' defense for much of the game. They're both invaluable contributors to the team.
David Andersen: I'm not entirely sure how to categorize his performance. His basic numbers don't look too great, and he didn't shoot so well towards the end, but he was finding open looks and was destroying his man in the post. And he was +21 on the night. +/- numbers don't mean much on a night-to-night basis, but they mean something. In any case, I think his defense is looking a lot better, and he's getting the hang of the NBA.
Honorable Mention - Trevor Ariza: a very quiet 13 point / 8 rebound effort from Trevor, but he only took one three tonight, and seems to be better able to get into the lane now. He's developing, people! Oh, and Shane Battier deserves mention for playing schoolmarm on the Rockets bench during the Kidd/Andersen/Thomas/Scola scuffle, making sure nobody stood up.
Jason Kidd: Dude, seriously. If he doesn't get a suspension, I'm going to be pissed.
The Officiating: What the hell were they looking for in that review, anyways?
FSN Cameraman: In high-tension situations at the end of the game, I don't particularly care about reaction shots from Jermain Taylor.