It is nice, after so much disappointment, to have a game where the Rockets actually come from behind to win. Yes, that's the word: nice. It's not great, it's not wonderful, and I'm not going to claim that it demonstrates something like good spirit or the power of positive thinking or stick-to-it-iveness or some such, but it's really nice.
What it does show is that the Rockets' defense is fairly wild. Thirty games into the season, they're still near the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency, but it comes through (and collapses) at opportune (and inopportune) moments. Houston stopped the Wizards' offense for the last three minutes of the game, allowing Kevin Martin, Aaron Brooks, and Kyle Lowry to seal the game on the offensive end.
We can't really focus on those last three minutes, though. Sure, they were wonderful to watch - a rarity these days - but the fact is that the Rockets were behind for most of the game. After the first quarter, the Rockets didn't establish a solid lead until those final moments, and eventually fell behind by a full ten points to a team that has yet to win on the road.
Fundamentally, this appears to be an issue of size. Blatche and McGee dominated Scola for much of the game - limiting him to only four rebounds and just generally scoring on him at will. Chuck Hayes' individual defense was generally good on the two, but he simply couldn't stop them once they established position. Hill's offensive effort tonight was excellent (a rare case of most of his weirder shot attempts going in), as was his rebounding, but he continues to be a foul machine on the defensive end of the floor. Their big guys were, on the whole, better than ours. I think I said the same thing after the last game against Washington. The difference, perhaps, was that Kevin Martin was on his game at the very beginning and end of this game, while Lowry and Battier lent solid defensive efforts to go with very efficient offensive games.
This was a game that really could have gone either way, and it was only a very sudden (and unexpected) rally at the closing moments that pulled the Rockets through. Nevertheless, the fact that Rockets struggled so much at home against a bad team (despite the caveats about height and size and matchups) says a great deal about their frustrating level of mediocrity this season.
Still, the Rockets are back to .500, and that ain't a bad thing, I'm told.
Chuck Hayes: He was 5-for-6 at the line tonight, grabbed seven rebounds in very tough traffic, and didn't foul. Given the margin of victory, as well as a few awesome passes, I think that's enough to say that he made a huge difference.
Kyle Lowry: While AB is still a little injured, Lowry continues to show why he should start, regardless of what happens with Brooks. His statistical line doesn't look great, but he tried to get the team going for the whole night, and did a reasonable job on Wall, all told. He was also the only guy rebounding hard in the second and third quarters, besides Hill.
Kevin Martin: Got burned bad by Lewis and Young, but I suppose we're all used to Speed Racer's defensive deficiencies. Made the game-sealing three, and started off the game very hot. Unfortunately, he was completely cold until the last quarter, but ended up making it count.
Aaron Brooks: AB is still visibly slower than he was before his injury, and he shot poorly for most of the night. His line is intriguingly similar to Lowry's, but the difference really was defensive effort.
Chase Budinger: Our illustrious commenters criticized Budinger extensively during the game, but I'd like to say two things -- first, he stopped shooting after it became apparent he couldn't hit anything; second, the decision to keep him in the game was justifiable. Williams remains an unknown quantity, and Adelman is fairly conservative in his rotation decisions - it takes a lot to get moved around. Adelman doesn't panic in games (hence the "Coach Sleepy" shit), and seems to make most of his decisions before and after contests. Personally, I think that's a smart system, and I can see why he wouldn't want to throw Williams out there when the game was still tight. "The devil you know..." and all that...