To mark my return to existence, I planned on glorifying Kyle Lowry's wonderful performance tonight in Houston's win over the Detroit Pistons. We'll have to get back to Lowry, though, since Luis Scola decided he wasn't going to miss any clutch shots in the fourth quarter.
The Slayer finished with 35 points (one point shy of his season-high 36 vs. Golden State) on 16-25 shooting with 12 rebounds. His elbow jumper was money from the start, and he outmuscled Greg Monroe and outsmarted Ben Wallace for 40 minutes of action. Those high minute totals came at the expense of the Rockets' bench players, who failed to show up for work. Courtney Lee didn't score. Neither did Brad Miller. Chase Budinger led the bench with six points, but he got in foul trouble and wasn't able to stay on the floor. Jordan Hill, on the other hand, looked pretty good in his five minutes. Again.
Despite Scola's big numbers, it was Lowry who saved the day. The Rockets couldn't muster up any form of offense without him on the floor. His three-point shot isn't automatic just yet, but it is starting to fall much more frequently than opponents would like. He went 4-6 from deep tonight, and while he turned the ball over six times, he managed to pick six pockets and dish out twelve dimes. Anyone still think Lowry isn't worth the money we paid him? He's looking better and better with each game, both as a passer and as a confident floor general. Then again, when your much-maligned outside shot is beginning to fall like snow in Missouri, it's easy to find a good rhythm.
Kevin Martin, who keeps getting relegated to third or fourth paragraph status for some weird reason, dropped 21 points on a mere eight shots. He went 14-15 from the free throw line and ran the Pistons into the ground. Quite a remarkable offensive performance, if you ask me.
Now, let's talk about Tracy McGrady. Connections to Houston aside, he was the only Piston outside of Rodney Stuckey that appeared to have a clue. Ben Gordon looks just as lazy and disinterested as he did in at times in Chicago, and Richard Hamilton exited early after picking up consecutive technicals for arguing to the officials. Austin Daye looked competent on offense, and Tayshaun Prince hung around just enough to make a gravity-defying block and score ten points. But other than that, it was McGrady who looked like the leader of the team tonight. Shockingly, might I add.
McGrady finished with 11 points in 23 minutes (had the Pistons made layups, he should have had about eight assists compared to the three that he finished with), but he looked a lot like the McGrady of old. He facilitated, he isolated effectively and he made a semi-statementish three-pointer right in Lowry's face. His defense isn't what it used to be, to say the least, but he competed like the old McGrady: passive and patient at times, explosive at others.
Can't say I was surprised to hear plenty of boos on T-Mac's behalf. After all, if you scroll down a bit, he wasn't trying to keep any friends he had left in the Toyota Center seats - he basically called out the entire city. So, uh, take that, McLady (gee, haven't used that one in forever). Boooooooooooooo.
We'd like to see a more well-rounded performance from the Rockets, but a fourteen-point win isn't something to quibble with, not at this juncture. I'm still curious to see if Ish Smith works his way back into the rotation, or if Rick Adelman actually sticks with Courtney Lee at the point. It didn't appear to work very effectively, and only once Lowry returned did the Rockets break out of their second quarter scoring funk. Then again, Aaron Brooks should be back soon, so perhaps this is very, very temporary.
Nice win tonight. Above all, it was rather encouraging to see the team pull away late instead of keeping the Pistons close.