Actually, this was a pretty fitting way to end the season. I mean, the all-offense/no-defense thing wasn't really indicative of the way the Rockets played the season (and I guess it's a little weird to call a shootout like that a whimper), but the ending makes sense. Ending the season on a loss leaves us with something of a cliffhanger; it feels right - something left unaccomplished.
The story of the game was the Rockets' inability to actually defend against another mediocre offensive team. David West, for whatever reason (I think it likely has something to do with Scola being a poor defender, but West burned everybody the Rockets threw at him all season, so whatever. Besides, the Rockets generally have trouble with sharpshooting power forwards, anyways) demolished the Rockets' frontcourt yet again. But everyone in the Hornets' starting lineup got in on the act, too. So it's not as if the defensive problems were confined to Scola.
It would be relatively easy to blame this on last-game boredom or something. The Rockets started the game with a 2:30 scoring drought, after all. But most of their success tonight came off of offensive rebounding, free throws, and good ball movement, so it's difficult to say this was an effort issue. Besides, the players who have the least to lose over the summer (eg - everyone but Kyle and Luis and arguably Chuck) played pretty well.
In the end, what I'm left with is the standard mantra for the season: the Rockets need Yao back. Yes, that will probably solve all of their defensive issues, given the stark change in Houston's defensive fortunes from last season to this one, but it's a statement that I know feels pretty unsatisfying. But the simple fact is that the Rockets' general inability to defend the rim has been their worst issue all year (possibly followed by an over-reliance on jump shooting). Yao will change that.
Trevor continued his way-too-late-but-thanks-for-the-effort Spring blossoming into an overtly (rather than covertly) valuable roleplayer. He notched his (somewhat surprisingly, though I suppose he hasn't ever gotten lengthy minutes elsewhere) first-ever triple-double. He led the Rockets in every category except for personal fouls and steals (including turnovers and +/-), and put in a genuinely great game. Sure his man got by him a couple times, but that happens, and I'm not going to begrudge any player for a triple-double game (maybe Kobe or any Utah player). Dave thinks he can't dribble, and it's true that he's fairly awkward with the ball in his hands, but he's a fantastic complementary player when he can contain himself.
I've mentioned it previously, and I think it came out pretty well tonight: Trevor's greatest improvement this season has been in passing. Those awkward passes under the basket? They looked a lot more awkward in December. And for tonight, at least, they actually worked. That's certainly a plus.
Overall, this was yet another standard effort for this Rockets team. Again - a fitting end for the season.
Everyone Up Because It's The End of the 2010 Season:
Trevor Ariza - Just a great game. Needs to work on free throw shooting over the summer, but if that hasn't been fixed by now it's probably a larger issue and ain't never going to be changed.
Kevin Martin - Ho hum - another 24 points on some low number of shots for Kevin. Who else is super-excited to see him play next to Yao? If you don't, you're probably not a Rockets fan.
Aaron Brooks - His numbers don't actually indicate anything special, and I wasn't too impressed with his game tonight, but his block on (I think) Posey was pretty awesome, given that he's, you know, tiny.
Kyle Lowry - Not the best shooting night for Kyle, but seven assists in limited minutes is always great.
Luis Scola - Scola is saving those rebounds for FIBA this summer.
Chuck Hayes - 100% shooting for the Chuckwagon. Wow.
Jared Jeffries - He can totally play, and that's awesome. Good for Jared. And good for us, since he'll be here next season, and we don't really need another Cook.
Jordan Hill - Had a pretty awesome dunk in the first half off of a pass from Budinger. He has obviously cooled off a lot since March, though. Still, not a bad game or anything.
Chase Budinger- Say what you will about Chase, his ability to be totally undaunted by his previous misses from any location on the floor is kind of admirable. And, typically, his shot is good enough to make enough to more than justify his SWAC behavior.
Jermaine Taylor - Okay, so imagine that the Rockets didn't trade for Martin, instead opting to stay with what they had. Taylor would undoubtedly be playing much greater minutes over the past three months, right? And he keeps showing these rather incredible flashes of brilliance - he's great with the ball in his hands, and he knows how to get to the rim, but he's just not the greatest at finishing yet. Do you think that in that particular modal reality, Taylor would be like Carl Landry in 2008? He's got the ability, he just needs to put it together.