Rockets Roundup - AKA Bullet-Point-Buffet

 

  • Rockets vs Suns MicroRecap - Phoenix entered this one without Steve Nash and the Rockets finally broke a long, sorry, chain of defeats by the Suns.  The Rockets won this one 95-93 on a last second miss by Dudley, but the game shouldn't have been this close.  DLeague call up Zabian Dowdell made a case for staying in the NBA with a strong defensive effort on Kyle Lowry, and Vince Carter continued to find new and interesting ways to be annoying - after missing pretty much every shot for 3 quarters, Carter went nuts in the 4th and nearly helped the Suns walk away with yet another victory over Houston.  Being Vince Carter, this didn't quite happen, luckily for us.  Anyway, I'll take any win at all over Phoenix, thanks very much.  The Brooks/Lowry grudge match fizzled, as Aaron Brooks failed to light up his former team, going 1-9 while Lowry scored 18 and added 5 assists and 6 rebounds (though Lowry's night was rockier than his stats would indicate).
  • Rockets vs Charlotte MicroRecap - Rockets pummel Bobcats.  Charlotte didn't start the season with a lot of talent, and much of what talent it did have, it basically gave away.  The fact that Crash Wallace went to Portland for a smallish ball of string, a broken garage door opener and some sandy gummi bears is stunning.  That lack of talent was on full display at Toyota Center, where DJ Augustin managed 22 points and the rest of the Bobcats, including Stephen Jackson, tallied 56.  Michael Jordan, the executive, is the exact opposite of Michael Jordan the player - lazy, indecisive, poor-decision maker, lacks commitment, apparently not motivated to win, avoids actual leadership.  
  • Rockets vs Boston MicroRecap - The beatings continue.  This time it is not the beleaguered Bobcats getting the treatment, but the Eastern Conference bad boy Boston Celtics.  The Rockets controlled this game early on, setting the pace, not allowing Boston to dictate the game with its "Attack of Deathly Slowness & Multiple Moving Screens".  The Rockets played at their pace in the first half, and effectively ended the game by halftime.  Boston tried various ways of getting back into the game including "getting tough" and "intimidation".  The Rockets entirely failed to be intimidated, and weren't having any of it.  Kevin (Faux Tough Guy Hall of Famer) Garnett tried bullying Chuck Hayes and ended up getting the short end of the deal, as Hayes went toe-to-toe (if not eye-to-eye) with him. Garnett tried to impose his Faux Tough Guy will by driving straight in on Hayes, Chuck simply ripped the ball away from him.  Glenn Davis tried the same thing with JChill aka Jordan Hill, but the normally chill Hill wasn't taking any crap either. Delonte West expanded his dubious usefulness by garnering a Flagrant 1 on a truly cheap shot. After failing to hit shots, failing to intimidate, and failing to defend the Rockets' attack the Celtics simply settled for failing tonight.  Adelman was (controversially on TDS) forced to put the starters back in after Boston's bench made a 10pt run (out of a 30pt lead) on Houston's bench in the mid 4th, but aside from that hiccup, this was an almost perfectly enjoyable win.
  • Defense breaking out in Houston?  The last three games saw high-scoring Phoenix held to 93, Charlotte buried at 78, and Boston likewise at 77.  The last two scores could actually have been worse, but the Rockets were effectively on cruise control by the mid 3rd quarter.  The Phoenix game could have been nearly as good, except for the Rockets near 4th quarter collapse that saw the Suns score 29 after managing 16,26,22 in the first three frames.  Houston is 3rd in the NBA in points-per-game, an astonishing 7th in rebounding, and 5th in assists per game.  The defense is ranked 22nd.  If the Rockets have suddenly found an above average D it could make our slim playoff hopes a reality (with a little help from the rest of the league).
  • Speaking of D - When Brooks and Shane Battier left some sort of decline might have been expected from the SF and PG positions.  At SF Budinger has a reputation as a poor defender, and Battier one as an excellent defender.  But so far Chase Budinger has notably NOT been filleted by opposing SF.  Partly this is because of the platoon arrangement that sees Courtney Lee spend significant time as a "SF" (sometimes Martin becomes the "SF" as well).  Lee is having something of a breakout season on all fronts - showing quality D, a gorgeous jumper, great hops and shooting 3s at 42.4% (good currently for 13th, though the next 9 players above him are shooting less than 1% better).  Anyhow, what's going on?  Had Battier slipped entirely, the way some people on the blog claimed?  Has the added threat of a real scorer at SF simply changed the whole complexion of the game? Has Budinger improved his D (it looks that way to me).  While at point guard could it be that adding a quality defender in Goran Dragic at backup PG sealed a bigger points leak than we may have thought in Aaron Brooks?  When Brooks isn't cooking on offense (and he wasn't after he got Ginobllied) his value is questionable, as he does tend to be a "pounder", and isn't a good defender.  I'm not sure if the effects are direct or just due to a different ensemble, but the Rockets are quite visibly a crisper, more focussed-looking team since the deadline trades.  This is not to take anything away from Brooks or Battier, as I like them both very much and wish them well (but not too well in PHX or MEM this season).
  • Patrick Patterson, draft steal?  P2 is attracting a lot of attention around the league lately.  Last night against Boston Patterson scored 18 on 8-12 shooting, grabbed 12 boards, blocked 4 shots and had 1 assist and zero turnovers in 37 minutes.  His rebounding and hops are what I expected, his deadly accurate shooting is a nice surprise.  Patterson seems to be moving from his lukewarm draft evaluation of "serviceable NBA regular" to "potential star" in the eyes of some of the media, but it is worth pointing out, the Rockets apparently saw this in Patterson all along.  They said Patterson was among the very top players on their draft board, and they were thrilled to get him at 14.  With starters minutes Patterson's value has come into sharper focus.
  • Kyle Lowry - leveled up?  Kyle Lowry may have leveled.  His last 10 games: 19.4PPG-7.1APG-4.5RPG-1STLPG.  48.6% shooting.  Let's hope so.
  • Scola's return - Luis Scola is expected back vs the Jazz tomorrow.  I hope he's truly well before he returns as Patterson and Hill (looking much better than a month or so ago) are holding down the fort capably in his absence.  We really did miss Luis in the game vs the Spurs, though, and as one of my favorite Rockets, I'd like to see him back soon.
  • Playoff Push - Talk has gone back and forth about how the Rockets should be playing the bench more, developing the younger players, in general preparing for next year, rather than pushing for the final playoff spot.  The thing is, the team is practically ALL younger players.   The only really seasoned players are Brad Miller, Luis Scola, and Kevin Martin.  Scola has been out, Martin isn't usually playing more than 35 minutes and Miller, well, he's Adelman's binky or something.  My point is, this is Lowry's first season as a starter, Budingers first 10 games as a starter, Patterson's first chance to start, Hill's chance to prove himself, Lee's chance to prove he's a starter-quality player, Dragic's chance to re-establish himself as a promising PG and so forth.  The only guys not seeing minutes are Terrence Williams and Hasheem Thabeet (and possible Demarre Carroll, I just don't know.)  But honestly, 10 guys are being integrated as a team and are seeing real minutes.  It's 10 and not 12.  
  • Now, myself, I'd like to see more of Thabeet, because deep down I don't think he's as bad as his rep and we could use a little shot-blocking, and I'd like to see Williams because his upside is so high.  But honestly, if neither does much the rest of the year, that's ok.  Neither was brought in to be a big player this year (maybe Williams was, but he found the doghouse extremely quickly if so).  Next year's Rockets will either have a real place for those guys, or their place will be elsewhere, I feel certain of that.  Given the great play we've seen from Houston lately, complaining about who gets garbage time seems silly (though wondering why we don't see the bench when the team is gassed is another matter entirely).  I don't always understand Rick Adelman, but as he's about to pass Red Auerbach on the all-time wins list, I think it's safe to say he knows more about coaching than we do.
  • That's all I've got today.
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