This one wasn't as close as the score would indicate, and the score indicates a big win. It was worse, it was a curb stomp. The game was over late in the 2nd quarter. This is perhaps the most dominant performance I've seen from the Rockets all season.
Here are some things that didn't happen:
- Chuck Hayes dominated by Roy Flibberty Hibbert
Chase Budinger exploited by Stranger Danger Danny Granger
Nope, neither of those happened, nor appeared likely to happen. If fact, Hayes was controlling Hibbert so thoroughly that Hibbert got testy and from what I can tell Chuck offered the following rejoinder "I'll f*ck you up." And I believe him. They both drew technicals on the exchange. Hibbert scored 15 on 6-14 shooting, and grabbed 6 rebounds - or 4 less than Chuck Hayes and the same as Chase Budinger. That's more or less an average night for Flibberty Gibbet, but not extreme obliteration or whatever dire thing was going to happen. To be fair, Indy was pretty tuckered tonight after playing in OKC, and The Metroplex (whatever that means) last night.
Chase Budinger, ie Not Ready For Prime Time Defensive Player found himself almost entirely undestroyed by TDS Frequent Object of Lust Danny Granger. Granger was considerably worse than Hibbert - scoring 16 on 4-13 shooting and some FTs. He grabbed 4 rebounds and dished 3 assists and generally personified "Meh". Chase scored 18 on 7-15 shooting with 6 boards and 2 assists. If this Danny Granger is the one all the fuss is about, I think Stranger Danger can stay right where he is, thanks.
The rest of the Rockets, though, oh my. Six Rockets were in double figures, with Patterson one point away from it. The team was outrebounded by three, which is fairly amazing given Indiana's size advantage with Hibbert. The Rockets also logged 11 blocks to Indy's 7. Come again? Yep. More blocks for the Rockets (though Hill and Thabeet logged 3 in three minutes together.)
Where has this defense come from ? For the early part of the game it was simply stifling. Later, when the Rockets were goofing, it was still not that bad. The past few games the defense has been stunning, as though a little Van Gundyian Elf came into the Rockets locker room with special magical Defense Shoes for everyone. The Rockets are rotating, anticipating, offering timely help and swarming to the boards. Whomever thought the Rockets D would improve dramatically with the loss of Battier raise your hand.
Given that the Rockets were so dominant tonight, the burning question for many became - "Which "cause celebre" benchie will get the garbage time?" Answer - the second unit, largely. And that's fair - Dragic, Lee, Budinger (who played the most minutes for the Rockets tonight at 34) Patterson and even Miller all need minutes - none of them got much time early on for various reasons (Dragic excepted, he wasn't here).
They say the devil grants your wishes. Tonight we got to see 6 minutes of Terrence Williams
in "action" and it was 6 minutes too many. Clearly he needs more PT, but though brief, this was a deeply unimpressive outing. Honestly though, he could have played another 15 tonight and it might have helped greatly towards him settling in. A trip to Rio Grande might help too, but Twills head would probably explode somewhere over Harlingen. I think TWilly's sitting has done a number on his head, and maybe he's reacted poorly to the situation.
It'd be nice if he could be straightened out, as having a legit SF to back up Chase would be groovy. Budinger himself is just a second year player, and starting for the first time. He needs his minutes, too. And Lee has earned his run with great play. It's a conundrum.
There was also a Jordan Hill
sighting, and he looked pretty dominant in garbage time - logging 4 points, 4 rebounds and two blocks in the same six minutes as TWill.
We also experienced a rare manifestation of "the tallest active Rocket" Hasheem Thabeet
. He blocked a shot - way up high. He also got called for a foul, but it truly wasn't his fault - someone went crashing into him and he naturally got the foul. Thabeet was greeted by a warm cheer when he entered the game. He strikes me as a somewhat fragile personality, so maybe support, encouragement and good instruction can turn him around. As I've said, 1250 minutes in 1 3/4 season is not enough time to know anything much about a player, no matter what ESPN tells you.
Here are some other things I learned tonight:
- Goran Dragic can be very, very good. I was a big AB0 supporter, but I'll say it now - if this is a representative sample of what we get from him, he's better than Brooks. His decision making could improve, but his skills and effort are starter caliber. He's also tall and totally fearless.
- Courtney Lee is blossoming, and is one of the three best 3pt shooters in the NBA right now.
- Kevin Martin can score 20 in 27 minutes while the Rockets half-ass it for 3/4 of a game.
- Hasheem Thabeet blocked a shot at a higher point than any Rocket all season long.
- Indiana committed 20 turnovers, most of which seemed to be passes thrown to no one in particular while on offense.
- Indiana is a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
Nice win, let's keep it going.