So this is what it's like to be above .500 in 2011? Hm. It's a nice view, I suppose.
After a subpar first half by defensive standards, the Houston Rockets put the clamps on the Kings' DeMarcus Cousins, bottled up the explosive Marcus Thornton and decided not to miss any of their ensuing three-point attempts on the other end. Or at least it seemed that way.
Ten thoughts, because it's late and I have a headache.
1. Fast break points. We got 'em, and Sacramento didn't. Led by Kyle Lowry on most occasions, the fast break was executed flawlessly, a stark contrast to Sacramento's awkward, bumbling efforts in their own transition situations. Can't say enough about Lowry's performance in all facets, by the way. He's a magnet on the court, seemingly capable of grabbing any lose ball or offensive rebound. On top of that, he has become a fantastic passer. We'll be sure to give him credit for improving his outside shot, but it's his vision and his ability to make the smart, correct pass that has earned my full trust.
2. Hey, Rick. Take the starters out. We're up 30 with eight minutes left, and we play in Phoenix tomorrow night.
3. Chase Budinger is bursting with confidence, only this time, we can finally say that it's a consistent confidence. He needs to work on his ability to drive through traffic, but his sudden transformation from Disinterested Wing Dwellar to Determined Paint Prowler has me very impressed. Perhaps there's room for improvement -- plenty of improvement -- in Chase after all.
4. Congratulations on the win, Rick. You've tied Dick Motta for tenth on the all-time list. You're also third in win percentage. Thats a remarkable achievement - congratulations are due. But not until you take the rotation players out.
5. Luis Scola may have tweaked his left knee, according to Jonathan Feigen. Remember: it was his right knee that has been giving him problems of late. A second knee injury may indeed force the Slayer to take a night off.
6. NO WAY CHASE BUDINGER HIT ANOTHER THREE TO BRING THE LEAD BACK TO THIRTY THAT WAS SO NECESSARY.
7. Kevin Martin goes for 15 points on 12 shots, and yet this may have been his worst shooting performance in a Rockets uniform to date. That's always a nice consolation. The eight free throws, I mean.
8. Chuck Hayes got absolutely obliterated by the supremely talented DeMarcus Cousins in the first half but managed to quiet him down a bit in the second frame. Don't expect that to console him, though. Cousins fought strength with more strength and left the Chuckwagon reeling on its axis on the block. He's going to be a great player, but you have to wonder if he'll ever play for a great team. Just kidding. I think a few winning seasons will allow us to forget his [Ar]testiness eventually.
9. Glad to see Rick motioning to Hasheem Tha.... no, sonofabitch, it's Jordan Hill. You'd think that a thirty-point margin would be enough for Pogo Stick (borrowing from Matt Moore, if I may) to see minutes. Guess we'll take a predictable dreadlock-laden batch of offensive rebounds, silly fouls and blown defensive assignments instead. Hooray.
10. Solid minutes from Brad Miller and (gasp!) Terrence Williams. Miller moved the ball well against the lackadaisical Kings defense and found some room for himself to drive and convert a rare and-one. The Kings just couldn't keep up for a full 24-seconds of back cuts and transition action and didn't look like they wanted any part of it to begin with. Thus, when Williams entered the game with four minutes left, he wasn't going up against much resistance. But what did we see from T-Will? WE SAW HIM DRIVE TO THE BASKET. NO FADEAWAY THREES. HALLELUJAH. Until next time, Terrence. We'll keep three minutes of our day open for you tomorrow.
Despite maintaining a level turnover margin, winning the rebound battle and recording only sixteen fouls, the Kings were beaten to the punch on loose balls and did little to keep the Rockets out of the paint. They showed signs of talent in the first half and saw solid contributions on offense from Beno Udrih and Francisco Garcia, but the Rockets had the edge in execution and energy.
Now, for Phoenix. While Kevin Martin only played 24 minutes and Lowry just 29, the rotation guys -- Courtney Lee (who had a fantastic game), Goran Dragic and Patrick Patterson (each equally solid) -- needed to be given a break once the lead reached thirty points. There's not much good that can come from beating a dead horse, unless your name is Hasheem Thabeet or Terrence Williams and you never see the floor. Perhaps I've given Coach Adelman a bit too much flack given the surprisingly low minute totals from a few noteworthy players, but I still think given the circumstances, they could have been lower.
It's apparent that the Rockets are certainly thinking playoffs with the way they're playing -- and rightfully so -- so in that regard, don't expect much from Williams or Thabeet going forward. It's sad and frustrating, but it's probably the right call.