Game 19 Recap: Rockets Demolish Wall (ha), Win 103-76

Offense across the league is down quite a bit this year. The average team's points per 100 possessions was 107.3 -- this year it's 102.4, which would have tied the Wizards last year for the league's third-worst offense in 2011. So when the Rockets started the game hitting maybe one in every four of their field goal attempts, things were ugly, but perhaps that was to be expected.

Maybe you should look at this game as evidence for the theory that the reduced offense is a result primarily of the tiring schedule (the main alternative explanation being that it's primarily about reduced/absent practice time): Martin was out, and Bud was in. The Rockets were replacing Martin's minutes with Lee, and Lee's minutes with a more mediocre (though still valuable) shooter, and so it wouldn't be a surprise if the Rockets' backcourt put up a significantly worse offensive effort.

Instead, Budinger came off the bench and scored a season-high 21 points (on only 14 shots, good for about 70% true shooting). Maybe that was because he had last played over a week ago (on January 19th against NOLA) and thus was simply rested and ready to play. Maybe it was just because he had "heart" and all that stuff. Maybe it was because the Wizards are ranked 23rd in defense. Whatever it was, Chase Budinger put in his best game of the year. Besides scoring all those points, he also grabbed 8 rebounds and only turned the ball over once.

The turning point in the game, when the Rockets' offense seemed to come back midway through the first half, seemed to be a reverse layup from Budinger off of an Adelman-style backcut. Before that, the Rockets seemed to blow every layup they tried. After that, they seemed to convert or get fouled every time. That gradually opened up the game, as Lowry drove to the basket and dished it out to the open man. Here, Budinger contributed even more, hitting four three-pointers. Only Dragic had another one for the Rockets.

That may have been the turning point, but the Wizards stayed in the game throughout the first half. It wasn't until after halftime, when the Rockets put together a 21-0 run against the Wizards, that the Rockets finally managed to actually put the Wizards away.

A 17-to-24 turnover difference certainly helped, but a lot of that also came from quality bench play (Budinger, Dragic, Patterson), and it also had to do with excellent play from Luis Scola. Luis brilliantly exploited the Wizards' bigs' foul trouble, as well as a huge matchup advantage against the comparatively whispy Jan Vesely. Luis has had a lot of games this year in which he has shot and rebounded poorly, but this was certainly not one of them -- 19 points on .640 TS, along with 8 rebounds. He was really the only starter who shot well, but it was enough to bring the Rockets back and ahead in the second quarter and to put them away in the second half. Luis attacked the basket from his amazing array of post moves (I think I only saw him take a jump shot maybe three or four times tonight), which was perhaps the best thing the Rockets could rely upon tonight.

By the middle of the final quarter, the Rockets had leaped out to a 30-point lead, led by Scola's great play and Budinger's shooting, and we got a glimpse of Terrence Williams, Jonny Flynn, and (amazingly) Hasheem Thabeet. That's when you know you're certain to win the game. Human victory cigars. That was definitely a highlight, but the highlight of the game had to go to Jordan Hill's fast-break crossover on Roger Mason, Jr. That was kind of crazy and definitely a nice way to show up some of the Wizards' highlight plays.

Kyle Lowry had a quiet game, though not a very poor one. He shot badly (9 points on just .427 TS), and his five assists and four rebounds were less than normal (the rebounds were especially odd, given all the missed shots), but a lot of potential assists were blown layups and open jump shots, and several others turned into free throws rather than field goals.

Dalembert played a weird game, scoring 11 points (.46 TS) and only grabbing 4 rebounds. He blocked several shots, but the Wizards still seemed to score relatively easily in the paint. I think Parsons was sort of in the same category tonight -- weird, not a really bad game, but certainly not a good one.

Overall, this was a poor shooting game for the Rockets, though they experienced that last time against the Wizards, as well. In the end, it doesn't matter -- they still got to the line and made their attempts count -- though perhaps it shows that the Rockets need to rotate their players better, getting more rest opportunities for guys like Dalembert, Martin, and Scola (and maybe even Lowry, right)?

The Rockets face another hapless East team tomorrow night in the Knicks. Let's hope for the same result, if not the same shooting performance.

Oh, and despite the title, Wall played well. I just like the pun.

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