The game started off with what I thought was a pretty funny series of turnovers and missed shots from each squad. That pretty much kept happening throughout the night, but the Rockets fought for every rebound and loose ball and took a 20-point lead on the strength of insane shooting and great defensive play. Nevertheless, a -9 turnover differential and a 31-to-13 difference in free throws eventually took its toll. At some point in the second quarter, Tim Duncan realized that the refs would call every touch foul on him in the lane, and the Spurs began to give him the ball at every opportunity. And once Dalembert got into foul trouble, Duncan exploited his matchup against Hill to its fullest, establishing great post position and selling every miss as a mugging.
The story of the game, I suppose, is that the Rockets gave up a massive lead in the second half, but they would never have had a massive lead were it not for Kevin Martin's excellent play. Martin had 29 points on 21 shots, 4 assists, and (impressively) 9 rebounds on his birthday. Martin's offense is best when he has good screens set for him, and his teammates did a great job giving him the space to work his game.
Martin's shooting cooled in the second half, but Lowry (whose early game was mostly distinguished by not committing very many mistakes, turning the ball over only once in the first half) turned it on in the second, finally getting his first points early in the third quarter (on what I think was his third shot of the night). He finished the game with 15 points on 12 shots (a number perhaps inflated when he attempted to bring the Rockets back in the final minutes of the game) with 7 assists (most of which came in the first half, when the Rockets were seemingly knocking down everything). Certainly not his best night, but he played well and fought hard in the second half (he also, fun fact, led the Rockets' starters in OALABII2.0 at 0.24; why, yes, this will now be a part of all of my recaps from here on out). Courtney Lee seemed to ape Martin throughout the game, shooting very well and playing good defense on his man.
While the Rockets' starting backcourt played well all night (including some good defense, I thought, on all their counterparts save for Parker, who kept getting bailed out), the starting frontcourt did not. Dalembert put in solid rebounding numbers but kept getting into foul trouble when guarding Duncan. Scola kept turning the ball over and missing his shots, didn't rebound well at all, and pretty much ran away with the "goat of the night" award with a OALABII2.0 of 0.52. Parsons hustled for every loose ball he could find, but he was basically a non-factor on offense. Defenses have seemed to figure out how to keep him out of the paint lately, and he needs to adjust if he's going to stay a quality starter in the league.
As the game wore on, the difference in foul calls just became too much, and frankly the last five minutes of the game featured some of the worst calls we've seen yet. Blatant blocking fouls were called charges, near-murders around the rim were no-calls. Not a good night from the officials in the least.
Ultimately, the Rockets' poor defense collapsed against one of the league's elite offenses in their building as they got all the calls they could reasonably hope for (this did not stop Timmy or Pops from complaining, however). Close games hurt the worst. These sorts of losses suck, but they happen.
After the jump, accolades and stuff, I guess.
Kyle Lowry -- A quality outing after a series of poor ones from the Bulldog. His jump shot is still off, but he had more success as the game went on. It looked for a while like Dragic might be taking more minutes from him in the second half, but Kyle's excellent start to the third kept the Dragon on the bench.
Kevin Martin -- Speed Racer celebrated his birthday with a great performance, and it's unfortunate it didn't come in a win. He's an elite 2-guard and one of the best when coming off of a screen, and he showcased that tonight.
Goran Dragic -- Dragic only got 16 minutes in the game, since Lowry, Martin, and Lee were all playing very well in the second half, but he made good on his limited time, scoring 5 (admittedly on 4 shots) with 3 assists. Second-best OALABII2.0 on the team, too, at .09.
Jordan Hill -- Good numbers (6 points on 3 shots, 10 rebounds in 22 minutes; team-best .088 OALABII2.0) but bad defense. Yes, a lot of that was probably hesitance to get called for fouls with such a quick whistle waiting for any contact with Timmy, but the men he guarded seemed to get whatever position they wanted in the post. Still, he's had a few solid games in a row, which is a nice change from his usual disappearing self. Maybe all it took was being told that he'd be a free agent in a few months.
Chase Budinger -- Disappeared again. Perhaps the same situation as Dragic, though.
Luis Scola -- Ugh. Bad game. Lots of turnovers, lots of missed shots, lots of poor defense. Abnormally bad in what hasn't been a good season for Luis. There's still plenty of time to turn it around, though. The Spurs fronted him all night, perhaps remembering that strategy's success against Yao and the Rockets over the years, as long as the refs don't call you for holding. Scola and the Rockets didn't do a good job combating that, but when Luis got the ball in good position, he couldn't hold onto it at all. Blair made him look silly for much of the night.
Refs -- If Dan Crawford, Matt Boland, and/or Scott Bolnick read this, please also read this.