On a night where Rockets fans sat stunned as Leandro Barbosa, DeMar Derozan, and James Johnson seemed to score whenever they pleased, Kyle Lowry and the Sundance Kids scored when it mattered, securing an 88-85 victory. Luis Scola added 15 and 10, Chandler Parsons hit a pair of clutch shots late in the fourth, but the Rockets survived an otherwise uninspired performance across the board.
Ever since one early morning in November when Billy Hunter and David Stern agreed on a
new collective bargaining agreement settlement of the NBPA's anti-trust lawsuit, basketball pundits warned of the potential for ugly basketball, dubbed "lockout ball" (or #lockoutball if you're a tweeter).
With turnovers galore (thank you, Jerryd Bayless) and a combined 24% three point percentage, tonight was a perfect example of this. The game was played so badly that either team could have taken the lead and run away with it, but neither team was up to the challenge. In the end, it almost seemed like the Rockets just won by default.
After the jump, we're going to go three up, three down!
1. Kyle Lowry
This man is becoming a pretty solid fixture in the "three up" column. After suffering through a mini-slump in late January, Lowry has rediscovered himself in February, and tonight was no exception. A very efficient 26 points on 12 shots was the difference in a game the Rockets could very easily have lost.
Lowry is the heart and soul of this team, there is no denying that. While others haven't played their best basketball in the face of trade rumors, Lowry has focused on his game and it's paid off for him.
2. Goran Dragic's Buzzer Beater
This is usually Kyle's spot in the recap, but Goran stole the show with a buzzer beater in the 3rd. However, if these hadn't been his only two points on the night, perhaps this game would've been a bit more out of reach for Toronto.
Goran Dragic Buzzer Beating Floater (via RocketsRed)
3. The All 80's Squad
As you can probably tell, the pickings were slim in terms of "three up" tonight. But seeing John Lucas, Rodney McCray, Ralph Sampson, and Robert Reid in the arena was great. I'm too young to have seen any of them play live, but watching classic Rockets games you see those guys kicking ass and taking names.
Hakeem couldn't make it because he was out of the country, and he would've made it that much more special. Still, it's always an honor to have former greats (other than Clyde) in the building.
1. Kevin Martin
Just as Lowry is becoming a pretty consistent presence in the "three up," Martin has made a habit of finding himself the target of criticism after games. Tonight, he got his shots but simply failed to convert. For a player whose biggest contribution is in scoring, 3-15 nights are not going to cut it. A missed free throw that could've closed the game out was also tough to swallow.
2. The Bench Bros
On the first night of a back-to-back, Kevin McHale would've loved to ride his bench to a nice easy victory while giving his starters plenty of rest. Unfortunately for him, the bench would not oblige. After the starters opened up a comfortable lead in the first, the bench slowly ceded control of the game back to the Raptors, letting them back into a game that could've been over in the 2nd quarter.
McHale needs more than 17 points on 7-24 shooting out of his bench. Patrick Patterson didn't finish strong at the rim, Goran Dragic was only good for one sweeping buzzer beater, and Courtney Lee was the only bench player with any meaningful contributions. It was just ugly watching the offense after the starters went out.
3. The Crowd
The 13,337 attendance may have been about average for a Toyota Center crowd, but the arena lacked any buzz and the team's play reflected that. With five minutes left, the crowd was reportedly streaming out despite the fact that the Rockets were deadlocked in a tight contest.
Was it really that important to beat the traffic home?