Maybe it was that Samuel Dalembert still isn't in ideal shape and wasn't particularly effective in the first quarter. Maybe it was just that Jeff Adrien reacted to his first real playing opportunity appropriately and forced Kevin McHale to play him. Whatever it was, Jeff Adrien played the most minutes of his Rockets career, going for over 16 minutes with 9 rebounds (9 more than Dalembert, leading the Rockets in the category tonight), setting a career high. His 'tude (as I'm told the kids call it) was visible all game.
You could see it as soon as he came into the game, in fact. The Jeff Adrien we're used to seeing is just a guy who fouls a lot int he final minutes of blowouts while being bizarrely muscled and short (you know, for an NBA forward; not for a normal person). That wasn't the Jeff Adrien we saw tonight. Jeff Adrien destroyed the boards in his limited minutes and even played some quality defense. He was absolutely fearsome, securing rebounds in the gigantic vice he calls a set of arms and swinging his elbows about, daring anyone to challenge his control.
Or, maybe the game took on Adrien's qualities, and so he just didn't seem out of place. The Adrien we knew fouled a lot, and so it makes a weird sort of sense that his first real outing was a whistle-fest, with some 103 fouls called. It was those fouls that could have decided the game. The Nuggets had a big advantage in free throw attempts this game (especially considering their "lead" in turnovers), but they utterly failed to convert from the line, shooting a Shaq-esque 57.6%. Had the Nuggets hit all of their free throws, they'd have won 104-99. Of course, had the Rockets hit all of their shots, the game would have been tied.
That was pretty much where the symmetry ended. The Rockets won this on a spectacular 10-for-19 performance from three point territory. That was almost entirely the doing of Kyle Lowry (5-of-6) and Chase Budinger (4-of-7) -- only Goran Dragic hit another three all night. The Nuggets, however, shot a miserable 3-of-22 from three, and so despite the layup drill they ran for most of the first half, they couldn't overtake the Rockets' shooting.
This was one of the better nights to take on the Nuggets, certainly. Nene was out, as were Afflalo and Mazgov. But, as Xiane was quick to point out in the thread, it's tough to really care too much about other teams' injury problems, you know, what with those of the Rockets over the last six years or so. And the Nuggets still came into the game with their two best players this year (Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari), so it's not like this team was utterly and completely crippled. But the Nuggets did suffer a devastating loss when Gallinari went down with some sort of foot fracture. That sucks. It really does.
Nevertheless, the Rockets stole one tonight in a game few would have thought they'd win (this morning, at least). On the road in Denver against one of the West's best teams, this was a great win. The Denver announcers are punks, however.Paradisio:
Kyle Lowry -- After about two weeks of poor shooting, Lowry finally managed an excellent game. Scoring 20 points on .84 True Shooting is spectacular, and 6 assists with 4 rebounds is great, too. 4 turnovers isn't good, but whatever... we won!
Chase Budinger -- Chase put together something that was, perhaps, sub-Lowry, but still pretty excellent: 16 points on .67 True Shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 turnovers. Most importantly, he hit the game-icing three in the final minutes and played great defense on the shambling-yet-still-effective phantom version of Andre Miller.
Luis Scola -- 25 points on 20 shots (.54 True Shooting) doesn't leap off the page, but this certainly looked like the best rebounding game of his year (it's not, really, since that was the game against Sacramento last month, but you get the idea). He played hard and all that, and he seemed to get going as the game went on.
Jeff Adrien -- 9 rebounds. There was some other stuff in there (he was 1-3 from the field with two blocked attempts, a product of him being 6' 7" and something of a recurring theme in his shooting career), but that didn't matter. He played great on the boards, and the Rockets desperately needed it after Dalembert wasn't getting it done and Hill didn't do much better. Adrien put in the game of his career (not really, it was probably this one, but "game of his career" sounds better and at least this came in a victory). Bravo.
Kevin Martin -- Bad shooting night, but at least he stopped shooting when it was clear it wasn't going to work and tried driving instead. That didn't work, either, but whatever.
Samuel Dalembert -- Sucked or had to throw up like Dragic or something. In any case, inconsequential.
Don't Care -- We Won