It's easy to say that there were two Rockets teams on the floor in Oakland last night. But when you think about it, the only difference between the two was whether or not the shots were falling.
Since when do the Houston Rockets more than double the total number of three point shot attempts of the Golden State Warriors? Matter of fact, since when does anyone double-up Nellie's crew from behind the arc? Evidently, the Rockets are going to live and die from behind the arc.
That said, there is a difference between shooting threes and chucking threes. The value of using the post to open up outside shots was on full display in the third quarter, when the Rockets made 11 straight shots, many from behind the arc. Sending the ball into Carl Landry or Luis Scola opened up the kick-out pass, and when the Warriors rotated, the recipient would swing the ball to the open man on the wing or in the corner. Things like this work against a Warriors team that rarely rotates a second or third time effectively.
As good a shooter as you are, you cannot love the three point shot; instead, you must use it when available. As the game wore on, the Rockets ceased loving and chucking and began using the open three to their advantage. Chase Budinger and Aaron Brooks caught fire in the second half because when they shot, they were set and open. Nothing was forced. And we all knew Scola had it in him.
While much of the attention of last night's victory will be placed on the outside shooting, it was the offense in the paint that managed to both excite and concern me. Excitement: David Andersen looks like he's been in the NBA for years. His post moves are fluid and precise - you can trust him when he has the ball on the block. Concern: Big Dave only took three shots in eight minutes of playing time. He made all three. Perhaps when Adelman feels that Dave can manage defensively, he will give him more PT.
Another cause for excitement? Trevor Ariza's assertiveness on the baseline drive. He attacked the rim constantly, and if Anthony Randolph is talented enough to block the shot of a crazy athlete flying towards the rim, then more power to him. Concern? Ariza turned the ball over six times, and many of those came on the drive. There's a clear difference in a guy like Tracy McGrady and Ariza, and it's in their ability to dribble in traffic. McGrady's so good at it that you barely even notice. He's a machine in the lane, maneuvering his arms and legs perfectly through defenders. Ariza doesn't maintain the same ball control, and often takes one dribble too much or simply loses possession.
Despite Ariza's mechanical issues, the point is that he is asserting himself, something he really hasn't done before. He's making the effort to improve and expand upon his current style of play. It will take plenty of time to work out the kinks, and I'm okay with that.
Aaron Brooks quietly had a career-high twelve assists to go along with eighteen points. Chase Budinger shot well, doing what he does best in catching and shooting. For the most part, I'm satisfied with everyone's individual play, aside from Kyle Lowry, who was a tad bit too bulldog-ish in the lane. There's no need to be so blindly reckless.
To add to that note, there was a sense of recklessness surrounding the Rockets' play from the get-go. It seemed like everyone was out of control, that whoever caught the ball on the perimeter was determined to throw himself into the Warrior defense, and then once in the air surrounded by white jerseys, quickly decide what to do from there. That's no good. It's one thing to play up-tempo, but it's quite another deal to run into a burning building of defenders without devising an escape plan first.
All in all, it was a good first win. The three-point shooting and the fourteen steals were especially impressive, as were the free throw shooting numbers (16-20). It's off to Houston for the Rockets for their home opener against Portland.
Trevor Ariza -- His offensive outburst from the start kept the Rockets in the game. 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists.
Luis Scola -- Had a great third quarter that helped to give the Rockets a lead heading into the fourth. 21 points, 11 rebunds, 1-1 from three (haha!).
Chase Budinger -- Did his job effectively, hitting three 3-point shots in the second half that stabilized the Rockets' lead. 11 points, 2 rebounds, 3-6 from deep.
Kyle Lowry -- Never drove with much of a purpose. Had two turnovers and four fouls in 16 minutes.
Carl Landry -- 10/6 isn't bad, but you'd like to see that perimeter jumper start to fall like it did last season.
Paint Defense in the First Half -- Golden State got way too many easy looks inside to start the game. Luckily, the Rockets shored up the fault and played good second-half D.
Next Game: Saturday vs. Portland