I know how home-court advantage works, that it's easier to win at home than on the road. But I had no clue how much of a difference it could make with a team as talented as the Portland Trailblazers. This was just as shocking of a win as it was impressive. Most impressive was Trevor Ariza, who scored a career-high 33 points.
I didn't expect to see a 30-point performance from Ariza this early in the season. I doubt anyone did. But it happened, and while the number may seem like a huge milestone of sorts for Trevor, it was a relatively simple path towards it.
Below is a breakdown of every point that Ariza scored for the Rockets. After a while, it becomes clear that Ariza's career night was aided by some uncharacteristically poor defense from Portland.
-- Luis Scola runs the break, dishes to Brooks, who passes it to Ariza in rhythm for the slam dunk in transition.
-- Ariza trails the break and spots up at the top of the key. Brooks dribbles to the corner, then drives right at Steve Blake towards the paint, drawing help from Brandon Roy, who is currently guarding Ariza. Brooks recognizes the help, and swings it back out to Ariza. Scola sets a pick on the rotating defender, allowing Ariza a wide-open three-pointer.
-- Ariza takes the ball up the court as the point, and immediately dribbles left towards Scola. Scola sets the pick, and the Blazers unwisely decide to switch, leaving Aldridge to pick up the ball. Ariza turns the corner and doesn't slow down, blowing by Aldridge to the basket until he is fouled on the layup attempt. Knocks down 1 of 2 free throws.
-- Ariza recovers rebound, brings ball upcourt, dishes it off to Shane Battier in the corner. Battier swings it back to Ariza off the drive, who blows by Roy towards Greg Oden and goes up strong, receiving the foul call. Hits 1 of 2 free throws.
-- Off the free throw miss, Scola recovers the rebound. Rudy Fernandez and Brandon Roy get mixed up on who to guard, picking up the same man. Fernandez rotates to Steve Blake's man, then rotates to Shane Battier. This leaves LaMarcus Aldridge to pick up Ariza, who is standing in the corner assuming that Aldridge won't come out to guard him. Battier swings it to Ariza, and sure enough, Aldridge doesn't leave the block until he realizes how far away from Ariza he really is. Trevor knocks down the open three. Great job by the Rockets to recognize the defensive breakdown.
-- Chuck Hayes runs the break (?) and makes a great pass to Ariza in transition. Trevor meets his defender in mid-air and switches to his left hand to make the layup. If there's any area of Ariza's game with which he's the most comfortable, it's finishing around the rim.
-- Rudy Fernandez receives the ball in the corner for a catch-and-shoot, but since his defender closes out well, he looks to rotate it. Ariza recognizes this and leaves Brandon Roy on the opposite wing to jump the pass intended for Travis Outlaw. He makes the steal and beats Roy to the basket for the slam dunk. It's always a defensive gamble to leave Roy, but it paid off.
-- Kyle Lowry steals the ball and is seemingly off to the races. However, Outlaw catches Lowry as he attempts a layup and swats it off the backboard. Alertly, Ariza trails the break and is able to catch the blocked shot and slam it home.
-- Trevor fouls Roy on a three point attempt with 9 seconds left in the quarter. Couldn't help but make a note of this.
-- Ariza comes around a pick and receives a pass at the top of the key from Battier, who sets a pick on Brandon Roy. Rudy Fernandez switches onto Ariza, but plays off of him. Ariza dribbles once and pulls up in rhythm for a three-pointer. It's a good make by Ariza, but it's ridiculous how much room Fernandez gave him.
-- Trevor loses his dribble around a pick, but recovers it in time to step back and bank in a long two from the elbow. Good defense from Brandon Roy - sometimes, they just go in.
-- Rudy Fernandez just doesn't understand how to close out on defense. Ariza receives a pass from Aaron Brooks at the top of the key, and Brooks sets a bit of a ghost screen on Fernandez. However, Fernandez doesn't fight through, giving Ariza plenty of time to get set and knock down his fourth three-pointer.
-- Ariza handles the ball as the shot clock counts down. He can't find anywhere to go, so he pump-fakes and gets Greg Oden into the air. Ariza then jumps to shoot and gets fouled. Makes 2 of 2 free throws.
-- After a 7-0 run from Portland, the Rockets need a bucket. Ariza takes the ball on the wing, guarded by Roy, who has done a much better job on him than Fernandez. Battier attempts to post up, then comes to set a pick. Ariza fakes towards the pick, to his right, then drives left along the baseline. Roy gets thrown off and loses his footing while Ariza drives towards LaMarcus Aldridge, absorbs the contact, and finishes with a layup. Knocks down 1 of 1 free throws.
-- Battier drives towards the lane. Foolishly, Travis Outlaw steps towards him to help, leaving Ariza open for a kick-out pass. Battier dishes it out to Trevor, who pump fakes Outlaw and then knocks down the three. Clutch.
And there you have it. While Ariza made 11 of his 17 attempted shots, it was the shots that he didn't take that made an impression on me. If he wasn't open, he'd move the ball and spot up elsewhere. I'd say he only forced up one shot all night, a double-pump three pointer against Travis Outlaw late in the game. Otherwise, it was an efficient performance that must have sent Daryl Morey to the bars for a celebration.
Short recap for today, but really, it was one of the better wins we've had in a while.
Aaron Brooks - Not to be overlooked, Brooks had a fantastic game, scoring 28 points while knocking down clutch shots at the end.
Trevor Ariza - I think it's safe to say we've been over this.
Carl Landry - Finally, some offensive production from Cuddly Carl.
Forget it. This was a pretty sweet victory. No need to delve into negatives.
Next Game: Monday @ Utah