The Rockets did good last night: an offensive efficiency of around 1.02, a defensive efficiency of around 0.84. They outrebounded the defending champions by 22 and were +6 on turnover ratio. They boxed out, hustled after every loose ball, and just generally did all the little things that make teams win basketball games. And, oh yeah, they shot well. Go figure. Probably had something to do with Brooks.
I hope to write a more extended post on this subject later, but there seems to be a burgeoning realization among Rockets fans, NBA fans, and analysts that, yeah, this team is actually pretty good. Jason Friedman expresses this pretty well:
Words like "heart," "hustle," and "hard-working" will be tossed Houston's way which, while complimentary (and accurate), often tend to thinly veil the fact that the giver of such bouquets believes the beneficiary is overachieving with a roster of middling talent. Don't be so deceived. These guys can play, as the rest of the league is (hopefully) beginning to learn. What's more: they love to play together.
I also like this line:
"I talked to Carl and Chase and told them we can’t ever have a game like the one we had in Sacramento again," said Lowry.
My sentiments exactly, Kyle.
Kelly Dwyer analyzes the game, and I like what he has to say about Artest and Kobe's games. I think this is something that sometimes goes unmentioned when talking about defense (though it was talked about quite a bit last year in Michael Lewis's Battier article).
Artest, superficially, had a good game. 22 points on 16 shots, but his and Kobe's singular offensive focus made it easy for the Rockets to load up on everyone else. Scorers are meant to be all-around players in this offense, and both Bryant and Artest made it so the teammates' hands were cold, and not ready to contribute.
The ability to isolate the other team's primary offensive player, force him to take shots, and make life difficult for him in general is a key part of team defense. This should be obvious (after all, we always talk about the importance of ball movement), but it often isn't.
Henry Abbot also looks at the Rockets' defense, but he focuses on Ariza and Budinger, who took Shane's place after he went to the bench early with foul trouble:
In place of Battier, Houston coach Rick Adelman played Budinger. Along with some missed wide-open jumpers, Budinger brought the kind of youth that causes problems for veterans like Bryant, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest.
One key play occurred with the Lakers clingking lackadaisically to their early lead, up six in the second quarter. As the crowd was still clapping for a Shannon Brown putback, all ten players jogged the length of the court. In transition, the Lakers were pointing at Budinger, who was a step ahead of Bryant as he headed down the left wing. Everyone realized Bryant had to catch up. But he did not. Budinger turned on the jets, Kyle Lowry got him the ball, and before Andrew Bynum could get in position to meet him at the rim, Budinger had swooped to the hoop for a reverse layup, and youth had been served.
Altogether, this was obviously a great game for Houston, and it's nice to see them bounce back from Friday's loss. I think we also need to start thinking of the Rockets as a real matchup problem for the Lakers: the Rockets give the Lakers a lot of trouble in virtually every category. I'll leave it to better analysts than me to figure out why that is, though.
More links after the jump.
In case you missed it, Brandon Jennings had a 50-point game on Friday, exploding in the second half and tearing apart the Warriors' "defense." Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus has more:
Jennings came oh so close to a perfect third quarter. His only miss in 13 shot attempts was his last one, a three attempt from the right wing that was also his lone miss from beyond the arc. Jennings made four three-pointers in the period and added a free throw (he did miss another early on) for 29 points and did so without a turnover. He outscored Golden State 29-26 all by his lonesome as the Bucks turned an eight-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead.
Given the efficiency, a case can be made that Jennings put together the best scoring quarter ever in an NBA regular-season game. (Given the importance, it's hard to beat Sleepy Floyd's 29-point fourth quarter in the playoffs against the L.A. Lakers, which also included 12 straight makes.) The league record for quarter scoring is held by George Gervin and Carmelo Anthony, who matched the Iceman's 33-point mark that stood alone for three decades last December against Minnesota.
Apparently, Jennings is the youngest player to score 50 points, and he (probably) did so in the shortest amount of time in NBA history. Jennings looks every day to be a special player, and the conventional wisdom that the 2009 NBA Draft was weak is starting to look very, very wrong.
Stephen Jackson was sent (alongside Acie Law) to Charlotte for Raja Bell and
Boris Diaw I mean Vlad Radmonovich. I think Hardwood Paroxysm gets it right by saying this is "just a weird trade."
I really don't buy it. First, I don't think Jackson is a good player, and it's really remarkable to me that the Bobcats were willing to trade Emeka Okafor away for future cap flexibility but are now willing to take on Jackson's bloated contract. I have no idea why they did this. The Bobcats' offense is so bad that Jackson's inefficient-high-usage ways might actually help a little, but I just don't understand why any sane, intelligent person would make this trade. Of course, that's why they're the Bobcats, honestly.
Hoopdata has a new version of John Hollinger's PER available that adjusts the weighting for assists. Here's the article on APER, and here's the APBR discussion on the new stat.
PER sucks, but it's at least an attempt at weighting contributions. And, as a quick way of comparing stars, it's pretty decent. APER should hopefully help out on that front.
The Painted Area looks at what the international scene will look like in the NBA during the 2010s.
Also, we may be in line for a slight changing of the guard in terms of countries which produce NBA players. Argentina seems to have been blessed with a remarkable confluence of several NBA-worthy players who meshed together beautifully in the 2000s, but there does not appear to be another wave of top talent behind them. With the emergence of Nene and the impending entrance of Splitter, Brazil should take over the mantle as South America’s top NBA talent producer.
Given that Yi Jianlian increasingly looks like a colossal bust, one must question how much talent is on the way behind Yao Ming from China in the 2010s, considering that the talent level on the Chinese national team is pretty thin, with no major draft prospects in the immediate future.
But considering that the Chinese government is building a basketball court in every village, and that NBA basketball is widely exposed in the country, it seems like a matter of time before more Chinese prospects emerge. It’s just unclear who will follow Yao, which must be of concern to the NBA from a business perspective in the short-term.
Last, here's Aaron Brooks at home with his family. Awww.