Thoughts on Rockets 100 vs Thunder 91 (Game 17)
Tonight's Episode Sponsored by: Bullet Points - The Lazy Man's FriendTM
* First order of business - Luis Scola. PF might be the position we can cover fairly well in the short term, but we need Scola, every single night. Let's all hope that Luis comes right very soon after Etan Thomas hurt him on practically the first play of the game. I think we may miss Pops a bit right now. Will we see Joey Dorsey and his wallet full of $1 bills? The fictional side of TDS certainly hopes so. Get well Luis.
* Second order of business. I am heartily sick of the Bill Simmons "Team That Shall Not Be Named" schtick when it comes to the Oklahoma City Thunder. I feel tremendous sympathy for Seattle and its fans. Only a cad wouldn't.
There is no question Seattle was jobbed. But is it really OKC, as a fanbase's, fault? Should the enthusiastic fans watching a good young team bear the wrath of a city, a nation or an internet sports commenting phenomenon with a bully pulpit?
The whole sorry affair appeared to be a combination of bad acts on the part of Seattle's former owner (The Starbuckeroo), the OKC group, dithering on the part of the city of Seattle and an obviously pre-arranged deal with Stern and the NBA owners.
When you've got a buyer who has all along looked like he wanted to move the team to a nice new facility in his hometown, why be surprised when he does just that? We like to think of teams as our own, and God knows, we fund them as if they were, building arenas and whatnot. In the end, however, they are private property, and owners in the USA can generally do what they want with their property. You may say we're foolish to build arenas, and maybe that's true, but tell that to Seattle, where a rather nasty point about new facilities seemed to be made by the NBA.
So while the loss of the Supersonics was a terrible outcome for the loyal and great fans of Seattle who did not deserve anything like that treatment, and there was without question treachery on the part of a number of actors, the fans of OKC are not to blame. Being petulant about a team and city isn't hurting Clay Bennett, Howard Schultz, or David Stern. Let it go, at least when it comes to OKC and its fans - they are 2nd least blameworthy group in this mess.
* Seeing OKC again, I still think this is a collection of players struggling to become a team. On a talent level, this is an amazing group. From an execution and strategy level, they tend to look flat when playing Houston. Sometimes their massive collection of ability is enough to overcome a very good opponent. But in 11 straight games, that combination hasn't been enough to beat the Rockets.
* Wow. We needed this win. After the Dallas Debacle - Part II, and the Spurs crushing 3rd quarter, I felt as though doubt was starting to creep in regarding the whole program. This is unnecessary. The Rockets are able to compete with anyone, most nights. But when things go wrong, or when we play a team that's pure poison for us like Dallas, things can get ugly fast. Our big players do make a difference. They bring certain things, every night, and sometimes those things (Defense, insanely efficient shooting from Yao. Explosive scoring, the ability to create good shots, and excellent passing from McGrady.) are vital. There's a reason those guys are considered stars, despite the efficient and strong performance of our "No Stars"lineup.
* I've been accused of jinxing Carl Landry, so I'll try not to do that. But, but... Wow! Right now he's just an amazing force around the basket. If he got some of the calls that "star" big men get, he'd be even tougher. Remember, after the vile Etan Thomas (nice gratuitous shot at Brook's head) lacerated Scola's eyelid, he got 3 quick fouls - so most of his 21pts and 10 rbs came in the 2nd half.
1. Aaron Brooks - 21 pts on 8-15 shooting, 3-3 on 3pts, 4 assits, 5 steals(!), and most importantly, 1 turnover. Yes, the wanton giveaways came to an end tonight, and it made a huge difference. A mature and poised game from Aaron, and despite somewhat similar stat lines - he played much better against Westbrook tonight.
2. The D on Durant. Kevin Durant can make impossible-seeming shots with some frequency. He can make easy shots with even greater frequency. At least 10 of Durant's 25 points came on "how did he make that" shots. That's all you can do, or hope for.
3. Landry is mentioned above, so - David Andersen. The big Aussie is finding his game in the NBA, he's moving much better on defense, and was frequently offering solid help D in the paint. His shot is as smooth as glass - we need to see more of it.
1. Trevor Ariza channeling Ron Artest. 7-23 type nights are a problem. I like his aggressiveness, but he's not quite aggressive enough - he can get to the rim, but can't make the shot go - try to dunk more, Trevor. Also, his 3 seems way out of rhythm.
2. Etan Thomas - lacerated Scola's eye, and very nearly connected on a vicious, unnecessary, Karl Malone-style elbow to Aaron Brooks, who was simply standing near him. It's not in character for the Rockets, but a takedown of Thomas by his ridiculous ponytail would have satisfied my unrealistic revenge fantasies quite nicely.
3. A quiet night for Battier, who looked tentative when it came to open shot