As comfortable as the Rockets' third-quarter lead felt, you knew, just by looking at the players themselves, that it wasn't going to last. Someone needed to step up on offense, and fast.
However, you never would have thought that 29 year-old rookie David Andersen, who was 1-8 from the field at the time, would be that guy.
Big Dave has looked as if he's been on the brink of something all year. He'll put together a few good games, and then disappear for a while. Nobody is asking him to score ten points every night off the bench, as he is only playing an average of thirteen minutes per game. But it's nice to have such a versatile player whom you can rely on late in games, just as much as you can rely on anyone else. Andersen has slowly gained the trust of Coach Adelman and his teammates, because while he may not be automatic (and really, nobody is automatic anyway), you know that he is capable of scoring when called upon.
While Andersen may have played well late, as did Chuck Hayes, who decided to drop 13/15 out of his back pocket, it was Trevor Ariza who got the Rockets their third-quarter lead to begin with. Ariza has been hot and cold all season long, so it was quite convenient that tonight turned out to be one of his better performances. Ideally, we would all like for Trevor to employ the same shot selection that he used tonight against every team, but that will take time. Personally, I recommed watching Rafer Alston tape for a good hour or two, as an example of what not to do with your jump shot.
By the way, Trevor, could you do us all a favor and make a god damn free throw? Thanks.
As for the Thunder, Kevin Durant looked like he'd been drugged, and not because his shot was off. For only the fourth time in his career, Durant did not attempt a single free throw. Half of that can be credited to Shane Battier, who has always done a good job of keeping opponents out of the paint. The other half, however, is beyond my knowledge. Perhaps Durant came down with something prior to the game, because he's not the same perimeter-hugger that he used to be; he guns for the paint whenever possible.
Any doubts that anyone had about Russell Westbrook's poor shot selection were dashed tonight, as the former UCLA Bruin decided that long, pull-up two-pointers were the best way to utilize his freakish athletic ability. However, any doubts that anyone still has about former first-round pick Serge Ibaka should be dying off soon. This kid is absolutely electric - give him two years and he'll be a solid sixth man. He's got great intuition and is fearless around the basket. I kept confusing him for Durant when he was up in the air going for rebounds.
I've always considered the Thunder to be a team that has the ability to out-hustle anyone, but the Rockets sure gunned for the offensive rebounds tonight. We needed all of the second-chance points that we could get, since nothing that Aaron Brooks was throwing up from the outside was going in. I'd say that last possession of ours was indicative of our entire performance; we were always a step ahead of the Thunder.
Tracy McGrady still looks... meh. However, if he makes that layup attempt to end the first half, on a strong drive to the hoop at that, then maybe I feel more comfortable with his play. Sadly, a bad roll off of the rim can determine my written thoughts on how someone plays. I must be cut out to be a sportswriter.
We'll keep you updated on Chase Budinger and his ankle injury. Matt Bullard doesn't think that the Albino Shadow will be out for long. On that note, next time we want good basketball advice, we'll ask my old pediatritian.
Good win tonight for the Rockets, especially without Landry. We're certainly handling these back-to-backs well, as we are now 6-1 on the back end of them.