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Game 39 Recap: Rockets finally scrap out 120-114 triple-OT victory.

Call me a liar if you like (actually, don't), but I looked at the Rockets' stats this morning, and my immediate thought was, "Aaron Brooks needs to shoot more." As it turns out, Aaron Brooks had to step up his game in a major way to deliver the win tonight.

Otherwise, however, this game was putrid. There's no excuse for letting the Timberwolves come close to winning. They're easily the 2nd-worst team in the league. That the game was so close for so long is a reflection of three massive problems that the Rockets had tonight:

First, coming into the final minutes of the 4th quarter, Minnesota held a 23:11 free throw attempt advantage. Now, Minnesota is pretty good at drawing fouls this season, but their advantage over the Rockets in that department is not so large as 2:1. Yes, that pisses me off. And, no, I will not make some half-assed "apology" for that. The refs sucked.

Second, the Rockets totally failed to run their offense after the first quarter. By the end of the fourth, their strategy resembled Francis-era sets, letting AB isolate while everyone else watched.

Third, only Brooks, Scola, Hayes, and Landry were anything close to "efficient" on offense. This is, of course, related to the problems mentioned above.

So a lot of things went wrong tonight, culminating with a miracle shot from Corey Brewer. Just like last night, I'm tempted to just say "shit happens," and move on. Still, what went right tonight? The defense performed fairly well. By my (very, very rough, since I don't want to actually do the calculation) estimation, the Rockets held the Wolves to roughly .90 points/possession, compared to their usual (awful) .99. The offense may have been piss-poor, but the team defense kept the Rockets going down the stretch.

Beyond that, what's to say? Kurt Rambis made some odd decisions (don't worry - weird decisions are an organizational philosophy for them), keeping Kevin Love out when they needed his offensive rebounding, while the Rockets held the Wolves' other franchise player to just 26 points on 26 shots. Jefferson, however, managed to have a monster game on the glass, though this was partly the product of each team's massive number of bricked shots.

Three Up:

Aaron Brooks: Career highs in minutes and points for the little guy: 43 points on 30 shots in 59 minutes played. Just five assists, though. Nevertheless, this isn't necessarily a bad thing: I think AB is passing up good shots down the stretch fairly often. I don't know if that's just because he's shying away from being the main scorer on the team, or if it's because he's really trying to get his teammates involved, but I'm a little tired of seeing Brooks not take a three in favor of passing to Andersen or Shane. Tonight he took over, however, and that's what matters.

Luis Scola: Frankly, I don't know why Scola played so few minutes tonight. He came out in the first half and didn't really come back until OT. Maybe Adelman was concerned about his defense, but that didn't seem to be a big deal when he was in. I suggested in the gamethread that perhaps Adelman felt the Rockets needed to get more offensive rebounding, given their problems shooting the ball, so Landry was utilized more. Whatever the case, he was +22 on the night, rebounding, scoring, and passing well.

Trevor Ariza / Shane Battier: Yes, I am absolutely going to say he did well, and you're going to hear me out. Fans have been ragging on Trevor because of his shooting woes, but his value does not lie on the offensive end. He made many great defensive plays tonight, and he played very hard in overtime. 19-7-7 is a good line, even if the points came on somewhat inefficient shooting. As for Battier, his defense was absolutely critical throughout the whole game, including a ridiculous five blocks. Also, he seemed to be the only player willing to take the ball inside during the fourth quarter.

Three Down:

Kyle Lowry: It hurts me to talk bad about Kyle, but he was absolutely cold throughout the night. Yes, he made two clutch free throws at the end, but points in the first quarter matter just as much as points in the last. Ultimately, he's the bench's floor leader, and he's greatly responsible for their poor play.

Chase Budinger: He's been bad ever since he came back from the ankle sprain, and tonight was no different.  He was minus 12 in only 6 minutes, with only 2 points and 1 assist.

David Andersen: Picked up three cheap fouls, threw the ball away on a stupid play, and didn't play nearly as well on offense to make up for it. That's why he only played six minutes.

Ultimately, the bench was terrible tonight. Landry had a decent game, but the coaching staff doesn't appear to be happy with how he's played over the past few games, and he only came alive in overtime. For many, "that's when it counts," but I'd like to note that the Rockets wouldn't need overtime if he made a few more of his shots during regulation. So it came down to the starters to save the game, and much of that was due to Aaron Brooks' superb play.