Well, there goes another fourth-quarter lead.
When Shane Battier and Brad Miller combine to score 32 points, you'd figure that the Rockets would be able to strike 100 points. Unfortunately, the Rockets bench combined to score eight points. With Chase Budinger out and with Kyle Lowry running the first unit, there wasn't any extra pop to be found off the pine. The Rockets were forced to run the same group out against a deeper Bulls team and simply got weighed down in the final quarter, both on offense and on defense. The deficiency of the latter can be attributed to the blur that is Derrick Rose.
Rose scored 17 fourth-quarter points, and outside of a contested three-pointer that he nailed in Kyle Lowry's face, all of his attempts were at the rim. He was too quick for Lowry - well, he's too quick for anyone - and though Brad Miller did look better tonight protecting the basket, he couldn't do much to stop Rose, either. The man can elevate, control his body amidst contact and can get a shot off that has a very good chance of going in. I no longer have my Synergy account, but I suspect Rose is near the top of the league in old-fashioned three-point plays.
Oh, and if Derrick Rose is going to hit four of five three-point attempts... well, good luck with that.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was (or wasn't) Kevin Martin, who once again couldn't be found in the fourth quarter. His shot was off the whole game, for the most part, but he was still the best scorer on the floor for the Rockets in the final minutes. At times, Martin drifted to the corner while Lowry was forced to bulldog his way into a stupid-ridiculous layup attempt. At other times, Martin got the ball, but was quickly doubled and had to give it up. I'll say it again and again and again: Kevin Martin can't create his own offense in crunch time. You need to run him through screens and get him open shots. If that doesn't work, then it's a shame, because for three quarters Martin is excellent, but for some reason - when it comes to the fourth quarter and when the defense really bears down and shuts off passing lanes and doubles on screens - Martin can't deal with it. He just can't. He's efficient, he's smart and he's not Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony or Derrick Rose. He reacts to the defense more than the defense is forced to react to him.
B-Mills continues to be a revelation on offense, but it's really no surprise given how much Coach Adelman trusts him shooting the ball from the outside. And for good reason. He's got a nice three-point shot and can hit the 18-footer when opponents jump the ball handler on the pick and roll. As stated, he's looking better on defense, too. Hopefully, the gimpy ankle has healed by now.
Luis Scola is still doing his thing. You know, just 27 points on 17 shots. No big deal. Shane Battier turned in a nice performance, too, holding Luol Deng to 16 points on 21 shots and making three trey's of his own. When Battier contributes on offense, as stated, you'd think that the Rockets would have a nice offensive night.
Oddly enough, the Rockets shot the ball well (48%) from the field and forced 19 Bulls turnovers. Unfortunately, they turned it over the same amount of times and recorded four fewer points off turnovers than did the Bulls. While the Bulls killed themselves with lousy free throw shooting, they turned in an 8-12 shooting night from behind the arc, and that's what ultimately doomed Houston.
I thought that, all in all, this was a good game from the Rockets and that they could have easily won it had Rose not gone off from range. Lowry, despite a few bad fouls here and there, quietly had a solid game, going 3-5 from the field with 4 rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Now, Houston heads north to Oklahoma City. They've fared well against the Thunder in the past, but this isn't exactly a team of the past. They'll present a challenge, for sure.
Also, note to season-ticket holders in the lower bowl: show up to the game. There were far too many empty seats. You're making your city look bad. If you don't want to go to the games, don't buy the tickets. Or, if you can't make it to a game, find someone who can. Fill the seats, people. This team needs home support more than ever.