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Game 48 Recap: Rockets begin February on a positive note with 119-97 victory over Warriors

Yeah, I know - that's a pretty lame way to look at last night's win. But, at the end of the day, that's all this was (aside from the ultra-important factor of it being a win, and thus one step closer to a playoff berth). The Rockets looked like it was December again, but it should be noted that, ultimately, the Warriors are an awful team with generally awful players, and the Rockets should look good against a banged-up band of scrubs and semi-stars playing a fairly undisciplined and sloppy version of Nellie Ball.

But (and this was a point I've made throughout the season; it bears repeating) this is what good teams have to do. They must win the "easy" games they're given. If you do that and you play the good teams fairly evenly, you're going to do well. Recently, the Rockets haven't been doing that.

Enough of the mitigation - what did the Rockets do well? First, they were moving the ball better than I've seen in a while, and Brooks, especially, was seeing the floor well. The offense seemed to be getting back to its roots - less standing around, more making cuts towards the basket.

Second, the Rockets established the frontcourt as a threat early. Scola didn't do as much down the stretch, but he started off very hot, and he and Brooks had a lot working between them in the first quarter. Landry was unstoppable, or at least the Warriors thought so, given Turiaf's habit of fouling him to prevent baskets. That didn't work so well, given that Landry was able to get calls and (egads!) convert opportunities at the line.

Third, the Rockets recognized their mistakes in-game and corrected them. When the game was getting close in the 2nd Quarter and seemingly everyone (as I recall, Andersen, Shane, Conroy, Budinger, and Ariza were on the court) was missing jump shots, Shane physically took the ball away from Conroy to set up the offense. At that point, I think Conroy got the message and fed Andersen the ball in the low post instead of passing around the perimeter more, and the Aussie converted the first Rockets field goal in what seemed like an eternity. The Rockets didn't really look back at that point.

Last, the Rockets contained the Warriors exceedingly well. Only Monta Ellis actually contributed anything remotely efficient for any significant number of points. In the past, the Rockets' general strategy of guarding everyone very closely, but usually allowing the other team's designated scorer to go one-on-one (help defense aside) has occasionally resulted in some disasters (Charlotte), but I think it's a good defense. Tonight, it worked out. Maybe, had Maggette, Randolph, or Morris played, things perhaps would have turned out very differently, but that's irrelevant. The Rockets let Monta do his thing, and (as Rick pointed out post-game) he eventually just tired himself out. It's not pretty or elegant, but it apparently works.

Four Up:

Carl Landry: Fantastic game for Carl. 24 points on just 9 shots. Only one turnover. What can I say? He's a machine. Like a Terminator or Borg or something.

Trevor Ariza: I love writing Ariza into the "X Up" column. Rockets fans seem to have decided that Ariza is the new scapegoat, so I really enjoy it when he turns in an obviously great game (as opposed to his typical subtly good or qualified success games). Relatively efficient night for him (it happens when he goes inside and actually gets calls), and he scrambled around on defense as always. And, most importantly, he made all of his free throws! All five of them! Holy shit! Now, I'm a devotee of Dean Oliver's dictum that free throw percentage matters much, much, much less than actually drawing fouls, but it's pretty nice when Trevor can convert.

Aaron Brooks: AB is what he is. He's a combo guard who plays awful defense and pretty great offense. He isn't the best at seeing the floor, but he makes up for that with great shooting skills, an ability to space the floor, and phenomenal speed. And he's turning into a great leader on the court, and I think this is most obvious now that Lowry is gone, and we can see AB contrasted against someone who isn't a starting-quality PG in his own right. Brooks knows how to run Adelman's offense, he understands how to get the ball to Scola and Landry (maybe that means he'll know how to get the ball to the giant Chinese dude next season! Holy fuck, wouldn't that be weird?), and he's maturing as a shooter more and more every day. Also, eight rebounds last night. Crazy.

Chuck Hayes: Honestly, the Rockets would be totally fucked without Chuck Hayes. 7 points on very efficient shooting and 13 rebounds. Did a good job of stopping the relatively weak Warriors frontcourt. Three assists, only one turnover... Hayes, like Battier (and Lowry) does all of these small things that add up to wins. He also does the big things (like rebound and play defense).

Two Down:

Turnovers - Turnovers are to be expected in any fast-paced game, but 16-to-6 isn't a great ratio. On the other hand, the Warriors' possessions weren't ending in turnovers because they were ending in bricked shots, and the Rockets are good enough at moving the ball up the court that they still created fast break opportunities. Still, the Rockets have had a problem with TOs all season (small teams do that, according to BPro anyways), and I don't expect that to stop any time soon. Say la vee.

The Crowd - C'mon, people! I know it's a Tuesday night game against freaking Golden State, but show the hell up.