Whew. That was fun.
There was plenty of good, but you know what stood out most? Everyone. At the end of the game, after the Nuggets had started the fourth quarter on the kind of run that puts away most teams, everyone made a play. Trevor Ariza's clutch three. Kevin Martin's jumper in the lane. Kyle Lowry's drives to the basket for lay-ups. Shane Battier's three pointers from the corner. Jordan Hill's offensive rebound and free throws. Chuck Hayes' free throws. Luis Scola's jump shots and rebounds. The collective defensive effort when it mattered most.
I know it's monotonous. That's the best part.
And then there was Aaron Brooks. Take it from Kevin Martin: Aaron is the best sub-six-foot scorer since Iverson, and perhaps the most diverse scoring point guard that the league has to offer. Finally, it appears that Aaron Brooks has taken that jumbled mess of scoring talent - the speed, the shot, the ability to finish at the rim - and has added a key ingredient: poise. Or whatever you want to call it. There's a confidence in him that hasn't been there before. The confidence not only to take advantage of scoring opportunities when presented, but to create his own scoring opportunities without hesitation. And, really, it's only taken half a year to develop, which is scary. We'll ignore the crunch time free throw issues, but just for tonight.
If there's one team that you can defend effectively and yet still give up 120 points to, it's Denver, and tonight was no exception. We like to talk about efficiency and which shot attempts are most efficient. Dead last on that list is the long two-point jumper. I think Carmelo Anthony hit about five of those in the fourth. With finger nails grazing his eyelashes. Sometimes, statistical analysis just gets p'wned by Awesomeness.
But despite Denver's fireworks, the Rockets were unbelievably resilient. I don't think the Nuggets saw it coming. Since when do the 2010 Houston Rockets go back-and-forth with anyone, much less a championship contender? They've been terribly inconsistent all season in both quarters and in full games. They'll get hot for a few minutes, then give it all back in one giant run. We thought that was going to happen as the fourth quarter began. And then, this team put together one hell of a performance to finally give themselves a legitimate win to build off of. Even if the inconsistencies continue, which they most likely will, at least the Rockets know what they're capable of.
Surprisingly, this looked like the scrappy old bunch that we championed early in the season. All of the hustle, the intensity, the energy - it was all there, all in the same form that we are used to seeing. But this team, although scrappy, is also very, very good. We're no longer overachieving on talent, but rather on chemistry. It's been a month since the deadline deal, and it already feels like this team has been together since the Lakers' series. I can't wait until Yao gets to join the fun.
Having said that, the Rockets still have a long way to go to becoming a contender. But that's far off in the distance, and to be honest, I really don't care about the distance or the "big picture" or any of that right now. This win is as significant and as important as any that the Rockets have had in a long time. It's the kind of victory that makes everyone happy together, as a team.
So, let's enjoy it with them.