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Game 43 Recap: Rockets Continue Surge, Defeat Knicks 104-89

The most astounding thing about this game, besides Danilo Gallinari's spectacular "bullshit call" face, was that the Rockets missed almost as many three-point shots as the Knicks attempted, yet still managed to win the game with relative ease.

It was a pretty amazing sight, as Kevin Martin and basically the entire back-court realized (the technically true statement) that if they hadn't hit anything yet, that was no prediction of future inaccuracy. But the Rockets nevertheless managed to adapt well to what would normally be a death-sentence, exploiting the Knicks' porous defense by getting into the lanes, and making a great defensive effort to stymie an offense that is one of the best in the league.

No small part of that was the combination of Kyle Lowry and Chuck Hayes. I suppose that's appropriate enough -- they've been the adjusted +/- core of the team for the last two or three seasons, and when the prime scorer on the team, Martin, went cold for most of the game, it came down to some of that "intangible" stuff people keep talking about (well, it's not actually that intangible, but that's not the point). Lowry was only credited with 4 assists on the night, but he directed an offense that had lost its most potent weapon. Chuck Hayes, meanwhile, defended admirably against Amare Stoudemire and from my recollection almost totally stopped the Knicks' star while on the court. Most tellingly, Amare didn't shoot a single free-throw throughout the game, while giving up the ball five times.

A few notes:

  • Jordan Hill's ballhandling seems to be much-improved over the past few months, and I'm no longer totally horrified when he decides to take a midrange jump-shot or running hook or whatever. His abilities off the dribble may have been enhanced by an admittedly soft defense, but it's still impressive.
  • Why didn't we see more of Courtney Lee or any of Terrence Williams? Well, partly it was that the game was never so out of hand for the Knicks that Adelman would really have been justified in sending in the C-team, but part of it was also...
  • ...a seemingly deliberate decision to let Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin shoot their ways out of whatever slump they are (were?) in. When you think about it, those are entirely disparate goals, but it's an interesting (and probably necessary) balancing act.
  • Shane Battier deserves more recognition for his role in facilitating -- and often finishing -- the offense. He's the Rockets' third-most-efficient regular player right now, and tonight was another great game for him: 12 points on 6 shots, 3 assists, and 0 turnovers.