Tonight, Houston has a chance to turn the narrative around on what’s been a pretty subpar road trip.
After a breakthrough win over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Rockets have been less than optimal in their last three contests. The defense has given up an average 122 points per game in this stretch and at teams looks as nonexistent as the scores would indicate. Perhaps more worrying is that it seems to be a team-wide problem. This isn’t just your typical James Harden Vine defensive problems. No one is giving the Houston even an average performance on defense. In fact, Harden’s probably been one of the better defenders during this stretch. That’s not a compliment, trust me.
Sure, Houston got a win over Philadelphia on national television, but anyone with eyes or ears could tell that the Rockets are not ready to face the true contenders. The Warriors are in a class by themselves, and the Spurs are Cavs are on their tails. Houston heads up the next group, but without a renewed effort on defense that spot is in jeopardy.
The Indiana Pacers are 24-22 and are a phenomenal 17-6 at home this season. Paul George is an All-Star and Myles Turner has been sensational for them too. Jeff Teague is averaging 16/8/4 and yet has never had a triple double in his career (until tonight???).
Furthermore, C.J. Miles is a dedicated sniper and is shooting 42.4% from deep this season. Yes, that’s an actual stat. He went 6-9 in their game against the Kings on Friday. All of his attempts were from deep. Maybe don’t help off him tonight.
However, the most recognizable Pacer will be none other than Aaron Brooks, known colloquially as ABZ. The former Rocket is still terrorizing defenses with his speed at the age of 32. If Luis Scola was honored as a Rockets legend, I feel like Brooks will also get that privilege when the Pacers visit the Toyota Center on February 27.
There are lots of great ABZ moments to pick from. His alley-oop and 34 points over the Lakers in the Finals, his game winner in Denver, his game at Madison Square Garden where he hit everything in the last five minutes to give Houston the win, and his 3 late in Boston to send the game to OT and an eventual Rockets win all come to mind.
But I’m going with his first career start. The Rockets had just traded Rafer Alston (THANK YOU BASED MOREY!!!!!!!) and AB got the call to start against the Dallas Mavericks, a team had been markedly better than Houston in the preceding years. What Brooks did in the last 2 minutes will live on in my memory as the greatest vindication of my Rafer hatred.
Tip-off is at 5pm CT.
Getting to use the entire state of Indiana was nice for the music portion. There’s John (Cougar) Mellencamp, Axl Rose, and David Lee Roth. But the winners, by a landslide, are the Jackson 5. In honor of ABZ, we’ll go with “ABC” here.