Extra NBA Analysis: Rockets vs. Jazz

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Rockets 110, Jazz 108

How sweet it is!  It went down to the wire but Kyle ‘The Bulldog’ Lowry led the Rockets to victory over the Jazz, posting his first career triple-double (28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and ONLY one turnover) in the process. 

This definitely helped my fantasy team especially since it is currently fantasy playoff time.  Lowry was everywhere but it truly was a team effort down the stretch.  K-Mart had a team-high 34 points, Patrick Patterson recorded another double-double going for 14 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, and Courtney Lee played some shut down defense playing 40 minutes off the bench after Air Bud left the game due to an ankle injury.  In what was an extremely frustrating night, watching Texas fold at the hands of Arizona, I was able to find some solace in how Houston played.

Completely opposite from the Longhorn basketball team, the Rockets were able to hit their free throws, especially down the stretch.  The Rockets never used to have the Ray Allen, Steve Nash type of player who they could send to the line to close out games…they do now.  Kevin Martin went an astonishing 18-18 from the free throw line, including 8-8 in the final minute of regulation.  After failing to hit big shots in the fourth quarter against the Spurs earlier this week, Martin came up huge in the final period of play.  Paul Millsap continued to torch the Rockets, going for 35 points, and hitting consecutive three’s down the stretch to keep the Jazz in it, but Lowry also hit some big free throws to close out the game.  Free throw shooting was the big difference in the game.  The Rockets went to the line 41 times (hitting 36) as opposed to Utah’s 16/25 free throw performance.

After writing about the Rockets fantastic defense over the past two games, they fell a bit short on that front tonight.  Utah had a lot of good looks from beyond the arc, and they were able to convert.  The Jazz shot 50 percent from three point range, and also outrebounded the Rockets 52-48 (Al Jefferson had 19 by himself).  If it wasn’t for Lowry grabbing a career high number of boards, the Rockets would have been run out of the building on the glass.  The Rockets also allowed 33 points in the fourth, the most they allowed in any quarter of play.  Rather than getting stronger on the defensive end as the game wore on, they got considerably weaker.

This was a fun game to watch where both teams left it all on the floor.  It had a playoff intensity to it where you could see how badly both teams wanted (and needed) the W.  Houston jumps a spot and is now ninth in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of the Jazz and Phoenix and 1 1/2 games behind Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.  As mentioned before, now is the time the Rockets can make a push for that playoff spot.  Let’s compare the two team’s next four opponents:

Houston: Golden State, Miami, New Jersey, and Philadelphia

Memphis: Jazz, Celtics, Bulls, and Spurs

It is due or die time and the Rockets need to continue this upward improvement.  They can’t lay an egg which has happened so many times this season.  They go to Denver and beat a Nuggets team on the road with Carmelo, and then lose to the T-Wolves in the next game.  They beat the red hot Portland Trailblazers on the road, and then lose to the Clippers in the next game.  The Rockets have no room for error, especially with a tough schedule down the stretch.  At least we can enjoy this victory for a short period of time and savor in the misery of Jazz fans.  The Rockets have a nice break until they take on the Warriors on Wednesday.  Hopefully this gives the roster a much needed rest so players will be refreshed and not rusty after the long delay.

Random Thoughts:

-Scola is still not healthy.  It was courageous of him to attempt to come back for this big game but you could tell he was not feeling great.  In 20 minutes he went 1-5 from the field, scoring four points and grabbing eight boards.  Like I just mentioned, hopefully this extended break will get him back on his feet.

-Chase on his ankle (via @RocketsJCF): “Right now it doesn’t feel too bad.  Definitely not as bad as it has in the past only time will tell.  Hopefully I can be ready for our road trip.”

-Patrick Patterson now has three consecutive double-doubles, the first Rockets rookie to do that since Yao Ming. With Air Bud out with the ankle injury, I am excited to see him get some playing time at three.  A lineup of Lowry, Martin, Patterson, Scola, and Hayes makes me giddy.

-All of ‘The Blurs’ fans out there including everyone who whined about AB leaving should go ahead and jump on the Lowry bandwagon.  Kyle has been a different player since Brooks left.  Oh and Aaron was just suspended a game for throwing a ball at a ref.

-With this most recent victory, Slick Rick moves past Red Auerbach into ninth in career coaching wins.  An underrated coach, Adelman is out shadowed by Tom Thibodeau and Gregg Popovich who are the front runners for coach of the year candidates this season.  Regardless of how Houston ends the year, it has been another solid coaching job for Adelman.