You can put it on the board! Rockets fans have been patiently waiting for their first victory of the season. And look no further, the Minnesota Timberwolves are in town. After five heartbreaking losses to open the season (5 losses by a combined 30 pts), it is always nice to see Minnesota in town. After all, Minnesota is the league’s doormat. During the T-Wolves four game losing streak, they have lost each game by an average of 26 points. And how fitting was it for this game to end with a 26-point deficit? But hey, a win’s a win!
Two of the league’s worst defenses (statistically) square off in this one. A lot has been made about the Rockets 0-5 record, but when you are allowing a league worst 116 ppg, there are needs for adjustments. On a side note, going into Sunday, Houston’s previous opponents have a combined 24-4 record on the season. Minnesota, on other hand, a 1-4 record.
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Ishmael Smith got the starting nod at point guard tonight with Aaron Brooks still recovering from a sprained left ankle. The Rockets started off the game 0-7 from the field, and I couldn’t help but think: Not again! Fortunately, Houston’s offense woke up, managing to throw up 26 points in the first on only 7-25 shooting. This was the first warning sign of a possible blowout. When you shoot 28% in the first quarter and have a commanding 12-point lead (26-14), things will only improve from there.
Having missed the first five games, Houston’s defense decided to show up. Minnesota didn’t have a single player with over three points in the first quarter. THREE POINTS! The Rockets defense ended a solid half, forcing 10 turnovers and holding the T-wolves to 37 points on 34% shooting. Finally, the Rockets were playing defense.
Houston took a 23-point lead into halftime, and they weren’t finished yet. The third quarter was dedicated to Scola, Martin, and Hill. Scola manhandled Minnesota down low, scoring 16 of his game high 24 points in the quarter. Martin and Hill added to the action with a combined 14 points in the quarter, and you began to see the first wave of fans pile out of the Toyota Center. Scola’s offensive outburst in the 3rd propelled Houston to their first win. Houston’s work here was done. Rockets widened their lead to 30 (97-67) entering the fourth quarter of play.
The final quarter of play consisted of a battle of the benches. The Rockets marched out Lee, Hill, Jeffries, Budinger, and even Jermaine Taylor for the fourth. Speaking of Jermaine Taylor, I guess he is here to stay. Days after trade rumors for Taylor swirled around the possible signing of Dampier, the Rockets didn’t seem to be interested in the 35-year-old center after all. Boy, I would hate to be Erick Dampier’s agent right now. Both Taylor and Hill looked solid in garbage time as the Rockets cruised to a 26-point victory. If there is a way to score a quiet 120 points, the Rockets found a way.
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-This Minnesota team is just downright awful. I cannot imagine any possible scenario that has them winning 20 games this season. Kevin Love (16 pts, 16 reb tonight) is the only bright spot on this team. Free Kevin Love!
-Yao looked solid in a brief 16 minutes of play, scoring an efficient 13 points and grabbing 4 rebounds.
-The Rockets continue to draw more fouls than their opponents (47 to 33 tonight). This is a good sign going forward.
-Ishmael Smith commanded the offense tonight. I know Aaron Brooks is a great player and all, but Ish Smith is more than a great backup. Smith finished with a game high plus/minus of +28.