Peja and the Mavs sink Houston
The Houston Rockets played host to the Dallas Mavericks in hopes for a win against their in-state rival. Coming off arguably their worst loss of the season (Minnesota at home), the Rockets needed this game. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go as planned. Dallas tends to own Houston recently, winning 8 of their past 11 games in the Toyota Center. The Rockets are just 6-17 in their past 23 games vs. Dallas. Despite outscoring Dallas 35-23 in the fourth quarter, Houston fell short again losing 106-102 and knocking their record down to 25-30.
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Jumping to the third quarter. I don’t know what happened during halftime, but the Rockets came out ice cold. Houston came out shooting an awful 20% to begin the second half, missing 16 of their first 20 shot attempts. At one point, Dallas stretched their lead to as large as 23 (72-49) immediately following Dirk and Peja’s three-pointers. (Quick side note: Dallas has hit a three-pointer in NBA record 992 consecutive games. Not too shabby!)
When asked about Houston’s cold second half start and near comeback finish, Adelman claimed, “I don’t know what it is about Dallas where we feel like we have to get down by 20-something points before we play.”
The real story of this game is the rebirth of Peja Stojakovic. Did anybody know he was still in the league? (On a side note: Ever since his trade away from Sacramento, Peja has vanished off into the oblivion. After walking through seasons with the Hornets and a few games with the Raptors, Peja has finally landed in Dallas. Once rival European sharpshooters, he joins Dirk and the Mavericks as another valuable asset.) Having started 1-11 from the behind the arc in his first three games with Dallas, Peja finally found his magical touch Saturday night. Peja notched an efficient 22 points on 8-12 shooting (and 4-6 from three.) Not to be outdone, Dirk matched Peja’s 22 as the Mavericks offensive firepower was too much for the Rockets.
Houston was simply not firing on either offense or defense. Allowing Dallas to shoot 61 percent in the first half and 55% for the game isn’t going to beat the number two seed in the west. It doesn’t help things either when the Rockets only manage to shoot near 40 percent on the game. Overlooking Kyle Lowry’s 26 points, Houston was stagnant offensively. Averaging close to 50 combined points a game, Scola and Martin combined for just 25 points on 42% shooting. But let’s talk about Aaron Brooks. Just a week away from his frustrating fit vs. Memphis and one-game suspension, Brooks isn’t helping his trade stock. Shooting 2-14 vs. Dallas and 1-8 vs. Minnesota the other night, what team is going to want him? Correct me if I’m wrong but Aaron Brooks is shooting just 13.6% (3-22 FG) during the Rockets recent two-game losing streak. This just may be one of the reasons why.
It’s now or never for Houston. Don’t expect the Rockets to sit idly by come trade deadline. Houston has now lost five of their past eight, and continue their home stand with Carmelo’s return to Houston Monday night.
My quick takes
Houston needs to get better on defense. With a deadly offensive duo of Martin and Scola, it is Houston’s defense that has caused them to lose 30 games thus far. Losing Yao definitely affects Houston’s shot-blocking and low-post presence. With the deadline looming, Houston must fix their defensive woes, or they won’t be playing playoff basketball this season.