Two things became abundantly clear in the fourth quarter of last night’s loss to the Trailblazers:
1. Chuck Hayes is far more valuable to this team than he gets credit for.
2. Jordan Hill is clearly not ready to be a starter, and I don’t think he ever will be.
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In the final minutes of the game, when Houston had a chance to pull out a game they had locked up early in the fourth quarter, Hill played horribly. At 97-96, he started by missing two free throws that could have given Houston a little space when they needed it most. He then proceeded to blow easy second chance opportunities with a missed tip shot inches from the basket and blowing up what should have been an easy offensive rebound. Hill also turned the ball over during that time period and pretty much let LaMarcus Aldridge get whatever he wanted inside of five feet all night long.
So put in Brad Miller, you say?
Well, Miller was responsible for letting the Blazers come back early in the fourth. Up 89-76 with 9:33 left in the game and Houston draining 3′s like they were lay ups, I made the mistake of saying out loud, “No way they lose this game.” Apparently, I was wrong, because the Blazers then rolled out a 13-0 run thanks in large part to Miller missing three good looks on three straight possessions and a technical foul (which Portland turned into nine points on the other end). Miller was immediately pulled for Hill, who then was equally less effective.
With the failure of Houston’s two “best” bigs playing a large role in the epic collapse last night, I see no reason not to play Patterson more minutes. He may not be that useful offensively, but he can hit a 15-footer when he needs to, he’s more effectively defensively then the other two and I honestly believe he wouldn’t have made some of those mistakes that Miller and Hill made last night. In the meantime, Chuck better get back here soon.
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While Houston’s bigs were atrocious (including a less than stellar night from Scola, who had only 6 points), Martin had arguably his best game of the season, scoring from anywhere on the floor and embarassing Portland’s defenders by drawing fouls from beyond the arc. There isn’t a more efficient scoring threat in the league, as he scored 45 points on only 18 attempts while going 13-15 from the line and 6-8 from beyond the 3-point line. My only criticism is that he missed two decent looks late in the game that could have given Houston the lead and he didn’t take the shot in the final seconds when he clearly had the hot hand. The difference between Martin and superstars is that there’s no way they wouldn’t take that shot to tie the game with 2.3 seconds left.
Wrong About Bud?
In previous posts, I’ve criticized Budinger like crazy for his inability to make open looks, but I’m convinced he reads this site because he’s been hot since my last criticism. Over the last five games, Bud is averaging 12.2 points in only 19.4 minutes, going 23 of 35 from the floor and a ridiculous 12 of 16 from 3′s, but he’s only gotten three free throws over those five games. Now that he’s got his confidence back, I want to see him be aggressive and drive to the basket more. Even though Budinger may be finding his shot, Adelman needs to continue to work Williams into the roster. Everyone loves Bud, but Williams has more potential and he’s shown the ability to make great passes in the limited minutes I’ve seen him play while playing solid defense.
An Uphill Battle
After finally reaching .500, the Rockets have lost three straight against decent teams. There was always a question how Houston would play once the Downy soft December schedule was over, and if this is the answer, they’re in serious trouble. The next six games are against winning teams: at Orlando, Utah, at Boston, OKC, New Orleans and at Atlanta. They will be lucky to go 3-3 over that span, but the way Houston is playing, 1-5 or 0-6 is a real possibility. Remember .500? Because it might be a while before this team reaches that mark again.