Tonight was a tale of two halves in Clutch City, the Rockets transformed their mediocre play during halftime into something a lot more competitive. In a very close game, the Rockets were able to hold off Atlanta in the fourth quarter largely due to the stellar defensive play of Chuck Hayes and the dominance of Kevin Martin. The second half provided a lot of shooting from each team’s perspective shooting guards. Martin had 35 points on 11-19 shooting and Joe Johnson had 10 points less on exactly 11-19 shooting as well.
The difference, of course, was at the line where Kevin Martin scored 12 of his points. Hayes had a great game as well and was really the motivation behind the defensive surge in the second half; he finished with 19 points 12 rebounds and 3 key steals. Kyle Lowry took one of Zaza Pachulia’s jagged elbows to the face in the first half and came up off the ground with a mouthful of blood. When Lowry went into the locker room to get his mouth stitched up, there was a noticeable decline of tempo where the Hawks began to take advantage of Houston’s menial defense. Fortunately Kyle returned in a matter of minutes and came back firing on all cylinders.
A major problem on the offensive side for Houston tonight was perimeter shooting, an integral part of Adelman’s Princeton offense. Houston hit just 3 3-pointers the entire game. This lead to a rarely tame offensive showing by the Rockets that kept Atlanta in the game until the very end. Scola had a great game in the paint and just outside – he connected on some crucial jumpers down the stretch that put Houston over the edge. Patrick Patterson was able to get some putback dunks, just enough of a good performance to appease the Kentucky fans that made it out to the Sunday night game.
Atlanta has some great defenders and some great offensive threats but their system leaves a lot to be desired on offense. The team is built around isolation plays that really turn what should be a fluent team game into a one on one competition. Joe Johnson will only take you so far on offense and when the shots aren’t falling the O is fairly stagnant. Young former Wakeforest PG Jeff Teague looked more like the type of player I expect him to develop into tonight and provided decent relief for Kirk Hinrich who attempted to compensate for his poor offense with good defense.
According to John Hollinger’s numbers, Houston now has only a 10% chance of making the playoffs. New Orleans won their game tonight and it doesn’t look like the Grizzlies are going to cool off anytime soon. It’s going to take an alignment of the stars for Houston to get that 8th seed but this Rockets fan hasn’t lost faith.