I’ve grown accustomed to Houston giving up leads in the fourth quarter of games against good teams, but up 112-93 with 8:41 left in the game, I never would have expected Minnesota would make a game out of it. In the last eight minutes, a pitiful Rockets defense gave up 32 points to the Timberwolves. Thirty-two!!!!! That’s four points a minute or one point every 15 seconds! It’s bad enough when you’re blowing double digit leads to good teams, but when you give up 32 points in eight minutes to the T-Wolves, are you even trying at that point?
One thing was clearly apparent watching that game last night: Chuck Hayes may be the most underrated defender in the league, and he’s the only guy on that end of the floor who makes a significant impact against other team’s bigs when he’s out there. Rockets fans know it, but the rest of the world needs to catch on. While I can’t link every single offensive play of the game against Hayes vs. Houston’s other big men, take my word for it that he was the only Houston defender who didn’t make Darko Milicic and Nikola Pekovic look like all star centers. The large and hard-to-pronounce bigs combined for 23 points on 10-17 shooting, as well as 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. Milicic wasn’t just hitting jump hooks. He even ran in transition and dunked like he was Blake Griffin. It may have been one of the more embarassing moments I can recall from this season so far (and there are a lot).
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Look, it wasn’t all bad. Houston shot a ridiculous 14-30 from beyond the arc with Battier knocking down five and Bud and Martin nailing three apiece. Despite Martin’s rather average free throw shooting (13-18…maybe I’m being too critical), he still put up 34 points in 35 minutes, proving why he’s the most efficient scorer in the league. Battier, Lowry and Budinger also had efficient nights, combining for 45 points on only 25 attempts. But despite how good the offense was in the first (39 points) and third (35) quarters, how many threes they continued to sink throughout the game or how many times they went to the line (36), I walked away from my television feeling miserable. I’ll have nightmares about pointless Martin turnovers, Aaron Brooks fouling out of the game with a stupid technical foul and Kevin Love (who finished with a Moses Malone-like 24,17 and 7).
Morey, in the highly unlikely event that you read this, please make a deal to improve this team’s defense and fourth quarter scoring problems. If you don’t, I’m afraid I’ll have to buy a night light and keep waking up covered in sweat, forever haunted by that Darko dunk.
BROOKS’ INTERNAL CLOCK PROBLEMS
Aaron Brooks’ stats might look halfway decent on a stat sheet (15 points, 3 assists, 2 steals in only 25 minutes), but he also was the game’s leader in “moments which made me want to break my brand new 42″ television.” In the third quarter, he took three bad three-point attempts in five possessions early in the shot clock, making me wonder if perhaps his early season injury had affected his internal clock somehow. Maybe 24 seconds is like only five seconds to him? If so, I apologize and I hope he sees a doctor soon, and if not, I think he needs to quit trying so hard to prove himself. Overall, he was 1-6 from beyond the arc and 5-14 from the field. Brooks also fouled out of the game while playing only 25 minutes, ending his time on the court with a pointless technical where he threw the ball at Love after the forward accidentally swatted him in the face. It was a fitting ending to a poor game for AB.
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SCOLA’S DEFENSE, OR LACK THEREOF
In his defense (no pun intended), as bad as Scola was defensively, Jordan Hill was still worse. Not only did the youngster get manhandled by Love and Sota’s other bigs, but he also turned the ball over three times, including two travels and lead to the 101st time this season where I pleaded with Adelman to put Patterson in the game. That being said, Scola was atrocious on the defensive side of the ball. He couldn’t keep up with Love, much less stop him. He got manhandled in the lane, no matter who had the ball and he looked a step slow all night long.
I’ve been a fan of Scola since the news came out that Houston was acquiring him from San Antonio. His incredible footwork and offensive game, his tenacious play and his awesome hair make him a fan favorite (and my personal fav), but with all the trade rumors swirling around Houston, I’m beginning to think that moving Scola wouldn’t be the worst thing for Houston. Yes, he’s the team’s second most reliable scorer, but he’s also arguably the biggest defensive liability at times on a team that has too many. Even if Houston got a center who could defend and block shots, opposing power forwards would still manhandle Luis underneath. Would I miss him in a Rockets jersey every night? Yes, but I wouldn’t miss his defense.