With 10:30 left in the fourth quarter, I had given up. The Rockets had played one of their worst games of the year and were clearly struggling against a longer, more athletic Wizards team. They were sloppy, they weren’t attacking the basket and they had managed to make Nick Young look like an all star. In fact, I even had my post already written in my head, focusing mainly on how terribly the bench, specifically Aaron Brooks, had played and how their horrific play was responsible for Houston becoming the Wizards’ first road victory of the season. And then Brooks woke up…
For those who only caught the fourth quarter or the highlights of Brooks’ night, what I wrote might not make sense, but for the first three quarters of play, AB was horrific. Before making a long jumper at the 10:19 mark to bring Houston within seven points at 79-72, Brooks was 1-8 for two points and one assist. Then Houston finished the game by outscoring the Wizards 28-14, with Brooks scoring 13 of his 15 points in the final 10 minutes, going 4-7 from the field, 4-5 from the line and assisting on four field goals. Overall, Brooks either scored or assisted for 23 of those 28 points. While it looks like he’s feeling a little more comfortable on that leg, he still didn’t have his blinding speed back. Most of it was just grit, hitting tough jumpers, drawing fouls and getting to the line. So while I still believe that Lowry is the better point guard and the future of the position, Brooks proved his worth on this team as a clutch scorer and playmaker, and completely rejuvenated my faith in him when I was cursing him like crazy half an hour earlier.
Second Quarter Struggles
It’s shocking to think Houston scored 19 points in the second quarter, because they could barely find the rim in the second quarter, settling for long jump shots because of miserable ball movement. In the quarter, they managed a pitiful 8-28 from the floor. The entire team was so miserable, that if not for Washington’s own shooting woes (they managed only 21 points) and six offensive rebounds, the game might have gotten out of hand in a hurry.
Hill’s Best Quarter
The only player who was even close to competent in that second Hill, who may have had his single best quarter of his young career and Houston needed it. Hill scored the Rockets first seven points of the quarter and 11 of their 19 points in the quarter, going 5-8 from the floor with four offensive boards. While his post game is developing before our eyes, more than anything, I just loved his energy. One play in particular grabbed my eye where two taller Wizards defenders went up for what should have been an easy rebound. Instead, Hill kept fighting for the rebound, tipping it several times until it was eventually knocked out by a Wizard defender. If he can keep playing with that same intensity and finding ways to score, you could argue that he is as deserving of starter minutes as Chuck Hayes.
Riding the Chuckwagon
In the fourth, you could make a case that the Rockets’ defense was as valuable as Brooks’ offense. Hayes and Lowry were clutch on the other end despite the fact that they gave up several inches to the players they were defending. While neither put up huge numbers (they combined for 15 points), they put up valuable stats aside from scoring. Chuck finished with 8 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals and Lowry finished with 6 assists, 4 boards, 1 steal and 2 blocks… that’s right, Lowry had 2 blocks! Considering how well the Brooks/Lowry duo played in the 4th, I wouldn’t be surprised if Adelman played with that same lineup in clutch moments more often this season.
Battier a Scoring Threat?
Not exactly known for his offensive production, Battier hit more clutch shots in the fourth quarter tonight, ending up with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal. In this five game winning streak, Shane has averaged 12.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.4 blocks, while shooting a ridiculous .600 from beyond the arc. He’s scoring in the paint on jump hooks, hitting huge 3-pointers, playing clutch defense every night on the opposing team’s best player and is second in the NBA in block shots per game (1.41) among small forwards. Martin, Scola and Lowry get a ton of credit for Houston’s recent success, but Battier has been as valuable, if not moreso.
Bud’s a Dud
Not surprisingly, Budinger put up another underwhelming performance, scoring 4 points on 0-4 from the field in 16 minutes. At this point, I’m wondering if there’s something wrong with Terrence Williams. Is he sick? Is he struggling in practice? Because if I’m Adelman I’ll try absolutely anybody else to come off the bench behind Battier in Bud’s place. He’s clearly a defensive liability, but now he’s also an offensive liability. Bud had good looks tonight and was completely off the mark yet again. Every time he gets the ball 15 feet from the basket, I hold my breath. Time to try something new, Rick.
Things are getting hot in Houston, but they’re about to get a lot hotter with the Heat coming to town on Wednesday. While it’s obviously nice to see the Rockets winning games when they play mediocre basketball (like they did tonight and against the Clippers), they’re going to have to play their best basketball against Miami. If they play like they did tonight and Lebron and co., they’ll get blown out in the first half.