When the Rockets were 3-10 this season, the hopes of all Rockets’ fans hung by a thread, and while the loss of Yao for the season certainly doesn’t do them any favors, theres is reason to be optimistic. With Houston’s road victory over the Warriors Monday night, the Rockets have back-to-back road wins and their first three game winning streak of the season, now sitting at 13-15 with upcoming games against the Clippers and Wizards for a chance at .500. Though playing against an injury depleted Golden State team, this one was still a little too close for comfort…
I don’t know what it is about playing the Rockets but Monta Ellis had 46 on 18-24 shooting in their first matchup and last night he went for 44 on 15-20 shooting. I don’t know what Houston has to do to stop him, and I don’t care if they have to double him on every play, but they have got to do a better job than that. Yeah, he made incredible shots (and the refs loved him), but 15-20 shooting from a perimeter player is inexcusable.
Houston is now 9-0 when they make 10 3-pointers in a game (they made 11), and Shane was a big part of that, making 4-6, including two in the final three minutes. However, there are other stats which I noticed browsing ESPN statistics yesterday. Everyone knows Martin is an efficient scorer, but how efficient is he? Before yesterday’s game he lead the league in both 3-pointers and free throws made and last night’s victory only helped pad those stats as he went 13-13 from the free throw line (he’s 44/45 against Golden State this season) and 3-4 from beyond the arc. Also, before Monday’s matchup, Lowry was sixth in the league in steals per game and did himself a favor by grabbing four more. Two of them were tied for my plays of the game, as Kyle was hammered near the end of the second quarter for stealing Wright’s inbounds pass following a transition layup, and then got smacked again and received two flagrant free throws after picking Radmanovic’s pocket in the fourth.
The starters all finished in double digits for the night, Chuck had his first double-double of the season and everybody lit it up on the stat sheet. As a team, they assisted on 31 of their 42 field goals and they outrebounded the Warriors 45-35. After going down 96-94 on an Epke Udoh dunk it looked bleak for Houston, but the Rockets returned with a fiery 21-7 rally to go up 115-103 and they never looked back. Martin had 11 of those points while Battier drilled two 3-pointers in that stretch.
The bench was kind of all over the place, but Miller, Lee and Hill all had their bright spots. While Hill had a monster dunk and an impressive jump hook in the paint, overall he played pretty sloppy tonight and was often out of place defensively. Bill and Matt gave Lee credit for “shutting down” Ellis late in the fourth, but Lee had guarded Ellis several times throughout the game and still was getting burned. Overall, though, he was fairly consistent (again) and did a better job in the fourth quarter, ending up with 6 points and 3 rebounds. The big knock on Lee was that he missed two easy free throws late in the game, something which used to be a strength for them.
The defense was atrocious, giving up far too many easy baskets in transition and open jump shots. The Rockets turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, though finished the game with only 16. The officiating crew was awful, avoiding tons of contact in the lane received by Miller, Hill and Martin, while calling a foul any time a player in red breathed heavily in Ellis’ direction. At the 6-minute mark in the fourth, the officials called an 8-second violation when the clock clearly started at 22 seconds and ended at 16 seconds. Was I the only person who caught that?
Brooks went 1-5 in this game, all from beyond the arc. He did not attempt to drive once the entire game and clearly is still not 100 percent. Budinger is, however, and I’m at the point where I officially am ready to bench Bud for a while, as he went 3-6 for 6 points, including 0-2 from threes, while playing his typical poor defense and turning the ball over twice. I want him to succeed, but with Terrence Williams sitting on the bench, I think it’s time to give someone else a shot. Bud had some nice games in the past couple of weeks, but he’s been far to inconsistent and it’s clear that the Rockets can’t count on him to hit an open jump shot. I’m ready to see T-Will get some playing time, and I hope the benching will light a fire under Budinger to improve his game.