Oklahoma City Thunder 95 Final
Recap | Box Score
96 Houston Rockets
Luis Scola, PF 32 MIN | 7-16 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 15 PTS | -7

4 boards in 31 minutes from your starting power forward won’t cut it, but I’m used to it now, so I won’t complain. His efficient scoring, as usual, helped keep the team out in front. It helps his grade that he wasn’t in the game in crunch time to screw something up defensively. Am I too hard on Scola? Maybe. You tell me.

Chandler Parsons, F 35 MIN | 6-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | +10

Wow. Parsons won this game for the Rockets, shutting down Durant in the final two minutes. What more can be said about this rookie? He went out on an island with perhaps the game’s most dangerous scorer, looked him in the eye, and denied him from getting anything. Simply incredible. You can’t say enough about how great a luxury it was for Kevin McHale to be able to trust Parsons without sending a double team. I know the Rudy Gay matchup went poorly, but I’m really looking forward to seeing if McHale puts Parsons on Kobe for any stints when the Lakers and Rockets square off again.

Samuel Dalembert, C 29 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | +14

An inspired effort from the ‘Haitian Sensation.’ He outplayed his counterpart and provided some vital interior defense down the stretch.

Kevin Martin, SG 38 MIN | 10-18 FG | 8-8 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 32 PTS | +3

Now that’s more like it. Martin exploded for 30 points through three quarters, bouncing back from a bewildering slump that saw him average just 8ppg in his last 5. Most importantly, K-Mart scored the winning points in this one, getting Kendrick Perkins to leave his feet with a patented shot-fake. When it mattered most tonight, Martin got the call he hadn’t been getting all season.

Kyle Lowry, PG 35 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 11 PTS | +3

9 assists, but he was getting burned by Russell Westbrook at times tonight. Still, he was able to keep his counterpart in check late when it mattered and that’s all that’s important.

Patrick Patterson, PF 24 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -5

3-10 from the floor but I have to give him an A because he saved the game. With the Rockets protecting a lead, Patterson found himself guarding Russell Westbrook out on the perimeter. The point guard blew past PPatt, but the latter had the awareness of mind to foul, knowing his team was not yet in the penalty. That alertness saved the game as there was no line of defense at the basket. Kevin McHale showered Patterson with praise in the postgame presser, citing his smarts and toughness.

Hasheem Thabeet, C DNP SORE BACK MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | PTS |

Just kidding. You can tell I’m in a good mood, right?

Five Things We Saw

  1. This was easily the loudest Toyota Center has ever been in the two years I have been credentialed. Late in the fourth, the place was deafening. I cannot imagine what the playoffs must feel like. I cannot imagine what the ’94 playoffs must have felt like. My God, I hope we make it this season.
  2. For some reason, the Rockets just match up very well with the Thunder, despite the latter being the league’s best team. If we faced them in the postseason, I don’t know that I’d bet against the Rockets. Honestly, I don’t know. This is contrast to the Lakers and Clippers against whom I don’t think we’d stand a chance.
  3. It was so refreshing to see Kevin McHale go with Samuel Dalembert and Patrick Patterson down the stretch. Scola’s defense, or lack thereof, has simply lost this team far too many games. As we go forward, I’d like to see the team gradually increase Patterson’s minutes while gradually decreasing Luis’. Get the Argentinian involved early, let him help the team off to a fast start, but sit him when it gets tight.
  4. I watched James Harden actually comb his beard for a few minutes after the game, in the lockerroom. He really went to work on it. Someone then handed him some lotion and I thought he was going to apply the lotion on his face, over the beard. This might sound strange, but I actually have a friend with a similarly sized beard and this is what he does – he lotions the beard. But James Harden did not lotion his beard; he applied it on his neck.
  5. I’d be shocked if this hasn’t been uploaded already on Youtube, maybe by one of you, but at the quarter break, an event left me speechless. It was that game where you have to guess the word based on the letters you’re already seeing. So it finally came down to ‘L-O-S-C-_-_-_-_’…and the guy guessed ‘Los Angeles.’

    Pause a moment and let that sink in. I don’t blame him for not knowing it was ‘Los Cabos’….but really? The crowd reacted as if Kevin Love himself were in the building, letting loose a smattering of boos.

My interviews from tonight after the jump.

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in game coverage

The main thing I liked about this play is that it puts Scola in motion where he can be most effective.  If he can take the right-handed jumphook over his left shoulder without a help defender, the chances are high that he will score.

in multimedia

Rapid Reaction: Rockets 83, Grizzlies 93

Houston Rockets 83 Final
Recap | Box Score
93 Memphis Grizzlies
Luis Scola, PF 33 MIN | 4-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -10When Scola tallies half as many points and grabs half as many rebounds as he averaged throughout last season, there’s a problem. Tonight he looked tentative and unsure of himself facing Memphis’ imposing front line.
Chandler Parsons, F 33 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -7After starting hot with a 7 point first quarter, Parsons spent the rest of the game floating around the perimeter, existing on the court but not quite making his presence felt. As the season goes on, Parsons is beginning to look more and more like a rookie selected in the second round.
Samuel Dalembert, C 27 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -10Speaking of starting hot, Dalembert was awesome in the first quarter. I especially loved a sequence that occurred late in the first quarter where he twice knocked the ball away from a dribbling Marc Gasol out on the perimeter. However, as the game went on, Dalembert grew sloppy.
Kevin Martin, SG 19 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -6Martin didn’t score. There’s nothing else to say here.
Kyle Lowry, PG 39 MIN | 7-16 FG | 9-9 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 24 PTS | -9He had a game-high 24 points on a relatively efficient night of shooting, but something about Lowry’s performance didn’t feel right. Maybe it was none of his teammates being able to keep up with him? So goes the responsibilities of an uber-talented point guard.
Courtney Lee, SG 29 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | -4Lee was awarded for his aggressive offense with the unenviable task of guarding Rudy Gay whenever the two shared the court. It was a tough night, but Courtney did his best.
Goran Dragic, PG 19 MIN | 3-7 FG | 5-8 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | -2Efforts like this from Dragic usually result in wins for the Rockets. He was strong throughout the second half and a positive force in keeping them in the game.

Two Things We Saw

  1. Watching this game, one glaring weakness on this roster was brought to light: the Rockets have NO big bodied, above average perimeter defender on their roster. Lowry is great, but against a scoring swingman like Rudy Gay, he obviously isn’t the answer. Lee, Parsons, and Budinger were all abused by Gay, and if they make the playoffs, elite scorers will torch them all night long.
  2. The Rockets managed to stay in this game for most of the second half, but were done in by brutal, unexplainable turnovers that were too much to overcome. In the third quarter they looked like a high school team attempting to inbound the ball against a basic man to man press on two separate occasions.

in game coverage

I took this footage on December 15, one of the last days of training camp.  In the clip, Jeremy Lin, as a member of the Houston Rockets, makes things happen.

We were allowed in for the final twelve minutes of scrimmage, the last five during which Lin played.  In these five minutes, there were twelve total plays.  Jeremy Lin is directly involved in seven.  In order, Lin helps out on Jonny Flynn, committing the foul, but preventing the drive; contests a Courtney Lee jumpshot, recovering to grab the board; tips in the loose ball; picks off an errant pass from Jonny Flynn; races full-court, earning himself two free-throws; takes a Courtney Lee jumper in the face; and smothers Jonny Flynn, preventing even a decent look.  The clip contains only these seven plays.  I have omitted the other five plays–those in which Jeremy Lin had no direct involvement–from the raw footage.  Also note that Lin was not featured in any of the offensive plays and only had impact through his own opportunism.

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in multimedia

ESPN.com Daily Dime recap

My recap for the loss at ESPN:

MVP: Monta Ellis did basically anything he wanted, scoring 33 points on 13-for-23 shooting. No one on the Rockets seemed to have a chance. He tossed in seven assists as well.

Defining moment: With less than a minute remaining, and the Warriors’ lead down to six, Monta Ellis floated in a runner with Kyle Lowry draped all over him. That shot told the tale of this one.

That was … unfamiliar: Rockets head coach Kevin McHale appeared on the sidelines with a freshly grown, well groomed goatee. No word yet if the new look is a long-term solution.

in musings