First, if it’s not already, my quick-hit recap for ESPN should be up here by tomorrow morning.  Check it out – just some quick notes on the game.

Forward Greg Smith had four blocks today in his NBA debut.  I’m trying to temper my expectations, but I’m excited – the kid looked pretty good in pre-season.  Smith is a full-grown 6’10 with a solid, solid base.  He’s not like some of these other young bigs that come into the league carrying just skin and bones.

Apart from what you heard above, I spoke to Smith for quite some time off-camera before the game.  He is real eager to finally show what he can do. Kevin McHale raved about his IQ in the presser, saying that Smith had been asking him about some of the plays they had learned in camp and whether they would still be running them.  That to me, in combination with the enthusiasm with which he spoke about the learning experience in the D-League, is what has me excited.  A lot of guys in this league–see Jordan Hill and Hasheem Thabeet–have the raw tools.  Few of them have basketball-IQ to match.  We’re already seeing Patrick Patterson make a huge impact just based on his court-smarts, even without any standout physical gifts.  Smith has both.  Let’s see what he can do.

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This was an interesting sequence.  The Rockets run a side screen to get Kevin Martin open at the free throw line.  Tony Allen snuffs it out.  Martin hands it off to Parsons and Allen reacts, thinking he’s snuffed this play out too.  The only problem is that he makes a costly error.

The play is interesting because it places light upon a tradeoff.  Shane Battier might not have recovered over the Scola pick.  But had he been able to, he undoubtedly would have known Parsons’ strengths and would not have gotten over-agressive.  It leads one to wonder: is the cerebral defender who knows his personnel superior to the instinctual athletic specimen?

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Five Notes on a String: February 17th, 2012

Photo courtesy of chatirygirl via Flickr

Every Friday, I’ll post this collection of thoughts accumulated over the past week, so named because it gives a perfectly arbitrary number limit to the amount of this rambling madness. And I won’t even mention Jeremy Lin. Beyond that time.

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Peaking Into Houston’s Future

Last week, before Jeremy Lin conquered Earth and forced us all to reevaluate the reality in which we live, ESPN.com’s NBA Insiders John Hollinger and Chad Ford posted their Future Power Rankings—a “projection of the on-court success expected for each team in the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.”

As a fan of this league in its broad entirety, lists like this always interest me. Anybody can make a prediction lacking evidence and merit; it’s boring and easy. But this list—with its well researched information broken down into several key categories—is an absolute must read. After glancing at the top and bottom five teams, gauging who was deemed the future’s haves and have-nots, I set out for the middle, in search of the Rockets. [read more…]

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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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