A year and a half ago, as those three men preened and posed on a giant platform billowing out clouds of dry ice like a b-boy crew from a severely dumb region of outer space, the Miami Heat seemed like the  terrifying beginning to decades full of unimpeded waltzes to NBA championship for teams lucky enough to not just get their hands on one player of an elite caliber, but several. Boston had done a somewhat similar thing a few years earlier, but their amalgamation had seemed more natural, at least as far as basketball observers’ past expectation defined the NBA’s nature, and Beantown’s crew of three had come together at the ends of their careers to achieve what none could alone. Their grouping was a pained admission of failure in a way; while some tried to paint the Miami teamup as such, particularly for the Balding One, most saw this as a corporate merger and inevitable monopoly, a way for these rising, or already blindingly bright, stars to ensure multiple titles for years to come.

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A closer look at Jeff Adrien

Jaws dropped when Kevin McHale sent out seldom-used 12th man Jeff Adrien to start the second half last night.  I for one had a good laugh over it with many of you on Twitter.  But the big man’s play was no joke.  Starting in place of an ineffective Samuel Dalembert, Adrien brought the energy that fueled the Rockets to a win in Denver after a very sluggish start, snaring nine rebounds in just sixteen minutes of play.

There were a couple of plays, however, which particularly caught my eye.

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Houston Rockets 99 Final
Recap | Box Score
90 Denver Nuggets
Luis Scola, PF 36 MIN | 10-20 FG | 5-7 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 25 PTS | -1

Coming off “The Stomp”, Scola was stupendous. With the Nuggets sporting a thin front line including no Nene, the Rockets’ big mismatch came with their veteran power forward taking advantage. He delivered his best game in about a month.

Chandler Parsons, F 16 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | 0

Parsons didn’t see the court for much of the contest and was a non-factor when he was out there.

Samuel Dalembert, C 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -4

Beginning the game as a turnstile, Dalembert was never given the opportunity to turn things around, as McHale chose to go deep into his bench’s front line and effectively give the ineffective Sammy a night off.

Kevin Martin, SG 22 MIN | 1-9 FG | 6-7 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 8 PTS | -1

If Martin’s not scoring, there’s really nothing else he can bring to the table. Down the stretch, McHale chose to take the normally consistent Martin’s minutes and give them to Courtney Lee. Because he’s so one dimensional, anytime Martin finds himself in a slump it’s cause for concern.

Kyle Lowry, PG 33 MIN | 7-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 20 PTS | +12

Underrated game for Lowry. The stats aren’t teetering on a triple double, but don’t frown! Lowry did it all: knocking down five timely threes to snuff out any hopeful Nuggets run, and smothering Ty Lawson (one of the three fastest players in the league) to the tune of a meager 13 points when Denver looked to him as their No. 1 option. A few heady flops down the stretch didn’t hurt either.

Courtney Lee, SG 32 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +15

As was previously mentioned, Lee found himself on the court down the stretch of a tight ball game. It’s clear that Houston’s coaching staff trusts him in big spots; it’s huge for his confidence, and even bigger for the Rockets versatility.

Jeff Adrien, F 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | +15

This came out of nowhere. With Sammy on the sidelines, Adrien was busy regulating the boards like a young Warren G. These are the type of performances he’ll have to have when he’s gift wrapped playing time if he wants to stay in the league.

Chase Budinger, SF 27 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 16 PTS | +9

With several MONSTER three-pointers in the fourth quarter, Budinger made his weekly cameo count tonight.

Three Things We Saw

  1. This was one of the season’s most exciting games. Both teams spent their night running a secondary fast break with defense clearly taking a back seat. The Nuggets shot 22 three-pointers and made just 3 of them, but Houston shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back. The Nuggets also began the second half 0-10 from the floor. Shots simply weren’t falling.
  2. Despite lacking Nene, Afflalo, and 50% of Gallo (he turned his ankle and didn’t return), the Nuggets were neck and neck with the Rockets until a late run helped Houston pull away. Not sure there’s too much to read from the victory besides McHale choosing to go with Budinger, Lee, Lowry, and Scola/Patterson down the stretch, on the road. That says a lot.
  3. Even when he’s in a slump, Kyle Lowry’s range forces defenses to guard him 27 feet from the basket. The importance of this can’t be said enough. Late in the game, Koufos felt the need to reach in and pressure Lowry nearly 30 feet away from the hoop. The result was a foul (Koufos’ sixth).

in game coverage

Expanded Daily Dime coverage on ESPN.com

Starting from today, the TrueHoop Network will be providing in-game and post-game coverage on ESPN.com.  Follow the @DimeUpdate, @DimeAlert, and @DimeSmash Twitter accounts for in-game updates from across the league. After the Rockets game tonight, and after each game, you’ll be able to find a quick recap on ESPN.com written by yours truly.

in from the editor

ESPN: Knicks, Lakers inquire about Jonny Flynn

ESPN:

The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers have contacted the Houston Rockets about acquiring Jonny Flynn, according to league sources.

No deal is imminent with either team, but both clubs are in desperate need of a point guard and have Flynn on their radar.

The Knicks have shown the most interest, sources say, and discussed a possible deal involving Renaldo Balkman and Mike Bibby. The Rockets were not interested.

This was pretty surprising as Flynn is one of the worst players I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing in red and white.  I wouldn’t take back Bibby–or anyone with future salary obligations–but if the Rockets could somehow bring back a second round draft pick from a deal like this, you’d have to count your blessings.

It’s also interesting that Flynn actually has value and teams interested.  If the Rockets can make a deal, it would make that Motiejunas trade look even better, in hindsight.  This sort of shows the value of taking risks on former busts.  While it may not work out for you, there’s a chance they retain value and can be passed onto a different buyer hoping to make it work in new surroundings.

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