Santa came and left a road win under the tree for Rocket fans tonight. Playing one of their best all around games of the year, the Rockets came out of the gate hot and finished the fourth quarter on a roll to beat the Spurs. It was close a couple of times, mainly in the second and third quarters when the Spurs turned up the heat with very physical basketball and some hard fouls. The refs let a lot go in this game and the Rockets met the Spurs challenge. That was playoff style basketball and Howard and Jones held it down in the middle. Jones came to Howard’s defense after one particularly hard foul and showed the league that the second year player would stand and fight.
Howard had a 15 and 20 night while Jones had 21 and 14. They were +23 and +14 respectively for their time tonight. Howard was smiling and talking about the coaches riding the big horse. He’s found his groove and that bodes well for the future and when we get everyone back and healthy. Jones held his end up in the middle and got a game high 42 minutes. Howard and Duncan had some intense battles for position in the paint and it was fun to see the Rockets with some power inside.
I thought this year would finally be the year the Spurs were no longer invincible.
They had come off that nightmare-inducing Finals. Duncan was 37, the age at which Hakeem, Shaq, and currently Garnett entered a stage of interminable decline. Ginobilli had looked terrible throughout the entire playoffs, and the West looked to be tougher than ever with the rise of Golden State and the Rockets. How would the Spurs manage? Not well, as I predicted that they would struggle to grab the 4th seed.
Well, today the San Antonio Spurs are the 3rd best team in the Western Conference with a 22-6 record. Shows what I know.
All That Power – The Rockets maintained the 8th spot in Marc Stein’s Power Rankings this week. The committee of one writes:
James Harden remains hobbled and Omer Asik is still a Rocket, so all is not well. But it’s not exactly dire, either, when Houston sports the league’s seventh-best nightly point differential (+4.3) and when Dwight Howard is putting up 21 and 14 in December compared to 17 and 12 previously.
John Schuhmann at NBA.com also has Houston stagnating in 8th place:
Patrick Beverley – out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand suffered Saturday in Detroit – is Houston’s latest injury victim. Dwight Howard is the only Rocket to have played in every game, so it was nice that he was able to dominate the Pistons’ frontline to the tune of 35 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks. It would be nicer if Houston had a healthy James Harden for this week’s run through the Southwest Division.
Hollinger’s stats-based rankings aren’t so kind, putting Houston in 11th place as of Tuesday morning. [read more…]