MVP: The Rockets’ bench. The bench mob erupted for 66 points, saving this game. Patrick Patterson shut down LaMarcus Aldridge, Chase Budinger hit shots, and Courtney Lee and Goran Dragic accumulated floor burns.
LVP: The Blazers’ starting bigs. Aldridge and Marcus Camby combined for 13 points and 10 boards. On this night, the “bigs” played small, giving the Blazers close to nothing.
That Was … Scary: Kyle Lowry left the game in the third, running straight to the tunnel, his arm hanging awkwardly out of place. Reports are that he suffered just a bruise, but it looked a lot worse.
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.
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.
Luis Scola, PF36 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.
Parsons didn’t see the court for much of the contest and was a non-factor when he was out there.
Samuel Dalembert, C7 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, SG22 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.
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, SG32 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, F17 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.
With several MONSTER three-pointers in the fourth quarter, Budinger made his weekly cameo count tonight.
Three Things We Saw
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.
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.
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).