Analysis and daily links can be found after the jump.
For the last two years or so, a common question asked about the team by major media outlets kept popping up anytime the Rockets were mentioned: who will come up big in the fourth quarter (or, who will take the last shot)? Though the team’s tried to promote from within like any good business, Aaron Brooks, Trevor Ariza and Kevin Martin all held the plastic crown in very recent history, all leaving something to be desired. Houston may have had its share of fantastic role players in the last few years, but it has clearly lacked that presence that strikes fear in an opposing defense’s heart come the clutch moments of a game, the kind of guy that can have entire defenses thrown at him and still find a way to make not only the right play, but the winning play. Basically, the Rockets could really use a Derrick Rose; sadly, Tuesday night at least, he played for the other team in red. The one that won.
Attributing losses to the “lack of a star” may seem oh so passé to those accustomed to watching All-Stars have their way with Houston late in games, but there really isn’t another direction in which I can point my finger other than that of Rose. Because of foul trouble, he missed the last half of a third quarter that the Rockets dominated, putting together an eight-point-lead after outscoring the Bulls by 16 in the third period; this team needs Rose (at least as the team puts its new-found identity on hold in preparation for Carlos Boozer’s arrival) as badly as any team in the league relies on its star, particularly for offense, and when Rose simply cannot come through, the team flops around and pokes at defenses instead of attacking them, leading to the kinds of possessions in the third that left Luol Deng bamboozled by Shane Battier’s post defense. Unlike the past, Rose shows up nightly these days, and on Tuesday, he brought his shiny new three-point shot with him. Rose’s talents appear limitless when defenders cannot go under screens to defend him, as his speed and power when barreling toward the bucket with reckless abandon are rivaled only by men with names like LeBron and Carmelo. With a jumper in the mix (Rose hit 4 of 5 from behind the arc last night, with all but one make taken in the fourth), defensing the Derrick Rose onslaught will not work without the kind of double-teaming that generally looks like bad defense on highlight clipshows as three-point shooters go to work with endless space in which to cock it back (cue Kyle Korver and his ridiculously efficient line of 10 points on 4 shots, 6 boards, 4 assists and 3 steals in 26 minutes of work). Blaming the Rockets for not being able to handle the 16 points poured in by Rose in the fourth seems as unfair and useless as blaming the victim of a crime for not better reacting to a situation; maybe the victim could have handled it a little better, but jeez, how could anyone have seen it coming?
So, high off the lead at home against a very solid team, the Rockets relented and were soundly demolished by the rollicking train that is Rose. There were other stories in this one (the insane points posted in such a slow game, especially considering the turnovers involved on both sides; another impressive turn for Brad Miller in lieu of the large man; Kyle Lowry looking outmatched… well, I guess that isn’t really a different story), but there was one that decided this game. That story was titled “Derrick Rose Goes Nova”, and the Rockets simply couldn’t rewrite it when it mattered.
Houston Rockets 92, Chicago Bulls 95
On to the links…
- Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle appears to be seeing stars just as much as I, at least after last night’s fourth quarter upheaval by Mr. Rose. Today, Justice made some interesting points about how Daryl Morey’s consistent, moderate success has left the Rockets in a perpetual state of mediocrity: “Morey has kept the Rockets competitive, and there probably are days he regrets it, because one John Wall can turn a franchise around… But the Rockets are short on talent, and in the NBA, talent always wins out. It’s a team that needs one more bright and shining light, the kind of player Tracy McGrady once was, the kind of player Yao once was. Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. At the moment, the Rockets are neither.”
- If you trolled the Internet in search of basketball news in the early 2000′s, you are probably hyper-aware of Kyle Korver’s resemblance to a certain Punk’d star. If you are Bill Worrell and Clyde Drexler, the Houston Rockets’ home broadcasting team, that realization probably hit you live on television last night (for my money, Korver’s always looked much more like a Buffy the Vampire Slayer bloodsucker than Ashton Kutcher).
- What’s this? Another fantastic new column from our own beloved Rahat Huq over at Hardwood Paroxysm? Yes, the boss himself talks over at HP about exactly why Steve Francis wasn’t quite the headcase that has been retrospectively presented to us.
- Why did Rick Adelman decide to try and foul the Bulls, Joakim Noah in specific, when down three in the closing seconds of last night’s contest? Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook delves into the (misguided, in his opinion) choice of fouling or not in the last minutes of a nailbiter: “Now, I understand that with less time on the clock, the Bulls would probably have milked some clock, but you have to trust your defense here, get a stop, secure the rebound, and give yourself a chance to tie the game.”
- Trey Kerby’s endless manlove for Brad Miller continued with yesterday’s Chronicle article touting Noah’s BFF-relationship with Miller; the story included Noah’s description of Miller as a “redneck”, the intimation that there were bets placed on last night’s actual game between the two besties and the secret to guarding Noah: make him chuckle.
- A brilliant comic strip summing up last night’s affair.