Rockets 125, Nuggets 123
With the return of Kyle Lowry and Trevor Ariza, the Houston Rockets seem to have regained the mojo they had had back in 2009.
Aaron Brooks led the way for Houston with 31 points, while Kevin Martin and Luis Scola had 29 and 23 respectively. Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 45.
- My first thoughts pertain to just how much better Ariza has looked since returning to his natural small forward position. It has nothing to do with actually playing the ‘3′ as the position is essentially interchangeable with the ‘2′, but has everything to do with no longer sharing court time with Shane Battier. Playing next to actual guards, whether it be Kyle Lowry or Kevin Martin, in addition to the point guard, has had on Trevor’s usage the optimizing effect for which I had prayed. Ariza went 5-9 for 12 points last night, but that’s irrelevant. The greater point is the manner in which he has been getting his shots since his return from the injury: running the floor, slashing, spotting up for 3’s; exactly what I had envisioned him doing upon the return of Yao/McGrady. The addition of Kevin Martin just makes Trevor Ariza fit. I didn’t count a single instance last night of Ariza attempting to create off the dribble. Everything has come for Trevor in the flow of the action, just as it did last year with the Lakers. It’s likely that Morey didn’t bat even bat an eye over Ariza’s abysmal first half as he knew things would change once he could bring in some talent at the wings. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, and I’ll make a final assessment upon the season’s culmination, but this development comes as such a huge, huge relief. If Ariza is truly back to his ‘08 ways, he’s a 24 year old 6′8 small forward tailor-made for this lineup, giving this team a starting perimeter trio that is the envy of almost every squad in the league.
- Luis Scola had 23 and 11 last night, following up his 44 point outburst over the weekend. The numbers are startling – he’s been an All-Star when playing regular minutes. Though I don’t have the numbers in front of me, this was the case last year too after Carl was shot. I said over the weekend that despite this production, I felt that we still needed an upgrade at the position as it was the most logical course of action. I wonder how much of this mindset is grounded in some psychological subtlety? Here’s a guy healthily producing over 20-10 when given starter’s minutes who plays team ball (runs the floor, is a good passer, etc.), is a proven winner, is a consummate professional, and might not cost more than a paltry $6million annually to retain, and I’m asserting that we need an upgrade? What gives? Some like the aesthetics of Scola’s game but I find him extremely, painfully awkward. Oafish would be the term that comes to mind. He hobbles down the court (albeit usually outrunning everyone else), travels every time on that goofy double-spin move, has no left hand, and has hideous form on his jumpshot, sticking one foot out further than the other. At some subconscious level, is this why I have been underestimating his abilities all year? I wonder if I would be singing a different tune if he looked like Carl Landry, replete with handles, textbook jumpshot form, small-forward post moves, and a body/running style made for the Olympics. I claim I want Chris Bosh out of some belief that this team needs an offensive facilitator who can draw the double team, but who knows? Am I guilty of the same transgression committed by the ‘Old Scouts’? I shudder at the thought.
- No podcast this week as Durvasa needed to tend to some prior obligations.
- Final note: Sebastian Pruiti of TrueHoop NBAPlaybook.com did a nice breakdown of the mental mistakes committed by the Nuggets in this one. Check it out here.