Thunder 122, Rockets 104

2010 March 25
by rahat huq

The Thunder beat the Rockets for the first time in 14 tries last night, dominating them thoroughly from start to finish.  However, overall, I’m not concerned at all by the outcome as we were extremely short-handed, playing without Shane Battier, Jordan Hill, and Jared Jeffries.  Hilton Armstrong saw time in the 1st half which should be enough reason to throw this game out from any type of analytical consideration.

Random Musings:

  • Aaron Brooks has really been struggling in his last 4 games, going 4-12 for 10 points against Boston, 6-13 for 16 points against the Knicks, 3-17 for 9 points against the Bulls, and 3-12 for 11 points against the Thunder.  Part of me attributes the struggles to fatigue – Brooks has been carrying this team for some time and was bound to come back to earth.  The smarter part of me fears the problems stem from the matchups.  His only acceptable game in the last four was against Tony Douglas and the Knicks.  In the other three, he faced budding stars who were all 6′4 or close to it (sidenote: remember the hullabaloo when it was discovered that Derrick Rose wasn’t actually 6′4 but rather 6′3.75 or whatever it was, and the end of the world seemed imminent?).  Aaron Brooks is a fine player, but this is why I still feel this team needs an upgrade somewhere to seriously consider itself a contender next year.  Kevin Martin–to my surprise–and Luis Scola, both get all of their points quietly in the flow of the game; they aren’t go-to players.  Despite the FT shooting, Yao is about as unclutch as it gets (I’m sorry, it’s true.)  As it stands, Aaron Brooks is this team’s undisputed closer and that just won’t cut it.  I love him, I’m not criticizing him, but he’s maxing out his capabilities.  These are the types of matchups he will have to face in the playoffs and I’m concerned.  Steve Blake doesn’t even play for the Blazers anymore.
  • Ariza had another great game, scoring 20 points on 8-14 shooting.  He ran the floor, cut backdoor, and overall just looked oh-so-good offensively.  We basically traded for Trevor Ariza too in the Landry-Martin deal.
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  • jcogz43
    come on guys, where is the faith
    i understand battier and hayes being maxed out because battier is old and hayes is super short but
    AB reaching potential in his 2nd year as starter, what faith have we?
    for example, look at chauncey billups who has been on almost every team, had such a bad start for his first couple years in his career, and then he wins it with the pistons and now on the nuggets he is established as one of the best PGs in the league

    i believe the sky is the limit for AB. btw, on an offnight(last night) AB had 7-2 assist-turnover ratio. not so bad huh?
  • Patrick Lee
    The more I've been thinking about it, the more I think we need an upgrade at PG (ie. a Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Steve Nash) rather than at PF (ie. Bosh). Unlike Scola, Brooks is terribly inconsistent. If we could get a PG without giving up Brooks, maybe we could have him slide to SG behind Martin and be the first man off the bench.
  • Easy
    While I agree that we need a PG upgrade more than a PF upgrade. IF we do get a Paul or Williams, Brooks is gone. I don't see having two high quality backup crowding the position. And if they were to choose between trading Brooks or Lowry, I am pretty sure it would be Brooks.

    That said, getting one of those elite PGs is just a pipedream. The only one that is rumored to be available is Paul. But even that is pretty remote.

    I still hope that we can have a Yao-Bosh-Scola front court, thereby reducing Yao's minutes to a bit under 30 mpg.
  • Patrick Lee
    I imagine if we got Bosh, we'd lose Scola as part of the deal.

    There are a lot of good PG's out there. This past draft had a bunch of good ones - Curry, Jennings, Rubio, Collison, etc. And whoever wins the draft this year and take Wall will probably be looking to move their current PG.

    We need a bigger PG that is actually a PG and ideally is good in the clutch. Brooks is basically a rich man's Nate Robinson.
  • ty185
    Rahat, I would like to contest the notion of the widely agreed upong "Yao being unclutch" a bit. As far as I can remember, Yao was hitting at the high 60s and even low 70s in 4th quarter FG% for a full season. Granted that was way back in the earlier Tmac era and before his major injuries, but there's really no reason to believe that Yao is mentally unsuitable for the "clutch player" role if it is needed.

    as Steve noted, I also agree that Yao's decrease of efficiency in late games is more likely due to endurance problems rather than skill and/or mental toughness. -- and endurance problems could very well be corrected if Morey can find a good enough backup center to save up on Yao's usage in early games. -- I think we all agree that if there's one thing Morey can do extremely well, it is finding good, cheap backup role players.
  • ty185
    Come to think of it, as Morey has been pretty open about their philosophy of "Clutchness is not something Rockets FO value highly of", the more appropriate question probably is:

    If Rockets FO decide not to address the "Clutchness" of the team, would this team have enough to counter when the opposing team gear towards stopping its main player?

    Personally, I would optimistically think that a team consists of AB, KM, Scola and Yao is too offensively talented that some one will be able to find an open shot regardless of the defensive scheme, assuming they can execute their offense properly
  • Steve
    So you think Yao's play declines in the fourth quarter too? Yeah, that's my line of thinking as well. I think it stems from his lack of endurance. The shots that he makes before the fourth for some reason tend to find a lot of iron in the fourth and since Yao is often laboring in the fourth, those two things could be related. That's why I never bought into the argument that Yao is better than Dwight Howard simply because you can go to him in the latter half of the fourth quarter. You could but it often doesn't work out.
  • RoxBeliever
    This is for next season. Kevin has been slowed down by a shoulder injury from the Boston game. But I think if we ask Kevin to be our go-to guy, he can be. RA just hasn't asked that of him except for one game, and he missed the 3pt shot. He needs to be fresh though in the 4th quarter. Playing him heavy minutes in back to backs isn't going to keep him fresh for the endgame.

    I liked your comment about getting Ariza back as one of the effects of the Martin trade. So spot on ... our concerns about him and Martin playing together have also been proven wrong.
  • bob schmidt
    Very insightful comments rahat. I do think that AB still has unused abilities in pulling up for shots on occasion, but your thoughts regarding "maxing out his capabilities" applies to several of our starters this year. It seems like Hayes and Battier both fall into that category perhaps even more than AB. I love their effort when playing, but question that either can contribute enough to play big minutes.

    When the game started, commentator remarked that Hayes was shorter than all starters for the Thunder. Sorry, but the 5 slot can't be a midget, especially when the rest of the team shares that lack of comparative size. Smaller may be quicker sometimes, but if you can't see the rim, quick doesn't mean much.

    I'm concerned that Bud's usage and confidence level seem to be working in tandem on a downward curve. That's a shame because he seems ultimately coachable and talented. Since I don't really think that we are in the running for a major FA sign or trade, I hope that morey looks seriously at luring Manu into coming to Houston. He is a possible clutch guy, has decent size, and apparently wants to play with Scola. Looking at our salaries for next year, I can see several possible cuts that would make him fit the probable salary considerations......

    Just musing along with you rahat, but not very amused with last nights tryout camp,
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