Magic 102 – Rockets 87

2009 December 23
by rahat huq

This game was lost midway through the 3rd quarter when Trevor Ariza inexplicably tried to create for himself off the dribble on three consecutive trips down the floor.  Spanning from the 7:05 mark of the 3rd, up until a Jameer Nelson ‘3′ a few minutes later, the lead ballooned to 12 and the Rockets never recovered.

Dwight Howard was quiet offensively but snared 20 boards while Houston was led by Carl Landry with 20 points.

The Magic jumped out to an early 34-22 lead after 1, but the Rockets used a 30 point 2nd quarter to bridge the gap to 55-52 heading into halftime.  The Magic put the game away in the 3rd as the Rockets managed only 13 points, running much of the offense through Ariza.

Trevor finished the game with a +/- of -23, hitting only 1-10 from the field.  Kyle Lowry was solid once more with 13 points as the team looked noticeably better with him on the floor.

The Magic featured a balanced attack with five players scoring in double figures, led by Vince Carter’s 18 points.

Brian Cook entered the game with under 2 minutes remaining, prompting me to turn my attention away from said game and towards this recap.

Random Musings

  • The biggest story tonight was Trevor Ariza.  On the first play of the game, he opened up with a contested jumper driving to his right that left me dumbfounded.  At the 7:05 mark in the 3rd, he chucked up another jumper of this variety.  The next trip down the floor, Trevor drove to his left, got trapped by his defender, picked up his dribble (shocker), turned back towards his right and faded away with a hand in his face, naturally airballing the attempt.  As if this weren’t enough, he somehow managed to receive the ball yet again on the next trip down the floor.  He then dribbled into the paint, came back out, and shot again going to his right, missing once more.  I could only laugh in appreciation at this point.  The Magic pushed the lead to 12 during this sequence and the Rockets never recovered.
  • Late in the 2nd, Matt Guokas remarks that Trevor is “best suited as a 3rd or 4th guy.”  I have decided that henceforth, this will be my new litmus test for broadcaster intelligence.  I’m no longer going to even attempt to take seriously anyone who trumpets Ariza as this team’s best player.  So Guokas makes my ‘good’ list for tonight.
  • As far as Ariza, I’m not sure what is taking place.  That he went 1-10 and has been struggling with the shot isn’t my concern.  It’s the type of shots which he’s taking which are the cause of my frustration.  He’s just not a guy who can create off the dribble.  He’s not nearly skilled enough to even attempt some of the shots he’s taking.  I explained this in depth in November.  I said at the time that I had no problem with experimentation, but this has become ridiculous.  It just won’t happen in-game for Trevor so I don’t understand why the leash hasn’t been shortened yet.
  • Tracy entered the game at the 7:30 mark in the 1st to a heavy chorus of boos.  This came as a surprise.  I didn’t think he was relevant enough to garner such a reaction.  On this night, despite the appearances given by the box score, I thought he looked very good.  The Rockets looked to him every trip down the floor, bringing him across the baseline from side to side.  Once more, as I noted earlier, we didn’t see him used at all as a motion cutter as he was in his debut.  It’s become painfully clear that the staff hopes to, at the least, see what ‘The McGrady Offense’ can bring.  Tracy looked a step quicker on his drives, even making his way all the way through at the 1:35 mark before missing at the rim.  At the 2:06 mark of the first, he actually got caught in the air with no space, and effortlessly found an open David Andersen.  His body control/passing are almost unparalleled in this league.  However, for McGrady, the highlight of this night came on a play that probably went without notice.  With 2:55 remaining, he made a sudden burst backdoor, completely losing his defender.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t spotted by David Andersen and didn’t receive the pass.  Up until that point, I hadn’t yet seen Tracy make a move that explosive in his five games since the return.
  • Unfortunately, the lowlight for Tracy probably needs its own bullet.  With 20 seconds remaining in his stint, McGrady didn’t even attempt to contest a Ryan Anderson ‘3’, and the lead swelled to ten.  It’s difficult with McGrady.  He can look so good at one end, exhibiting all-world talents, and then appear to not even have the slightest interest on the very next play.  Like I have been saying, the metric that considers the net effect of his impact on “The Chaos Effect” against his passing contributions will determine his future in Houston.    
  • Funny side story in the 1st as Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter were matched up with one another.  Sorry, that they were both in uniform was the funny side story.
  • Aaron Brooks was brought off screens to hit two back to back 3’s early in the 2nd.  I hadn’t seen much of this play before tonight.  Most of his 3’s are of the spot-up variety. 
  • Carl Landry looked very bothered by Marcin Gortat in the 2nd but then went to work on him in the 4th.  Another good game by Carl.  With 54.2 seconds remaining in the 1st, Landry faced up on Howard and blew right around him, putting it in off the glass.  I don’t think it’s possible to stop him off the dribble with a ‘big.’
  • Landry and Lowry are the two best players on this team right now.  I think I am now confident with making that assertion.  I don’t know if the fact that they both come off the bench, in light of the fact that the team struggles in the 1st, is necessarily problematic, but they are our two best players.  Aaron Brooks is more dangerous, but Lowry and Landry are better. 
  • I was very, very impressed by Marcin Gortat tonight.  He was very active in the 2nd and seemed to get a hand on every loose ball. 
  • I was also impressed by Reddick.  He made a play where he drove to his right and pulled up and another where he pump faked and baited a gambling Trevor Ariza (shocker) into a foul.  There aren’t many ‘specialists’ in this league that can do those things.
  • Strangest play of the game, aside from the lone Ariza basket, came with 2:08 remaining in the 4th.  Aaron Brooks actually grabbed Dwight Howard’s leg and then bumped him in protest after Howard had fallen on top of him.  I wasn’t too sure what was actually taking place and I don’t think Howard was either.
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  • Aris
    Tough Loss. It seems like we are a good team that will have no problems catching a lower seed and making the playoffs. But, its time for the rockets to tell Ariza he cant do the things he's trying to do, and also give more time and attention to Mcgrady. He seems to be capable of helping this team in many ways. They should be using this to their advantage.
  • Stephen
    Re Ariza:
    During the Clips/Rockets Dec 2 game,the Clips color guy said in passing that during a pre-game conversation w/Adelman,Rick said he might be asking too much of Ariza,that they might be asking more than Trevor could do.
    I would imagine the long leash is to see if Ariza can develope into,if not a #1 option,at least into a solid #2. If Trevor hasn't shown signs of improvement at being the play-maker by about the half-way point,I really expect the leash to be yanked back.
  • Lars
    Ariza is rapidly becoming another Rafer Alston in my opinion
  • tobepg
    Onece Ariza is not asked to be a main scoring option, he'll be fine.
  • rahat_huq
    Aris - I'm not concerned with the handling of McGrady. I trust they'll make the right decision, slowly easing him in.

    Stephen - I think it's clear they wanted to see what they had. This didn't bother me much at first because I still think the main goal of this season is player development, but in Ariza's case, it's become so clear that it won't happen that it has just become frustrating to watch.

    Lars - I wouldn't go that far. He'll be ok once his role changes.

    tobepg - Completely agreed. Once he goes back to running the floor, spotting up, and slashing to the hoop, he'll be fine. I said in 'Assessing Ariza' that the return(s) of Yao and Mac should really help him and I still maintain that.
  • Clint
    I just hope that Ariza will be willing to revert to a lesser role and isn't permanently ruined with the long leash given by the coaching staff and being told that he is the man by the media.
  • rahat_huq
    I don't anticipate there being much of a problem. Worst, worst, worst case, he's still an extremely tradeable asset at his age and relatively reasonable salary.
  • bigyul
    I don't think we can expect anymore than is humanely possible with our team given the schedule. You can't can't play at top level competition when you have to play again less than 24 hours turnaround including travel. I think they did there best but they need to leave these Trevor experiments for practice time only. It is clear he has to feed off a top scorer and passer like McGrady and Yao. This is when he will pay off - so we just have to bide our time. I would much rather see Jeramine have these opprtunities to build his confidence. Trevor is going to have to stop reading the newspapers and internet because something clearly is shaking his confidence, I just don't want to lead to anymore losses like this one. I see Tracy is already talking about free agency - guy just does not know when to be quiet.
  • rahat_huq
    I don't feel bad about the loss at all - it should be expected, the Magic are a top team. It's just the manner in which the game got away which was frustrating. I too was pleasantly surprised by Jermaine.
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