Suns 118, Rockets 110

2010 January 7
by rahat huq


Despite the result, this was one of the most entertaining games of the year.

The Suns burst out of the gates, building a double digit lead before Aaron Brooks caught fire and brought the Rockets back.  The Rockets offense exploded upon Carl Landry and Chase Budinger’s entrances and the team built its own cushion.

The Rockets’ draft class of 2007 went nuts in this one combining for 65. Aaron Brooks had 34 points with 6 triples, while Carl Landry poured in 31 off the bench.

The Rockets choked in the end, but this was a fairly productive win.

Random Musings:

If I can’t write the entire post until the morning after, I like to at least put up a very brief recap immediately after the game to allow any of our readers the opportunity to vent in that critical period.  I withheld from even this last night out of fear that my anger would pollute my entire thought process and overcome my better judgment.

Once again last night, I made the decision to make no mention of Trevor Ariza.  Despite another maddening performance, I stuck to my guns and made no notes.  This was until I was left with no choice at the 50 second mark of the 4th.  I really wish I was making this stuff up at this point, but those of you who watched this game know of exactly what I’m speaking.  After what transpired, I was overcome with an anger that I hadn’t felt this entire season.

After falling behind by ten, the Rockets once more valiantly fought their way back, miraculously cutting the lead to four with just 50 seconds remaining.  Having possession of the ball, the team somehow still had a chance to win this game.  The red hot Aaron Brooks dribbled on the left wing, looking inside for the equally hot Carl Landry.  Having nowhere to go, Brooks passed back out top to Ariza.  It pains me to even revisit what then took place.

Ariza didn’t just shoot the ‘3′ against coverage.  While that would have been maddening enough, that action would have been innocuous in comparison to what he really took the liberty to attempt.

With 50 seconds remaining in the game, with his team down by 4, with his team having the momentum, with his two nearest teammates having combined for over 60 points, having himself gone 5-13 from the floor up to that point, and having no basketball capacity for anything more than the utter basics, Trevor Ariza decided to square up his defender – Tracy McGrady 2003 style – hold the ball for what seemed like eternity, and then rise up for the contested 3 pointer, killing his team’s chances in a game they deserved to win.

It’s reached the point with Ariza where I’m starting to question my own assumptions.  It’s not about poor shooting.  A lot of guys shoot bad, but, while it hurts the team, its at least tolerable because it comes within the framework of their responsibilities.  Rafer Alston is a classic example.  He hurt the team many a nights, but from an analytical perspective, it wasn’t too painful because it was clear to understand what was going on: the defense was rotating off of Alston and thus Alston had no choice but to continue shooting those open shots.  The greater point here is that poor shooting, even poor play is tolerable.

What’s difficult to understand is when a player is given freedom of which he has no business having.  There’s just no excuse for allowing Trevor Ariza to actually square up his defender late in a close game as if he has even a modicum of capacity for the feat.

So naturally, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m wrong about this whole thing and Rick Adelman has given his blessing and told Trevor he is this team’s best player.  I don’t know but that’s the only real plausible explanation.  Enough on this topic as it has taken a toll on my blood pressure.

Carl Landry was again unhuman, winning his matchup with Amare Stoudemire.  I hesitate to say it, but Landry is actually more skilled than Stoudemire.  He’s not better (at least not yet…gulp) as Stoudemire possesses a superior combination of size and power, but it was painfully clear which of the two has the more diverse repertoire.  Carl basically showed us everything last night: jump hooks, drives, dunks, and some very impressive power moves where he threw off his defender by delivering a hard initial blow after receiving the ball.  The man just continues to amaze.

Chase Budinger also looked very good in his 22 minutes, scoring 9 points off the bench.  The Rockets’ offense simply just looks the way it was envisioned to be run when Budinger is on the court.  It comes as no surprise then that he is a part of the team’s 3 most efficient offensive 5 man units.  Chase was almost tailor-made for the Princeton offense.  He can shoot the ‘3′, shoot jumpshots off screens, slash off the ball, pass, and already has one of the highest IQ’s on the team.  He’s the anti-Ariza and I think he will be a starter in this league at some point.

Final note: There was an absolutely awesome camera angle with 1 minute remaining in the 3rd quarter for which I am very grateful to the Suns’ television producers for providing.  If there was to be a DVD about the 2009-2010 Houston Rockets, this sequence would suffice as far as actual game footage.

The camera angle was from beneath the hoop. We saw Carl Landry face up against Robin Lopez out on the block.  He then drove and lost control of the ball at the rim.  He regained it and missed.  Andersen grabbed it and missed.  Landry once more snared the board and missed.  Lowry then came flying in and brought down the board.  All amidst a sea of white jerseys.

My description does no justice to the possession.  It was microcosmic of the determination and grit that has punctuated this team’s surprise season and the camera angle really captured those qualities to their fullest.  The Suns’ announcer remarked, “I have never seen a team show more tenacity.”  I would have to agree.

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  • bigyul
    Great comments and I myself have grown tired of the Ariza expirement. Totally inexplicable for him to pull up and shoot that shot knowing his shooting woes. It is farely obviuos why the Lakers were more than eager to allow him to leave and replace with Ron. He is no star, and his skill set is basic at best. We live with Shane because he knows his boundaries, but this guy seems to think he is the man and his many ill advised shot attempts are coming back to haunt us. Rick is going to have to bench this guy alongside Scola in fourth quarters or we are going to see more of the same I am afraid. If we need defensive prescence let Shane be that man in the fourth, but we need to continue to develop our youth with Budinger and maybe even Taylor. I just don't see how we can throw McGrady to the wolves when everyone knows these should be his minutes by now. I was highly anticipating Trevor going to the bench, because as we can all see our first unit is making our second unit have to work extrememly hard to keep us in games, and we cannot expect Aaron to be hot every night. Just save this dude for next year when Yao returns so he can play off him. You would have thought the Rockets would have learned something after the Scottie Pippen experiment years ago - superstars make players around them better - but if you take the star away you have an average - and sometimes below average - basketball player
  • luislandry
    Good summary. I know it's a Rocket's blog, but since you're a clearly qualified writer, any play to weigh in on the Gilbert Arenas situation?
  • luislandry
    play = plan
  • Alituro
    I, too am sick of the Ariza experiment. I think it's about time to bench him and let Chase get some meaningful minutes. Ariza is about all he can be at this point, but we've only begun to see what Chase is capable of. If we start now, he could be good and ready, well groomed to make some noise come playoff time.

    I am also sick of seeing a offensively handicapped crew start each and every game. Brooks, Ariza, Shane, Scola and Hayes. Only 2 out of 3 have any game to speak of on the offensive end: Scola and Brooks. This is why we struggle to keep up early in games. I would much rather see a Brooks, Chase, Battier, Landry and Scola or Andersen at the 5. I think there are times and places suitable for our defensive studs at different times in the games. But, having all stop and no pop, really makes it easy for teams to shut us down early because they only have to key on 2 players at most. Then we have to play catch-up the rest of the game. Also, I think it is no question that we have to have Landry on the floor for more minutes, who cares if he doesn't get 6MOTY, I want him out there and often!
  • rahat_huq
    bigyul/alituro - I still think it was a good signing (he's a very tradeable asset) and still think he can help us, but it has to be in a very different role. like i've been saying all year, he's a role player.

    luis - i'll try to touch on that later if i have some time.
  • bob schmidt
    There is no mystery as to how Ariza should be used. Phil Jackson had him perfectly positioned in LA. High energy rebounding, steals, and feeding the primary shooters are all tools he knows how to use. For some reason he seems unable to figure out when he should or shouldn't take a shot himself. That is as much the coaches fault as his own.

    I would consider alternating Battier and Ariza for defensive purposes. Budinger would start, and Landry would appear on the floor by the 6 minute mark of the 1st quarter for Scola or Hayes. Some of our guys are getting too many minutes and get gassed. Andersen and Hayes might be flip-flopped to get a feel for the best on the floor chemistry. We now have an easier schedule that will permit some experimentation, so let's use it to advantage! Some production from that idle 23 million dollar payroll wouldn't hurt either........add Cook's payroll to the picture and realize how well the Rox are doing in spite of it all.........
  • davidanu
    although i haven't had the opportunity too see Houston play,I'm taken back by all the comments about Trevor Ariza. Alderman is not stupid, and nobody is giving Trevor a spot.Hopefully he'll grow into his role.I was alone on my ship of confidence about Houston chances when all the pundits were throwing Houston into the toilet i was saying isn't this the same bunch that beat La in La during playoffs and finished off Portland making huge strides even when Yao was healthy
    The real issue is the handling of Tracy and what is gonna come of it
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