Dwight Howard has no post game.
That is what has always been said about Howard; if not that, the free throws. Rockets fans should know this better than anyone else – how many, during the Yao/Howard debates, cited Yao’s jumper, his excellent free throw shooting, and his touch as proof that Yao was superior? Never mind the fronting problem, or the pick and roll. When Dwight has been discussed, there is always the “but” coming.
Yeah, he’s good. Three-time Defensive Players of the Year. But….
It is one reason why Howard came to Houston. To learn with two of the most skilled big men to ever play in Olajuwon and McHale. A sharp contrast to the Lakers, where Kobe Bryant seemed to view Howard as only a more athletic Tyson Chandler. Many were skeptical that Howard would in fact learn better, and with good reason.
But tonight, right after the most devastating loss of the season, with injuries so bad that one began to wonder whether there would be even five Rockets on the court by the end, Dwight Howard went full Superman and completely willed the team from the beginning to the end. And this time, there was a post-game.
Without James Harden and Jeremy Lin, Dwight was force fed the ball from the very beginning and produced results. Andre Drummond is a very athletic center who blocks shots and someday perhaps could be even better than Howard at his peak. But like most young centers, his defensive smarts need time to develop, and Howard completely outworked him in the post. He came with everything. Hook shots, whether running or straight up. Pump fakes into fouls. Even a long jumper similar to Howard’s three pointer against the Warriors two weeks ago, only this time his foot was on the line. And of course, Howard was a defensive terror as always.
The final result? 35 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and the win. The last part was particularly important that in Howard’s other dominant performances against the Mavericks and Blazers, the Rockets still lost. But tonight, Superman showed up to save the day, and no one is saying “but”.
- Now, for the bad news. Houston has already been hit enough by injuries, but the hope was that with Lin and Asik ready soon, that things would soon turn around. Unfortunately, it turned for the worse. Harden sat out of tonight’s game with his ankle problems from the start, but then both Greg Smith and Patrick Beverley came out with injuries. Both had played well beforehand, Smith in particular as Terrence Jones simply lacks the size and strength to handle Greg Monroe, something Smith did well enough. Smith once again had knee problems, though this time I believe on the opposite knee, but Patrick Beverley fractured his hand and thus almost assured that he will miss the next several games. With those two out, the Rockets were so depleted that James Harden warmed up before the start of the second half, just in case the now realistic scenario of Houston running out of players occurred. Thanks to Howard’s fantastic effort, Harden did not play, which means that the Houston’s starters have already missed as many games this season as the starters did throughout the entirety of last season. Just…health, please.
- Howard came out with 1:16 in the third quarter to rest, and the ridiculous amount of injuries meant that Chandler Parsons essentially became the point guard/#1 option. Parsons actually did better than I expected – he scored six points over the next four minutes through jumpers. While the Pistons did cut the lead from 15 to 10 starting from the beginning of the fourth quarter, most of that was just due to the Rockets being outbigged with Howard on the bench. A Parsons-Garcia-Brewer-Casspi-Jones lineup does not exactly strike fear into enemy teams, after all.
- On that above point: I do hope that tonight can put paid to the idea that Ronnie Brewer should be getting rotation minutes. Ronnie Brewer is a good defender. But he’s not Tony Allen or Shane Battier, and his offense is just far too big of a problem to ignore. He finished with a team-worst -14 ( Donatas Motiejunas was the only other Rockets with a negative +/-, as the only thing he did throughout the entire game was come in and immediate give up a three-point play), and the eye test showed just how bad his offense is. Opposing teams pay just enough attention to ensure he does not cut to the basket through the baseline, and then the Rockets are stuck playing 4 on 5 on the offensive end.