Phoenix Suns 118, Houston Rockets 110


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 Houston 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 Phoenix 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.


Chronicle recap

game flow


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