Orlando Magic 104, Houston Rockets 95; Dalembert glorious in debut while the Kevins struggle

Here were some of my initial thoughts right after the game:

Houston Rockets vs. Orlando Magic: postgame thoughts

Here was our game thread.  Join us on Thursday.  It’s fun.

Game 1 in the books and the dream of 66-0 is over.  But the equally compelling dream of 0-66 is still very much alive.

In all seriousness, despite the complete collapse, I came away very surprised by the team’s play tonight against a solid, veteran Orlando group that used to be on people’s radars as a contender before SuperFriends and Dwight Howard-wanting-to-be-Shaq happened.

This team will make the playoffs, I think.  Then again I’m the guy that predicted that DeMarcus Cousins would be in pinstri….errr, the Chinese National team’s threads last June.  But yeah, after seeing Dalembert close gaps and be long, I think after Kevin McHale learns that Luis Scola is not a center (seriously, what was that in the 4th quarter?), and figures out other rotation nuances, the team should roll towards the 8th seed or slightly higher.  Too much talent.

From the start, there was much to like.  Jordan Hill showed a pulse before reverting back to being Jordan Hill after 30 seconds, picking up some cheap fouls.  You really have to wonder now what the plans are for Hill after the Dalembert signing.  He’s clearly fourth on the depth chart with Patterson the far better player.  Will he really ever get a chance with major minutes?  It’s unfortunate because he’s showed major signs.

Dalembert was glorious.  The 7 footer summoned his inner Mutombo, contesting shots and clogging the paint, being active in ways that no 7 footer in red/white/pajamas has since Kelvin Cato’s first game as a Rocket (the one that earned him that contract that ESG and Slim Thug so greatly detested.)  He’s the answer for this team.  He’s pretty much what they lacked all of last year.  For reasons I don’t want to have to hash all over again, I don’t like that at all.  But regardless, this is the direction management has chosen to take, and this is what we have.  The Rockets have a rim protector.  If he were 10 years younger, Dalembert would be DeAndre Jordan.  (Then again, he was Jordan 10 years ago, hence the contract that made him overrated in the first place.)

Did Kyle Lowry improve his ball-handling?  Odd because that usually doesn’t happen for NBA point guards—once you’re already at a certain level, there’s only so much room for improvement in something of which you are supposedly a master.  (It’s like a mathematician getting better at adding….or something like that.)  Anyways, Kyle had some sick crossover moves in transition tonight that I can’t remember him having in the past.  Before, he’d usually just go end-to-end in a straight line.  Anyways, look at that stat line.  When did Kyle Lowry become Magic Johnson?

I think Lowry really has a chance to be an All-Star this year if the Rockets surprise.  Remember how we got him for Rafer Alston?  Yeah, I think that one worked out fairly well.  At just 25 still, and apparently still improving, the Rockets are rock solid at at least one spot for the foreseeable future.  In fact, I’d argue that Lowry is the best point guard the Rockets have ever had during my lifetime.  (No I am not forgetting Steve Francis; that was meant intentionally.)

It was really nice to see Marcus Morris get into the game early.  Even if he didn’t do anything, it means they intend to make him a part of the regular rotation and give him a chance.  Morris had his lunch money stolen by Big Baby but I’m not worried; I’m more interested to see how he does as a ‘3’.  Once Patrick Patterson returns, I would really like to see Morris get some reps inside, posting up smaller forwards.

Terrence Williams again impressed, even showing off a nice Euro-Step in transition.  Coupled with his preseason play, you have to think T-Will is really turning the page with this new coaching staff.  He’s the one guy on this team with real game-breaking potential and he showed it in spurts tonight.  There was one play during this one where he dribbled around the perimeter, came back out, used the screen man, and hit a cutting Courtney Lee in stride, showing the passing that sets him apart.  It’s just a matter of time before Williams takes Bud’s spot in the starting lineup.  The only thing keeping him back is the attitude: if he can keep his head on straight, the sky is the limit.  That’s always a big if, but it’s good to see some early returns.

Final thoughts: Kevin Martin was absolutely awful tonight, begging the questions surrounding his eventual departure.  What’s his value looking like around the league?  People talk about Minnesota as a landing spot, but what could they offer that they’d want to give up?  Beasley?  Milicic?  Williams, Rubio, and Love aren’t going anywhere and the Clip…Hornets have their pick.

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