UPDATE 1/18/11 12:14 PM: Links have been added after the jump.
As a person with both a job and a DVR full of professional sports games, I am constantly begging to have my soul crushed by some student (I sort of teach) flippantly offering anything he or she knows to create a little conversation, inadvertently ruing my day… and life. One such jerk did such in my last 20 minutes on the clock, throwing out a “Hey! The Rockets won,” more excited about having a thing to tell me than about the actual thing he told me. After stomping around like an idiot for 20 minutes and getting home, I turned on the prediction-stained game and, not sure if my prior knowledge contributed to my feelings, saw one of the most predictable quarters of basketball I’ve ever seen in the fourth, preceded by a pretty ugly, hair-pulling catfight of a battle.
Scott Skiles has brought a bit of Mike Fratello to the new decade, specializing in the plodding, defensive-minded kind of game that occasionally bludgeons the opposing team into submission. His teams are always quite talented defensively, which this team certainly is, and the Bucks placed the Rockets on lock for the first half of damn near unwatchable ball in this game. Luis Scola, though finishing with a respectable 19 and 14 line, started this game off going 1 for 9 as Andrew Bogut controlled the paint, even with one arm. Everyone in the Christmas colors moved their feet and stayed in front of their men, and just as all the Bucks played superior defense, they all couldn’t muster a bucket to save their lives in that first half. Both teams went a combined 0-11 from behind the three-point arc in that 78-point half of basketball; thankfully, the teams literally switched balls at halftime and got in what would qualify, in this miserable game at least, as a “groove”.
For the first time in league history, Corey Maggette didn’t seem to be putting up enough shots, going 11 for 18 as the Bucks’ only semi-respectable option in the second half. Had he thrown up a few more ridiculous fadeaways and steady-but-slow takes to the bucket, the fourth quarter might not have been the most phoned-in quarter of ball in this young Rockets’ season. The teams combined to score 37 in the quarter in which no one took over or threatened or did much of anything of note. And the Rockets wouldn’t have had it any other way. The team’s star, Kevin Martin, actually got some fourth quarter minutes and, throughout the game, performed like the star he is (racking up a monumental 18 free throw attempts in the process). Houston also saw a massive surplus of offensive rebounds in the game from such varied sources as Scola (5), Shane Battier (3) and Jordan Hill (4), beating the Bucks on the offensive boards by 10, a defining stat of this game.
Watching Houston power through another ill-prepared Eastern Conference team reminds me of exactly how tenacious and persistent the Rockets are (who would have guessed the Rockets would have won a game in which they shot 9% from deep by nine?), the exact lengths they will go to to win a game. For a midday-yawn of a holiday game, the effort was more than enough.
Houston Rockets 93, Milwaukee Bucks 84
On to the links…
- I’m not entirely sure if you, dear reader, are still salivating over the prospect of Carmelo Anthony in Rockets red nor if you should be. I do know that people still like to talk about him a LOT, and there are lots of talented writers, like Henry Abbot of TrueHoop, pondering that exact question of how much Anthony is actually worth to the endless suitors he has clamoring for his services. Abbot’s piece is fantastic, and he even takes the time to mention a very trusted individual around these parts as an authority when it comes to valuing Anthony accurately: “There is no case to be made that the Rockets don’t appreciate the lessons of modern basketball analysis. In assessing Anthony, it’s worth noting that Morey has repeatedly spoken about how elite scorers are necessary to win titles. It’s also worth noting that Morey has reportedly been dogged in his pursuit of Anthony. If true, it’s a powerful message that at the highest levels of statistical analysis, Anthony can indeed be seen as worth a maximum contract.”
- The NBA’s greatest freak show, the Miami Heat, have been a little saddled by the absence of the best player on the planet (I’ve heard the Cavs are having similar problems), and tonight, they’ll engage a division rival, the Atlanta Hawks, with a resurgent beast in Joe Johnson (putting up 29 points per game on 52% shooting and 42% from three in January), who almost certainly would be guarded by LeBron were he available for action tonight (which he might be, although Chris Bosh is not. Gasp! Depth issues for the Heat! Who would’ve thunk it?). Kevin Arvonitz and Tom Haberstroh break down why Miami might be staring down the barrel of its first four-game losing streak of the year.
- John Wall: May I have another, sir?
- Man, LeBron is probably going to catch flak for this one. How does it seem that everything that NBA players say or do to one another ion private seems to be getting leaked to the press? Either players need to keep tighter circles and tighter lips, or something fishy is happening in NBA journalism. Hold on; I think I heard Chauncey Billups’ text alert go off.
- If Blake Griffin isn’t your favorite player not playing for your favorite team, you probably don’t watch a lot of NBA basketball.