The Hornets Beat the Rockets

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Published: December 27, 2008

A win.  How sweet.  I’ll be honest, Houston usually hits you hard and fast with a pretty strong defense, and I was expecting the Hornets to lie down for it since that’s what they’ve done for several great defenses this season.  Tonight, however, they decided to go at the Rockets and played their own brand of tight defense that was great to see.

Bullet-style:

  • First, I haven’t said anything about it here, but I’ve got to mention the pre-game ritual of James Posey standing at the scorer’s table and giving each of the starters a hug/chest bump/chest punch according to their preference.  The players checking in from the other team typically poke, prod and even hug him from behind while he does it.  I’m not even sure how to describe it.  It’s just a strange mix of awesomeness, awkwardness, and plain hilarity.  Maybe ticktock can express it better.
  • There were a lot of good things in this game, but probably my favorite was Rasual Butler.  After that block last night on Scola, I’m going to start calling him “Phoenix” for his rise and rebirth from the cold dead ashes of last year.  He had some gorgeous drives, hit a three, fought for rebounds and putbacks, hounded an admittedly gimpy Tracy McGrady into 2-11 shooting, and even helped out Paul in harassing the hated Rafer into a 1-10 game.  He finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block, and helped steady the second unit.  He played 42 minutes with all our other swingmen hurt or producing very little.
  • As is always the case with Yao Ming, it’s a matter of simply waiting him out.  The giant is as skilled a player as you’ll ever see in the league, but humans just aren’t meant to be that big.  He always grows progressively more tired as the game wears on, and you could see it last night.  Early on he handled Chandler like a gnat, pushing through and scoring and drawing the foul.  Later on, his shots became fadeaways, and they front-rimmed, usually a sign of tired legs.

  • Chandler came out fired up, got in early foul trouble, but did not collapse because we found him often and early for easy dunks and layups.  As usual that makes all the difference in his effort and focus.  His work on Yao didn’t stop him from scoring efficiently, but it did stop him from scoring a lot, holding the big man to 13 shots.
  • This will shock you, so I considered not mentioning it, but . . . Sean Marks missed a couple long jumpers.  I know!  I’ll give you a moment.
  • Antonio Daniels gutted out the pain in his knee to play, and I loved it.  That second unit looks so much better with a real ball handler and distributer at the helm.  Daniels had a lot of trouble tracking super-speedy Aaron Brooks, but I can’t give him any crap for that.  Healthy guards have trouble tracking Brooks.
  • Speaking of Brooks, he’s going to be a great backup guard for a long time.   He’s good enough someone will probably give him a good-sized contract to be their starting Point.  That’ll be a mistake because he’s a shooting guard, not a point guard.  Still he was pretty good.
  • In other news, three spectators were killed by random shots fired by Devin Brown as he continues to take, and miss, the open three.  At least he rebounded like a beast, I’ll give him that.
  • Paul had 26 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals.  He also had a killer three when Houston was threatening to take the lead, and on four seperate occasions literally ran circles around Yao in the paint until an open shot opened up.  I love it when he does that
  • West opened aggressive, taking the ball at Landry and Scola.  He went through a bad dry spell in the third, so ended up only shooting 40%, but got to the line nine times and closed with 23 points.  I liked what he gave us, though he did fail to close on Scola a couple times.

Games are coming fast and furious, and tomorrow we play the rapid-fire but struggling Pacers.  I’ll have a game preview up later.

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