The Rockets Beat the Hornets

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Published: April 14, 2009

The Rockets have a very, very strong defense.  They have for years.  Their ability to contest shots and force you away from what you want to do makes it even more vital that when you get the shots that you want, you knock them down.  The Hornets did that in the first quarter – and when they did miss, they went and got the ball.  But after the first, their energy faded, the open shots they did generate didn’t fall, and the game slowly got out of hand.

And when I say slowly – I mean slowly.  It’s not like the Rockets were scoring like mad, but when your team has 31 points with 9:00 left in the second quarter, and have only climbed to 35 fourteen minutes later, things are bound to have been ugly.

Observations:
  • So, here’s the deal with Peja.  There is much made about the idea that Peja isn’t having plays run for him, that he’s being mis-used, that he should be sent in motion.  So I kept track of plays where Peja was moving his feet, clearly having had a play called for him.  There were twelve in the game.  One, Paul saw an opening and short-circuited the play, diving to the basket and scoring.  Twice Peja got free off a single pick as Battier got momentarily lost, and got two nice open shots. Three times, Peja ran off a set of three staggered picks, resulting in a nice open shot, a hurried deep three, and Paul being unable to get the pass to him because he was covered too well.  Six times, he ran off a pair of picks and couldn’t get open at all.  For those of you keeping score, that’s 12 plays for three open shots and an opening for Paul.  If that’s the return, I’m not sure its worth the investment.  And if the investment continues to be made, he needs to do better than 0-4 shooting.(1-7 for the game, including shots off plays that weren’t designed for him as a primary option)
  • In a lot of ways, Luis Scola is David West with long hair to accentuate flopping skills.  He’s outgunned athletically, but compensates by working hard, muscling around, and using very fundamental post skills.  He’s also got a solid mid-range game.  Therefore, it comes as little surprise that as he’s grown acclimated to the NBA game, he’s starting figuring out David West – since he uses the same moves to score.  Scola did a great job containing West during the game – and he was left mostly to do it alone as the entire rest of the defense was keyed on Chris Paul.
  • As soon as Paul made a move, a big was sent to help.  When Yao was out there, it wasn’t that great of help due to his slow moving feet, and it resulted in some nice Marks dunks, but when it was Scola, Artest, Landry or even Chuck Hayes, Paul had a very hard time getting any of his shots off easily.  It was a well executed defensive plan, containing enough physicality to cause Paul to be just a little off balance, but not enough to make it clear the refs needed to blow their whistles – so they didn’t.

  • Melvin Ely did a good job on the boards for once, but was a disaster trying to score on anyone around the hoop.  Sean Marks was great scoring around the hoop, but was a disaster on the boards.  We need to whip up a splicing machine and make us a Melsean Markely.
  • Posey had a nice solid game.  Good enough that Byron kept the second unit on for a whopping six and a half minutes in the second quarter as they ran the offense through Posey.  It was nice, but I’ve also got to point out that Posey took some bad, bad shots there.  He hit them, but some of them were very bad.
  • Butler had three three-point attempts and they all came during that drought in the second quarter.  He missed them all.  Badly.  All were uncontested, and normally he’d stick a pair of em.  If he had done that, the Hornets close the half only down only six – and probably even less than that since one of his errant threes lead to a long rebound and fast break.  The Hornets could also expect some of the pressure on Paul to let up a little as Artest and Battier became more unlikely to lay off their guy.  The Hornets have to have at least one outside threat.
  • The second unit can’t stop penetration.  They were closing down the Rockets second unit led by Artest and Scola, but once Von Wafer and Kyle Lowry started being featured and went to the basket, it was all over.  When Yao came back in, Byron sent in the starters.  Not that it helped, really.

So the Mavericks barely pulled out a squeaker against the Wolves tonight while the Jazz crushed the Clippers.  The Jazz play tomorrow night against the Lakers, while Dallas and New Orleans finish their regular seasons on Wednesday.  The best possible situation would be for the Jazz to fall on the road to the Lakers.  That would guarantee the Hornets wouldn’t fall to the eighth seed, and they could rest their starters in San Antonio.  If the Jazz win, the Hornets will need to come out on fire against the Spurs on Wednesday and secure their spot as the sixth or seven seed, because if they lose, they get the Lakers in the first round, and things become much, much tougher.

Have a good night.

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