At the end of my post last night I had predicted the following:
“Without Dirk, I don’t think the Mavericks chances are all that great against the very hot and confident Rockets.”
It was probably one of my more bold predictions in quite some time. After all, we’re still talking about the dreaded Mavericks.
I had no idea I would be so right.
The Rockets rolled over arch rival Dallas by exploding in the third quarter for 35 points on 15-of-25 shooting to open an 87-70 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and coasted again to a 113-98 victory. Both Rafer Alston and Tracy McGrady made 5-of-8 shots in the quarter and scored 13 and 11, respectively.
It was such an awesome display of firepower, I had to hit the record button on my DVR to save a sample of the “clinic” the Rockets have been running during this win streak.
I also loved hearing through the telecast the smattering of Rocket fans among the Dallas crowd roaring from the rafters as the Rockets made play after play. Like the 8 points on fast breaks they ran, the alley-oop from Alston he threw just inside the half-court line to McGrady for the throw-down, and Carl Landry‘s powerful scores around the basket, just to name a few examples.
Hearing those roars was music to my ears since I was at that Game 7 playoff back in 2005 where the Rockets lost by 40-points to lose that series. I wish I could have been there Thursday night to exercise some of my own personal demons. Houston is now a more comfortable 2 ½ games ahead of Dallas in the standings.
McGrady would finish Thursday night with 31 points on 13-of-23 shots, 9 assists and only 1 turnover. He was constantly double-teamed by the Mavericks, and he made them pay by dishing dimes all over the place to teammates for open shots. In essence, he’s finding the open man out of double-teams (like Carl Landry several times) in Yao-like fashion. And when he wasn’t passing the ball, he attacked the basket more than any other game I can remember. I absolutely love it when he does that. He has really matured this season.
Alston finished with 24 points on 10-of-21 (2-of-7 from 3-point land), 4 assists, 2 steals and zero turnovers.
Of course, this was the Rockets’ 17th straight victory, and their 8th consecutive victory with double-digit point differentials.
TNT announcer and NBA legend Reggie Miller had this interesting quote about the constant energy the Rockets showed during the game:
“It’s rare to see so many hard work players on a particular NBA team.”
If they keep playing like this, you’ve got to like their chances, even against the highly-favored LA Lakers or Spurs in the West. I bet you a million bucks the Rockets aren’t afraid of them, but are looking forward to the challenge to show these teams and the rest of the world what they have.
The Rockets would finish with only 5 turnovers, which I believe ties the lowest for a game in franchise history. If it hadn’t been for Bobby Jackson‘s 3 turnovers, they would have finished with an incredibly low 2. I’m not complaining though.
All these wins in a row are so strange. I’m definitely not used to this. Everyone is playing so well, there’s really not much to say that’s different other than, “they’re playing awesome.”
Because hardly any criticisms are in order, it’s hard to find anything new to write about without actually being at a game. So that’s why I’m heading to Houston on Saturday to attend the game against New Orleans so I can try to provide some insights from an insider’s perspective, like the reaction of the crowd, what the players are doing and saying off camera, etc.
The one quote I heard after the win over the Mavs that was really profound to me came from Shane Battier, which was the following:
“It’s more of a belief than a confidence.”
That quote actually makes me feel even better about what the players are thinking because often times confidence can be fleeting. A “belief” is more lasting, kind of like religion. I don’t know if coach Rick Adelman is instilling these kinds of perspectives in his players, but if he is, then he’s psychologically astute and pushing the right mental buttons…reminiscent of Phil “the Zen master” Jackson.
Not to leave anyone out of this game, 3 other Rockets scored in double-figures: Landry with 17 (6-of-9 FGs), Luis Scola with 12 (5-of-10), and Bobby Jackson busted out of his shooting slump to score 10 points on perfect 4-of-4 shooting.
Landry was unstoppable. Dallas’ front line, which includes former Rocket Juwan Howard, had no answer for him as he continued to attack the rim. I liked Howard as a Rocket, but what an incredible upgrade Scola and Landry have been.
Shane Battier finished one point shy of double-digit scoring, scoring 9 points. So that’s almost 6 players in double digits – what balance! And as a team, the Rockets shot an amazing 54.2% from the field, along with 23 assists on 45 field goals.
The only weakness was free throw shooting, where they shot only 69.5%. Landry’s 5-of-8 from the line is what brought them down, but I have a feeling he’ll continue to improve since he’ll have plenty more chances to get to the line to improve.
We can’t forget about the defense, holding Dallas’ Rocket-killer Jason Terry to 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting. You’ve got to give credit to Alston for staying on him.
Josh Howard finished with 21 on 8-of-19, and Jason Kidd only scored 7 points on 3-of-6 shooting. As a team, Dallas shot 44.5%, and the Rockets racked up 8 steals compared to Dallas’ one (1). Houston also had 16 points off turnovers compared to Dallas’ 6.
So now the Rockets head back home to play the Hornets Saturday night for a chance to win their 18th straight, and a chance to take over the 2nd seed in the West for now (New Orleans is ½ game ahead of Houston at the moment).
Hopefully my showing up won’t jinx them, but the way they’re playing, none of my silly superstitions should make a bit of difference. If they can win Saturday, who knows, they could push this win streak to 20+ to place themselves among the most historical winning teams in NBA history.