After winning two of their last 3 games and righting the ship somewhat, on Tuesday the Rockets went back to their old ways and blew another 4th quarter lead.
Holding an 8-point advantage at the start of the 4th quarter after scoring the last 10 points of the 3rd, the Rockets were victimized by Chicago’s Derrick Rose, who scored 16 points in the 4th quarter and keyed the Bulls to 18 unanswered points in that final period, sinking the Rockets to a 3-7 record. During that critical 4th quarter stretch, the Rockets had 8 turnovers in a little over 9 minutes. In other words, they fell apart…again.
Although Kevin Martin has stepped up in most games this season, there’s not much margin for error if he doesn’t do it with Yao Ming, Aaron Brooks and Chase Budinger out with ankle sprains. Martin had a rare off-night, hitting only 5-of-15 shots for 18 points.
Meanwhile, Rose scored 33 points on 13-of-20 shooting. The NBA is a game where point guards have a huge advantage if they have the skills to exploit defenses given the rules that reward them for getting past their man and into the lane. If they can hit the 3 on top of that, look out. Rose isn’t that great of a 3-point shooter, but he was Tuesday night, hitting 4-of-5 from behind the arc.
With Aaron Brooks out and Kyle Lowry (7 points) and Ish Smith (0 points) not that great of shooters, they were going to need production from their bench. They only got 8 points, whereas Chicago had 29. Courtney Lee was 0-for-1 and had four turnovers in just 13 ½ minutes. I like Lee a lot, but I think it’s about time the Rockets gave Jermaine Taylor more of a chance while Budinger, Brooks and Yao are out. The guy was the 3rd leading scorer in the NCAA his senior year, averaging 26.2 ppg. Why not use him when desperate times call for desperate measures? We’ve seen what the guy can do to light it up. He reminds me a little bit of Von Wafer in how he can score points in bunches with his athleticism.
Taylor also reminds me a little bit of the Lakers’ Shannon Brown, who never really got a chance with several NBA teams. But when thrown into a deal to the Lakers as an afterthought, Brown has flourished as seen by how he torched the Rockets in Game 1 with all those 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. And Brown got his chance playing in the shadow of one of the best players ever — Kobe Bryant! If the Lakers can give a guy a chance to prove himself behind Kobe, you’d think the Rockets could do the same behind their shooting guard.
If the Rockets are going to draft big-time scorers, then you’d expect they would use them when they have problems scoring points in a game like this one. I kind of get tired of hearing about how a player may not “be ready” defensively. Right now, beggars can’t be choosers. Play Taylor and see what he can do to help the bench. Who knows, you may end up wondering why it wasn’t done sooner. There are countless other examples of teams who gave bench warmers an opportunity to contribute when they have struggled, and it worked out beautifully for them. Hasn’t the name ‘Arian Foster‘ taught professional teams to give backups more chances to shine?
One area where Taylor can help is shooting the three. On Tuesday night, the Bulls had a 9-point advantage from behind the arc, hitting 67% of their 3-pointers compared to the Rockets’ 33%. Rose’s 4 treys were daggers.
The Rockets got out-rebounded by the Bulls 40-32, meaning Yao’s absence hurt, although Brad Miller filled in admirably with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting, and 5 boards. But when none of your players come up with more than 5 rebounds, that’s not good. Chicago’s small forward, Luol Deng, had 10 boards. Shane Battier had 5.
The Rockets had a golden opportunity to win since the Bulls only made 54% of their free throws (15-of-28), but couldn’t capitalize on such a rare night when they shot so poorly from the charity strip.
Tonight the Rockets face an explosive Oklahoma City team. We all know they’re going to need to play defense to have a chance in this one, but also score a bunch of points to keep up with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. I think it’s “Taylor time” to see if he can shine.