Coming into Toyota Center, the Phoenix Suns had lost their last two games by 18 and 16 points without Steve Nash. What happened in Houston with Nash? They spanked the Rockets 123-116. Struggling teams should play Houston for all that ails them.
It’s just Houston’s luck that Nash overcame his ‘doubtful’ status for the game to lead his team to a victory with 24 points and 9 assists. The Rockets needed a break and play against a team with their superstars out, like Houston with Yao Ming & Aaron Brooks.
Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks returned to Toyota Center in street clothes. Their moral support from the bench still wasn’t enough to overcome the Suns, though.
The Suns’ starting center, Robin Lopez, was out with a sprained left knee, so Houston was equal on the “center-being-out” front. If Nash had stayed out, they probably would have won. That’s what we’ve come to: hoping opposing teams’ superstars don’t play.
Things are looking really bad for Houston when you compare them to other bad teams around the league. Last night the 1-13 Clippers beat the 11-1 New Orleans’ Hornets in a very close game. Even the CLIPPERS can find a way to beat really good teams, and they did it after making multiple mistakes in the game’s final two minutes (two blown layups, a turnover resulting in a fast break basket for New Orleans). But they still overcame. Houston can’t.
And did you see Sunday night how Rudy Gay hit a huge bucket as time expired over LeBron James to give the Grizzlies’ a win over Miami? Wow, that kind of player who can create his own shot would really be useful right now (sorry Shane). Looking at Gays’ stats this season, it makes Rocket fans wonder what could have been, although his $13.6 million salary compared to Battier’s $7 million is something I don’t think Houston, nor any team, would have paid.
The Rockets game up 123 points on 54% shooting is atrocious and you’re not going to win many games with those kinds of stats. And Houston fouled Phoenix twice as many times (26 to 14) and was outshot on the free throw line 32-12! Houston also went 0-for-12 on 3-pointers in the first half, which killed them. Hitting 6-of-14 treys in the second half to finish 23% from 3-point land still wasn’t good enough, especially given that Phoenix hit 7-of-13 for 54%.
But there were some bright spots if you look at the stats. When you’re losing, I guess looking at the stats is the only other solace you can get. You know that saying: “Stats is for losers.”
– The Rockets killed the Suns on the boards, 51-33. That gave them 7 more field goals (49) than Phoenix, and Houston had 31 assists leading to those 49 field goals. They also dominated Phoenix in the paint (62 points to 42).
– The bench responded after being told by Coach Rick Adelman they need to step up, outscoring the Suns 50-28. Jordan Hill had a season-high 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting and 10 rebounds, and Courtney Lee scored 16 points on 7-of-14 shots. Chase Budinger finally hit some shots after going 0-for-6 in Toronto, hitting 3-of-8 shots, although he missed all 4 of his 3-pointers.
I do have to give credit to Adelman for saying he’s going to play the young guys more, after the game stating the following:
“I said before the game I decided I was going to try to play the bench more tonight and give them more opportunities. We’ve got to build something throughout the year. Our young guys have to start getting better and the only way they’re going to do that is if we play them.”
That’s something Jeff Van Gundy didn’t do much of, and I think it eventually cost him his job not cultivating his younger players. So at least there some progress on giving the young guns a chance. The only problem is that Adelman didn’t play Jermaine Taylor at all Monday night. That needs to happen, even if it comes at the expense of less minutes for Budinger.