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Rockets break down in heartbreaker to Bulls. Here’s the breakdown of what went wrong

December 5th, 2010
by John

After big wins against the Lakers and Memphis this week, could the Rockets on Saturday make us believe they had finally turned the corner on their season and win a game in Chicago against a better team than the Grizzlies on the road in the second game of a back-to-back?

After a valiant comeback effort in the fourth quarter where they showed no signs of being mentally soft, the Rockets built a 5-point lead with 36.5 seconds remaining. Even the most skeptical Rocket fans had to be thinking, “There’s no way they can lose this game with this kind of lead.”

But this is the Rockets we’re talking about here.

They came within tenths of a second of shaking off their reputation this season for mental weakness in the clutch, but a defensive breakdown that let Derrick Rose hit a wide-open 3-pointer with 0 seconds on the game clock tied the game and sent it to OT, and Houston went on to blow another game they should have won.

December 4th, 2010 - Derrick Rose celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer that tied the game against the Rockets, sending the game into overtime
Derrick Rose celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer that tied the game against the Rockets, sending the game into overtime. Click here for more photos from the game.

So now we’re back to the problems the Rockets have encountered all season long – play well enough to take leads, but not being able to close the deal.

Below I have broken down the big plays from about the halfway mark in the 4th quarter all the way through overtime so you can see just how they imploded down the stretch. Here are a few of the high-level takeaways that are referenced in those details:

– The Rockets pick-and-roll defense was terrible on Rose. Not just on that buzzer beater that forced the game into overtime, but blowing two other pick-and-rolls involving Rose to let him score.

Brad Miller played a great game in many ways, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 20 points, but he also was a problem, missing a big free throw (even though he’s an 88% FT shooter this season!) that could have iced the game (same goes for Kyle Lowry missing a FT late), being involved in those pick-and-roll breakdowns, and jacking up a terrible 3-pointer at the buzzer that had no chance when he had plenty of time to pass to an open man. It’s too bad he couldn’t do to the Bulls what he had done to the Rockets last season when he played for Chicago: be the nemesis that would beat them.

– I can understand why Luis Scola hasn’t been playing in late-game situations lately with Rick Adelman opting to play Jordan Hill instead. You’ll see in my breakdown why Scola is known for being a liability on the boards and defensively. I’m not sure why Adelman played Scola, and not Hill, late in this game, especially since Adelman said that Hill is the best player who can go get rebounds. And also since Brad Miller was on the court most of the 4th quarter and overtime, and Adelman recently stated he likes playing Miller and Hill together.

Before you read the details below, here are a few more observations from the game:

Jermaine Taylor got some early action in the second quarter (8 minutes) and had some good moves, scoring on 2-of-5 shots for 4 points. But Adelman didn’t play him the rest of the game, but continued to give Chase Budinger more playing time, and he responded with an 0-for-6 game and 1 point. Ouch.

I like Budinger, but he’s having a terrible year (35% shooting, 23% on 3-pointers), and I think it’s way past time to give Taylor more playing time. Maybe that will change up Budinger’s routine or something to knock him out of his funk because he is clearly hurting the team.

Kevin Martin didn’t play at all during the time I started and ended the breakdown (midway through the 4th quarter and through overtime). I understand he was sick, although he did score 14 points in 28 minutes on 5-of-10 shooting – sounds like he was okay to me. They could have really used his free throw shooting instead of Miller’s when the Bulls intentionally fouled him that could have won the game if he had hit both free throws.

Okay, here are the plays that show how the Rockets overcame their deficit, took the lead, then let it slip away, along with the game:

6:39 – Courtney Lee hits a 3-pointer. The Rockets pull within two points. It’s 89-87, Bulls.

6:04 – Hill scores on a jump hook over Boozer. Beautiful move and shot. 92-87 Bulls.

5:29 – Budinger misses a 3-pointer and Joakim Noah grabs the rebound, but Lowry steals the ball from Noah! Seven seconds later, Miller nails a three! 94-92 Bulls.

4:12 – Lee hits another 3-pointer, this time from the corner! 96-95 Bulls

3:39 – Brad Miller drops a nice bounce pass to Lee along the baseline on a backdoor play, Lee lays it in, and he’s fouled! That’s the Adelman offense we’ve always loved! Lee hits the free throw. 98-97, the Rockets take the lead!

3:20 – Lee steals the ball from Rose, who had it over his head after picking up the dribble!

3:06 – Brad Miller hits a three! 101-97 Rockets!

2:52 – Kyle Korver hits a wide-open 3-pointer off a pick-and-roll. Defensive breakdown. 101-100 Bulls.

2:35 – Lowry drives to the basket, misses a layup that’s contested, but Carlos Boozer is called for a loose ball foul against Scola, which is questionable. Scola makes both free throws. 103-100 Rockets.

2:22 – Scola loses Boozer by looking toward the baseline where Rose has dribbled, Roses pass the ball to Boozer, who gets a wide-open look at the elbow for a field goal. 103-102 Houston.

1:59 – Miller drives to the baseline and throws up a little jump hook, but misses. However, Rose is called for a loose ball foul against Lowry. Lowry makes both free throws. 105-102 Rockets.

1:29 – The Rockets play good defense to hold Chicago scoreless on two shot attempts.

1:04 – 24-second shot clock violation on Houston. Miller put up a tough shot that was blocked, but it came after the shot clock went off anyway.



0:24 – Scola allows himself to be easily pushed out from underneath the basket without any resistance by Boozer, and Boozer taps in a missed shot by Noah. 107-104 Rockets.

0:23.6 – Lowry is intentionally fouled by Rose. He misses the first free throw, but makes the second. 108-104 Rockets.

0:14.7 – Scola tried to block a Rose shot in the lane, but that low-percentage block attempt took himself out of the play, which allows Boozer to get inside position and grab the offensive rebound to lay it in.

0:10.7 – Miller missed one of two free throws. 109-106 Rockets.

0:00 – Rose gives the ball to Noah, then cuts back behind Noah’s screen to shake Courtney Lee. Rose rises up and nails a 3-pointer to tie the game. Lee should have fouled Noah by running into him as he was setting the screen. Tie ballgame.


3:33 – Lowry jumps into the air on a Luol Deng pump fake, opening up a lane to the basket that Deng drive through for a layup. 111-109 Bulls.

3:17 – Scola misses a contested layup in the lane.

3:07 – Miller blocks a Rose shot attempt near the rim. Good defense!

2:52 – Miller makes a 3-pointer! 112-111 Rockets.

2:28 – Noah gets a wide open pass in the lane for a layup, and is fouled by Scola on a bad, ticky-tack call by the ref on Scola! Miller came over to help on Rose, who broke down Lee to get into the lane. Scola didn’t help out in putting a body on Noah to keep him from getting wide open. Overall team defense breakdown. Noah misses the free throw. 113-112 Bulls.

2:08 – Scola scores on a nice jump hook in the lane. 114-113 Rockets.

1:49 – Rose gets wide open on a pick-and-roll very close to the same area where he hit his 3-pointer to tie the game. Lee got caught behind the screen, AND ROSE DRAINS A 3-POINTER AGAIN! 116-114 Bulls.

1:32 – Scola hits a jumper at the elbow. Tie game: 116-116.

1:17 – Courtney Lee gets caught behind another pick-and-roll with Noah and Rose, leaving a lane wide open for Rose to drive the lane and score. Miller stayed way out high, which didn’t help any in clogging the lane. The pick-and-roll defense on Rose has been terrible. 118-116 Bulls.

0:59 – Miller misses a 3-pointer

0:26 – Rose misses a jumper. Good one-on-one defense by Lee to contest the shot.

0:08 – Miller barely misses a wide open 3-pointer that could have given the Rockets the lead.

0:04.5 – Ronnie Brewer is fouled on a loose ball to stop the clock. Brewer makes only 1-of-2 free throws. 119-116 Bulls. The Rockets have a chance to tie it.

0:02 – Miller received the inbounds pass and put up a very low-percentage shot with 2 seconds remaining on the clock, which is still plenty of time to pass the ball to an open man. The shot falls way short. Game over. Meanwhile, Lowry was wide open behind the 3-point line Miller should have tried to pass the ball to. Rockets lose 119-116.

Random thought:

I watched the WGN broadcast of the game, and I’ve never seen a broadcast crew (that includes former Bull Stacey King) whine so much about a foul that didn’t happen. When Derrick Rose drove to the basket and missed it with 56 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter, they slowed down the replay and said Rose was fouled 3 different times on that one drive AND NONE OF IT WAS TRUE! THEY WERE MAKING UP FOULS THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN, and then continued to whine about it for a couple of minutes during a timeout. Give me a break!

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