Okay, this is getting very frustrating. Today’s game was very winnable. In fact, we should have won this game. Once again, we made small incremental in defense but they just weren’t big enough. Turnovers were better at 12 but there were still a lot of unnecessary giveaways from the Rockets that led to CP3-led fast-breaks. It was a good team performance from the Hornets, with CP3 scoring 25, most of them in the fourth quarter to ice the game.
I mentioned the referees being impressive in their calling in the Nuggets game, letting the players play the game. Today was the complete opposite for me. There were a total of 48 fouls called today, including a couple of the ludicrous “complaining against the official” technical fouls. As a Rockets supporter, I obviously thought most of the calls were going against us. I mean, the Hornets did get to the line 42 times compared to just 18 free throw attempts from us. Unlike the other day against GSW, when the Golden State announcers were mocking the disparity in free throw shots, we did take the ball into the paint very consistently.
There were also some wacky foul calls called today. Scola was called for a bogus call on the first play of the game. Later Yao was turned away from West, who ran into his hip and then stumbled out of bounds. Yao got called for the foul. Every time Okafor got the ball in the paint and hoicked up an ugly shot and missed, he was rescued by a foul. Every time CP3 ran the pick-and-roll with David West, West would slide over after the pick had been set. He got called only once. I’m not even exaggerating. I watched West in every pick and roll for a stretch and he would keep moving over.
In contrast, it appears that the referees had some sort of referendum against calling fouls on Kevin Martin’s plays. Both him and Scola have been getting to the line consistently this season by getting to the paint. Today they shot a total of 11 free throws between them. Probably a good thing for Martin, since he went from shooting 31 straight free throws this season to missing 3 out of 9 attempts today, to end with a Shaq-esque 67% from the line.
Let me quickly recap the quarters. The first quarter was played at a fair clip with both teams looking good out of the gates. Yao was shooting decently. CP3 was getting into the paint at will and dumping it off to his trees in the low post. The second quarter was played at a much slower pace and the Rockets actually seemed to thrive in it. We were running our offense well and our bench contributed some important minutes. The second half was once again a let down. After giving up only 43 points in the first half, we gave up and inexcusable 64 in the second. Even accounting for garbage-time free throws, this is unacceptable. Especially with CP3 sitting out large periods.
It’s hard to find very many positives from this game, even though we played okay. No one really stood out too brightly. Yao was good in periods, but he should have shot way better than 5-11 when he was being guarded pretty much in single coverage in the high post. He wasn’t aggressive enough and as usual his rebounding and boxing out was non-existent. Jordan Hill, I thought, provided a spark off the bench that may him see bigger minutes in the coming games. In his 26 minutes he had 9 boards, including 4 off the offensive glass, as well as 3 monster blocks. Unfortunately for him, these blocks seemed to ricochet straight to wide open Hornets players who dutifully knocked down open jumpers.
Budinger’s final numbers look okay but he missed a couple of very open jumpers and made a few bad shot decisions during his time in the game. Definitely not his worst performance. He’s getting to be a little more consistent off the bench, but he does take a lot of shots.
Kyle Lowry’s three-point shooting today was a surprise. He ended up taking 2 quick, contested threes early into his minutes that had me groaning. He did make his next two threes so it’s obvious that he’s been working on that part of his game and is eager to showcase it to league. However, I don’t think he’s consistent enough to be isolating his defender and hitting it from range.
Scola was all over the place today, both offensively and defensively. He was 4-15 today and was missing a bunch of hook shots that were falling against the Nuggets earlier this week. He wasn’t getting any help from the refs, either, and it’s pretty hard to make a shot when you’ve got defenders all over your arms. His rebounding is still beastly (he had 16 today) but his defense today was very, very bad.
There was a stretch in the third quarter, when the Rockets had pulled close and were playing good defense with most of the Hornets’ starters on the bench, where Jason Smith hit three straight mid-range jumpers where he was wide open. Our help defense on pick-and-rolls was good for the guy handling the ball, but we were showing too hard and failing to pick up the rolling defender. We weren’t playing the angles well, either, and it looked like our guards and forwards were always confused on pick-and-rolls as to who they were supposed to guard following the pick. When it’s all said and done, if you’re giving a guy like Jason Smith 14 points on the night, it’s probably from open shots (which was in fact the case) which means that our opponents just need to move the ball around a little more than normal to get their shot.
I thought Shane Battier was also disappointing today. He’s made a career out of making corner threes (or wide-open threes, in general) but so far this season he hasn’t been connecting all that consistently. The fact that Bud ended up playing more minutes than Battier off the bench makes me think that that may be one of the areas Adelman is looking to change it up in the coming games. This is obviously not working for us right now, with our team down 0-4.
I’ve complained about the officiating, but I will give the Hornets some credit for playing a tight, albeit boring, game. They were very careful with the basketball and didn’t try to make any highlight plays. Against a defense like the Rockets, which is struggling in transition as well as in half-court sets, all they needed to do was move the ball around and eventually you would end up finding an open man. As has been the case throughout the season, our opponents have been hitting open shots while we have been missing them.
Down 0-4, the warning bells are ringing very loudly. I think before the season started, the worst case we thought we would be in today was 1-3. Most people expected a 2-2 or even a 3-1 start. Only the optimists were expecting a 4-0 start. I don’t know what RA and his crew can do in the short-term. Our next match-up is another tough defensive team in the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve made a few athletic off-season pick ups and have looked good running the break, too. Tim Duncan has looked like he is winding the clock back to the Spurs’ championship days. I hate to say it, but it looks like an 0-5 start now. With that kind of start, even the Timberwolves have a chance against players who will definitely be low on confidence.
I’m not sure what Erick Dampier’s status is or when he will be joining the team. One certainly hopes it is this weekend because Yao will not be playing against the Wolves and lack of a proper post presence will be making Kevin Love salivate. Speaking of the Wolves, even they have managed a win this season. In fact, the only remaining winless teams in the league as of today are Detroit, Houston and the LA Clippers. Not exactly fine company.
We need to turn it around and we need to turn it around quick.