This article has also been posted, with edits, to BleacherReport.com.
Game 1 of the NBA 2010-2011 season and it couldn’t have come a moment sooner. After Miami struggled to gel and went down to a defensively strong Celtics team, the icing on the cake would have been for the Rockets to upset the Lakers in their own building right after the ring ceremony. And we got very close to that but fell short at the distance.
The Rockets opened up a big lead in the first half–I think it was up to almost 15 or 17 points at one stage. The Lakers trimmed it down to 11 at the half and then came out played solid defense in the second half. So solid, in fact, that the Rockets went from hovering around the 50% mark in shooting from the field to the 30s. Their offense was helped in no small part by the repeated second chance points as they got offensive rebound after offensive rebound to score off their misses. In fact, looking at the final box score, the Rockets shot better from the field and the free throw line, had more offensive and defensive boards and more assists. They made one fewer three pointer (which in hindsight was probably the difference) and committed far too many turnovers. You can’t afford to give a team like the Lakers five extra possessions and come away with the win.
Anyways, let me quickly dissect the positives and negatives of this game from the Rockets POV.
What worked for us today was our backcourt. Martin and Brooks dominated, scoring 50 points off 15/33 shooting with 7 combined three pointers off 12 attempts. If Martin hadn’t gotten into foul trouble for guarding Kobe, this game could’ve ended up differently. As it happened, Martin ended the game with fewer than 30 minutes. Brad Miller fit into the scheme very well indeed. Both of his assists were in the high post to players cutting the baseline–once Martin and once Budinger. Both players ended up with 3-point plays. I even saw him run the floor in one of the breaks and his 9 boards off the bench is something we will be counting on.
Budinger had good numbers without being spectacular. Courtney Lee looked pretty good in the minutes he played, but he will need to get rid of the one-on-one basketball that he tried in the fourth as the Lakers were on a run. He had a couple of fast breaks that will definitely be useful going up against teams that have poorer transition defense.
Yao Ming was the biggest negative for me, although it is a bit unfair since this is his first “real” game back. Although he did grab 11 boards in his just-under 24 minutes, he missed a bunch of wide open layups. Missing a layup when you can touch the rim with your feet still on the ground is not something I am too impressed with. Hopefully it’s just a conditioning thing, though. He also missed a bunch of box outs that allowed Odom and Gasol’s stats look a lot better than they should have.
Our rebounding as a whole was pretty disappointing although Scola did pick up the slack eventually. Kobe did go 8-20, not his best night, but there were times when he looked unstoppable. None of Battier/Martin/Lee seemed to even bother him and many of the shots he missed were just rimming out. Hopefully this is just a case of Kobe being Kobe, but we may well struggle with other Western Conference playmakers such as Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, etc.
The team as a whole failed on protecting the ball, with our starters dishing out 16 of our 20 turnovers.
This was a good start to the season as a pessimistic Rockets fan (which I’m not) but it was a very winnable game. The Lakers have a lot of new pieces that don’t have the experience playing in this offense. The Rockets have a lot of new pieces as well, but many of these pieces have played the Adelman offense before.
It was interesting that neither of Jeffries/Jordan Hill were entered into the rotation given that we were being burnt by the Laker bigs on the glass (particularly Odom). Perhaps Adelman figured that we needed to beat the Lakers with our offense rather than our defense and decided to keep guys who could put points on the board (although to be fair, Jeffries/Hill would probably have taken the Chuckwagon’s minutes, and he didn’t really give up that many boards).
Anyway, here’s hoping that we’ve fixed the kinks and dominate the Warriors tomorrow!