If you're one of our loyal fans who regularly checks and reads Bring Back Novak , I'd first off like to thank you for your support. All two of you. And I guess I can't really count myself, so thanks for reading my articles, Billy. It means a lot.
In any case, you have probably realized that we haven't been doing much posting. But I promise you, that's a thing of the past. And if you're thinking that I made this exact same promise about three weeks ago and spectacularly failed to come through on it, you're exactly right.
Broken promises and shoddy articles, that's the stuff we're made of here at Bring Back Novak . But in any case, a lot of stuff's been going on in Red Nation (an apology to all our Cherokee readers, that link was in jest) and it's our job to give you our two cents on them. And, I guess it's our job to also let you know that two cents is way, way too much to pay to hear what we have to say.
Houston Rockets 101, Los Angeles Lakers 91
A redemptive (I don't think that's a word) victory of sorts for the good guys. After a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Kobe's, we (read: Aaron Brooks and our bench) were able to steal a game in Los Angeles. I'll admit that I was only able to watch the first half and the last eight minutes of the fourth quarter thanks to Peyton Manning's heroics and my inability to change the channel, but I really, really liked what I saw. Especially the part when the Lakers fans started to boo them. Quality fans, Los Angeles, quality fans .
Brooks played like a man possessed, dropping 33 on 23 shots, Andersen saw Pau Gasol hurt and realized that one soft European had to step up his game, Carl Landry was as efficient as ever and Kyle Lowry was, for lack of a better phrase, an absolute bulldog.
The hands down best moment of the game was Lowry, by far the smallest guy on the floor at 6'0, grabbing two offensive rebounds on the same possession late in the fourth. You're not quite there yet, Andrew . Oh, and this happened. So yeah, thanks for that Ron. You're a real swell guy.
Houston Rockets 105, Phoenix Suns 111
Just as a disclaimer, I know I'm supposed to be mad at the Suns, but I really can't help but fawn over Steve Nash. So if you notice me starting to ramble feel free to gloss over a few sentences.
This was a hard, hard fought loss and I can't really blame the Rockets for not being able to beat a very talented, more experienced Suns team, who, by the way, seems to also be overachieving just a little. I had high expectations going into this game for the Nash vs. Brooks matchup, and the guys did not disappoint.
Brooks had a career high 13 assists and while Nash's shot wasn't falling, he still was able to get 16 of his own. Which, well, was not a career high for him. Not even close.
Watching Steve Nash play basketball is one of the few, pure, unadulterated joys man has left. Looking at his stats, impressive as they are, does not do the man justice. He's so smooth, so in control, so poised, he executes the pick-and-roll like no other and that pull-up jumper is one of the prettiest things I've ever seen. And believe me, I've seen some pretty things . Yes, that was necessary.
And then of course there's Goran Dragic, once commonly known as "The Other White Guy Who Kind of Looks Like Nash from a Distance but is Nowhere Near as Good," but now more frequently referred to as "The Guy Who Goes in to Make Sure People Realize How Good Nash is by Comparison." A career night for Carl Landry, who I'm convinced is our best, or at least most consistent, scorer. 27 points on 18 shots for The Toothless One .
But to briefly sum up the game, we came out hot, as usual, and were looking like we would take a double digit lead into halftime before the Suns utilized a 12-0 run to cut our lead to three at the break. Amar'e sort of had his way inside (I say sort of because until he realizes that to truly control the paint he has to do so on the defensive end of the floor as well as the offensive one he'll never really dominate the inside) and Jason Richardson had a couple of hot streaks, and the second half, especially the fourth quarter, was made up of us struggling to create quality shots against a surprisingly resilient Suns defense. All in all, a tough loss against a tough team, nothing to get too down about.
Houston Rockets 97, Minnesota Timberwolves 84
So, uh, looks like Ricky Rubio might have made the right decision after all. There really is nothing like playing the Timberwolves to get you back on track. Except, maybe, playing the Nets. Or the Warriors. Or the Grizzlies. Or the Clippers. Oh, those Clippers. Those poor, poor Clippers. In any case, this is why I wasn't too broken up about losing to the Suns. We had the Timberwolves next. But in all seriousness, this was actually a great win for the Rockets.
I don't think there's anything harder in the NBA than the end of a back-to-back that makes you leave home for the second game, as both the Suns and then Lakers have just shown us. Ariza once again struggled to prove that he can handle using 23 possessions a game, a usage rate that puts him just under Steve Nash. Ariza is a great player and is filled to the brim with talent, but that doesn't mean he needs to be a high volume player. He can dominate a game without having to hang on to the ball, and we need to more actively find ways for him to do that.
Still, a solid outing for Trevor, nothing that really deserves those last few sentences. Scola was the standout with 20 and 16. Landry came back down to Earth pretty hard, with a 5-0-0 line that looks like something Derek Fisher would boast. The game was a lot closer than the final score might indicate, with the 'Wolves hanging around for three and a half quarters before we finally put them away.
Al Jefferson was 20-10 on 9 shots and is starting to round back into last season's form, but was held down for the last eight minutes of the game after a Carl Landry kick to the head, which, not coincidentally, coincided with us pulling away and the Timberwolves struggling to score.
I take back that Derek Fisher joke, Carl, you might have just won the game for us. A much needed break in a tough game against an opponent desperate, and I truly mean desperate, for a win. 2010 and the long, flowing, Spanish hair it will bring can't come soon enough for the T-Wolves.
Houston Rockets @ Atlanta Hawks, Thursday (6:30 Central)
We've got the Hawks in Atlanta on Thursday in what's sure to be a great game. Josh Smith is reborn and re-topping my list of favorite non-Rockets, trailing only Steve Nash for the number one spot. Joe Johnson is Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford has been a revelation and Mike Bibby is, well, he's really old and showing signs of decline.
The key Thursday is containing Horford, who's truly been a man amongst boys so far this season. Like our own Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes, Horford is slightly undersized, even if it is to a lesser extent, and still manages to dominate the paint, even if it is to a greater extent.
Our bench output will need to be as strong as ever to counteract the combustible Jamar Crawford, because if he gets hot we'll need Landry, Lowry and Budinger to all produce, which is hardly unlikely. Andersen can help too. Defense will be essential tomorrow, as the Hawks are third in offensive efficiency in the NBA with a phenomenal 110.1 points per 100 possessions. To put that in perspective, we only score about 105 per 100.
Ariza, Hayes and company will also need to have hands as active as ever, as the Hawks are the second stingiest team with possession in the NBA as they turn the ball over just a shade under 21 percent of the time. If you're wondering whether there's a correlation between the Hawks' turnover rate and their offensive efficiency, there is, and if we can create turnovers and easy opportunities in transition it'll go a long way to helping us return home with the win.
In any case, it's going to be a fun one at Philips Arena, and hopefully we can leave the A-Town after handing the Hawks their first home loss of this young season. And, as always, go Rockets.