Houston Rockets-New Orleans Hornets: Rockets Move on Without McGrady

Bhagwat KumarContributor IDecember 30, 2009

For a moment tonight, I was slightly confused. I was at the Toyota Center when suddenly the Rockets roster (sans Vince Carter's favorite dunking cousin ) trotted out of the tunnel and began to warm up.

What dumbfounded me was the way the players acted as though the had an upcoming game, almost as if they weren't all present to partake in the scheduled group interview about McGrady.

Then, I saw the New Orleans Hornets come out of the visitors tunnel, only to began taking jumpers and stretching out.

"Strange," I thought to myself. "I didn't know Tracy had any connection with New Orleans. But I guess if they want to join our sermon on McGrady, they're welcome."

I'm really running out of ways to go with this little story, so I'll just stop this convoluted mess and move on to the point I'm trying to get across. In the midst of this seemingly all-encompassing drama that is Tracy Mcgrady's recent tenure as a Rocket, we still had a game to play.

So, for lack of a more eloquent way of phrasing the forthcoming statement, I'm glad that, at least for two hours, we were able to shut the hell up about T-Mac and watch an actual basketball game.

Without boring you with any more misguided attempts at an introductory paragraph or any semblance of proper prose or literary structure, I'd like to get to recapping our 108-100 victory over our fellow Southwest Division members, the New Orleans Hornets.

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The Good

I didn't really know where to throw this in, so I'm just going to mention it right here. Anytime your opponent has Darius "How the Hell Is He Actually Still In The League?" Songaila as a rotation player, you're in pretty good shape. In a related note, Songaila is making about 1.5 times as much money as Carl Landry. So yeah, umm, no regrets there.

Aaron Brooks was magnificent tonight, netting 27 points on just 12 shots. Brooks had an effective field goal percentage of 87.5 while only turning the ball over once. In other words, he watched Trevor Ariza play and decided to do the exact opposite .

Shane Battier had his out-of-nowhere offensive explosion, going 5 for 8 from beyond the arc en route to 20 points. It's the second time Battier has topped 20 all season, and on a night when Carl Landry wasn't his usual ultra-efficient self, we need every point we could get.

The Rockets also played excellent defense on Chris Paul. We "held" him to just 16 points on 47 percent shooting, and although the ever-magnificent Paul still managed a triple-double, it never felt like he was truly dominating the game. When you're going against a once-in-a-generation point guard like Paul, that in itself is a win.


The Bad

Trevor Ariza was Trevor Ariza once again, going 5 of 15 from the field, 2 for 8 from three and missing one of his two late free throws. Nothing new here, just continued disbelief that the man is playing 37 minutes a night. Ariza's become a paragon for offensive futility.

If I see him slowly fake left and then drive right one more time in the next 24 hours, I might just throw an elbow at the head of the first guy near me. Wait, no, that's not right. To be fair, though, this dunk did seal the game for the Rockets.

David West scored a sneaky 44 points on us. I'm not sure about this, and I'm certainly too lazy to do the research, but I think that's a career high for him. This isn't as bad as it seems, since we got 31 from our power forward rotation and, although he was scoring in droves, it never really seemed like West was controlling the game.

We were also able to limit him to just eight in the fourth quarter. I'm not sure if this is merely correlation or actual causation, but the Hornets also scored just 18 in the final period. 

The Rockets offense struggled in the third quarter and the Hornets outscored us by 18 in those 12 minutes, the only period they won. It didn't hurt us today, but 13 point quarters won't get it done against the better teams in the league.

And, although at this point saying this has to be like continually flogging a dead and substantially decayed horse, we still need to find a guy who can kick-start the offense when we struggle like we did in the third.


The Ugly

This is a sorry-ass excuse for a cop-out, but for the ugly tonight I'm going with the weather. How the hell this relates to basketball, I don't know, but it was shitty outside today after the game and somebody needs to hear about it. I'm just sorry it had to be you.

I have just a few more random observations/comments I'd like to point out, so bear with me for a few more paragraphs.

For starters, Landry's numbers weren't as stellar as they usually are tonight. I'd like to point out that it really was no fault of his own, had a few rolls and spins gone the right way he would have easily been 12-16.

Trevor Ariza constantly shows flashes, only they're surrounded by much longer periods of sheer darkness. He had two fantastic drives which he finished with dunks, only every other time he got the ball in the lane he tried to finesse his way into finger-rolls and layups. It truly boggles me how he can find a method of scoring that works for him and then blatantly ignore it the next ten times he shoots the ball.

I know it seems like I constantly criticize him, but, at the risk of sounding like a self-important prick, he keeps doing things that warrant criticizing. He turns the ball over on lazy passes twice a game, refuses to change his shot selection and is starting to sulk on the end of the bench by himself more often, an intriguing if not slightly worrying observation.

David West, as good as he is, can't really influence a game. Even though he put up 44 points it never really seemed like it, except for a brief amount of time in the third quarter in which he appeared to score four or five times in a row.

Down the stretch he failed to find the bottom of the net during key possessions and resorted to turnaround jumpers or fade-aways to score points, never really seeming like he had a reliable go to move or method of creating shots for himself.

And if you're wondering why I didn't use "score" instead of "find the bottom of the net," it's because I used score in the previous sentence, and, much like Peja Stojakavic's inherent fear of the space inside the three point line, repetition scares the hell out of me.

If you were wondering why Devin Brown was playing for the Hornets tonight (not because he really brings little/nothing to the table anymore, that's irrelevant for now), it's because he wasn't actually traded to the Timberwolves . So yeah, all you Devin Brown fans, don't worry...screw it, I'm not going to pretend like people care about Devin Brown.

And, to follow up my denouement with a proper conclusion (yeah, that's right, all that stuff earlier about not being able to organize writing was a clever ruse, so there), your Houston Rockets once again came away with a win against a team people expected to be better than us before the season started.

It was a solid win for the heroes of Red Nation, a game that exemplified our grit and perseverance, as it saw the Rockets allow a ten point lead to turn into an eight point deficit in a single quarter, only to regain control of the game and come away with the victory.

We've got 19 wins against 13 losses now, and Dirk and the Mavericks come to town on Thursday. Until then, rest easy, Houston, the Rockets may just yet be able to overcome the crippling loss of Tracy McGrady. And that, my friends, was sarcasm.

Insincere statements meant to cause a comedic effect and potentially incite laughter aside, as always, go Rockets.


Tonight's Stats

Houston Rockets: 117.4 points scored per 100 possessions, 108.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, 92 possessions.

New Orleans Hornets: 108.7 point scored per 100 possessions, 117.4 points allowed per 100 possessions, 92 possessions

All statistics courtesy of hoopdata.com