A major theme during the offseason was the depth that Daryl Morey put together for this team. Tonight that depth got to strut its stuff and it was glorious.
I actually was able to attend the game in person as well so I’ll give a few notes on the experience too.
Now the bad news is that Jeremy Lin went out with a leg contusion 4 minutes into the first quarter and that brought more bodies off the bench, but the good news is that they happen to be very talented bodies.
The Hawks struggled most of the night with damn near everything. Al Horford and Paul Millsap never found a rhythm with Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard playing solid interior defense on and off the ball. Millsap would get the ball iso-d on TJ and on the actual shot Dwight would swoop in for the block. That is a normal occurrence but multiple times TJ returned the favor against Horford and it was a wonderful glimpse into what that pairing could one day become.
The game was very rarely in doubt. Houston, despite being without Lin and Harden, was able to run the offense smoothly through the post. When the Hawks did make runs they were mostly based on a few consecutive open 3 pointers. Mchale would usually call a timeout, the Rockets would rotate just a little better and the Hawks would cool off. With Horford and Millsap mostly out of sync the Hawks looked completely lost. I had heard Jeff Teague was emerging as a playmaker but he never found his stride either. With Lin going out so early, he should have been licking his lips at facing Aaron Brooks for stretches but Patrick Beverly was pretty physical with him so maybe he was uncomfortable.
The other two folks that earned some attention were Francisco Garcia and Aaron Brooks.
I would say it was vintage Garcia but I bet he didn’t even play this well when he was young. He routinely bailed out the offense by hitting contested threes and off balance mid range shots. The leaning sideways pull up off the dribble shot seemed to be his weapon of choice on the night and if I was one of the MonStars I would have definitely thought I was there to steal his talent.
Aaron Brooks hit lots of three pointers, because that is how an Aaron Brooks do. It seriously looks too easy for him. In shoot around it seemed like we would just flip them in the hoop BUT HE WAS 27 FEET AWAY.
I want to say that the Rockets pump fake too much but truly it continues to throw defenders off balance or get them in the air and that leads to a lot of drive and kicks. Sometimes though, everyone is so busy trying to kick the ball out to the perimeter, that they pass up open shots. Ball movement was the key to the night, sometimes it was a little too unselfish but hey that’s a good problem to have.
The Toyota Center experience was great. I don’t think the seat pricing is terribly value based but that’s to be expected. The vendors tried to make me pay $26 for a beer, which I quickly spit back into the cup. And the scoreboard with a few metric stats like eFG% was very cool to follow. My favorite part of going to the games is seeing the player interaction that usually happens off camera; Casspi and Beverly going one on one, Dwight interacting with random crowd members, D-Mo and Omer practicing moves on each other. Little things like those help to grow my understanding of the team and also I grow attached to OK I’M GOING TO STOP BEFORE I START CRYING [sobs uncontrollably].
On a closing note, Terrence Jones is getting me extremely excited. I can only imagine how Daryl Morey feels but with Omri Casspi and TJ it seems like we may have found the future…or maybe he will just blow it all up for another star, it’s hard to tell with DM.
The statistical knitty gritty is here.
We do it again on Friday at 7 PM against Shady Oaks Retirement Home. Oh that’s not right. Uh, Brooklyn Nets.