GAME 41: Rockets 112, Nets 106


There was a Jonny Flynn sighting on Saturday in New Jersey.

WHO: Rockets 112, Nets 106

WHAT: The Rockets snapped a five-game losing streak in Newark on Saturday, improving to 22-19 overall. Prior to Saturday, without playing a game, Houston moved from 9th in the West to now 7th. They also got a bit of news that is sure to aid in their hopes to make the playoffs: the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday reported that prized point guard phenom Ricky Rubio is out for the season with a torn ACL. It won’t help hugely though, since the Wolves are still OK at point guard with JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour. Still, the Rockets did some things Saturday on their own that were impressive. One, they won the road, just their seventh win away from Toyta Center in 20 tries. And two, they won without their leader and star playmaker Kyle Lowry.  Their depth, for the first time in quite a while, showed up, as six players scored in double figures, and backup Goran Dragic played exceptionally in Lowry’s place. For once, it was easier to pick out the Rocket that didn’t play well (See: Martin, Kevin) than the ones that did.

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Rockets still aren’t playing much defense, having surrendered 104 points per game in the six games since the All-Star break leading up to Saturday, and then proceeding to allow 106 to a Nets team without its two All-Stars, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.  The Rockets allowed the Nets to shoot 53.1 percent from the field, including 37.5 percent (9 of 24) from 3-point range. However, with or without defense, Houston is indeed a tough team when all the stars align just right and their offense clicks to its potential, and that was the case Saturday.  Houston shot 56.1 percent from the field, including a blistering 56 percent (9 of 16) from 3. They assisted on 28 of 46 field goals to boot, and all 10 players that saw the floor scored. Because of the aforementioned depth and because of the slew of offensive-minded individuals, the Rockets are a tough out when they’re moving the ball and moving bodies and shooting at a nice percentage. They just haven’t been doing a lot of that this season.

HILL RETURNS: Jordan Hill returned from a lengthy stay on the inactive list (just in time for the trade deadline) and played 9 minutes Saturday. He had 2 points, 2 rebounds, an assist and a block, not bad in his first game back from injury. There were thoughts that his absence was a  big reason why the Rockets had been outrebounded in 10 of their last 11 games. I doubt it. But we’ll see. They did outrebound the Nets by 1, so I guess there’s that.

POINT OF ATTACK: With Lowry out and Dragic starting, Jonny Flynn finally saw some floor time as the backup Saturday. He had 2 points and 3 assists, to 1 turnover, in 10 minutes, but missed four of his five shots. Speaking of the point guards, if Lowry is on the trading block, Dragic performed admirably to assure fans he could potentially step right in. He had 23 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds in 37 minutes, and only committed two turnovers. He hit 8 of his 14 shots, including 4 of 7 3s. While I’m hesitant to believe in him as our fulltime point guard (he’s more of a 2 in a 1’s body), he did pretty well, though, mind you, his opponents were Jordan Farmar and Sundiata Gaines. So, take that for what it’s worth. I do like Flynn, and I like that he thinks pass-first. He also has nice potential as a defender who can stay in front of his man. I’m not quite ready to give up on him just yet.

KEVIN MARTIN WATCH: In hopes that he’s a goner by Thursday, let’s keep an eye on ol’ K-Mart. He only played 17 minutes Saturday, and scored 5 points on 2-for-5 shooting. He did not record a rebound, assist, steal, block, turnover or foul. Yay for apathy! Backup Courtney Lee played 30 minutes and scored 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting to go with 4 assists and 2 rebounds. I like coach Kevin McHale’s quicker hook on Martin these days, but it’s best he’s just out of the lineup altogether. GM Daryl Morey better sell now before his stock gets any lower.

PARSONS EXPANDS GAME: He’s not just a defender/glue guy anymore, Rockets fans. Upstart rookie Chandler Parsons is also becoming a menace offensively. In his last six games, Parsons – whose idea of a nice offensive play used to be the tipped dunk – has blitzed the scoreboard, averaging 11.3 points on a sizzling 69 percent shooting. His confidence is blossoming in leaps and bounds on that end of the floor, and for good reason. He’s athletic, has the aggressiveness and a good enough shooting touch to where he can cause problems and open things up. Great to see.

ROCKETS’ DIAPER DANDIES UPDATE: Neither Marcus Morris or Greg Smith played. Morris was a DNP-CD (Did Not Play: Coach’s Decision) and Smith was not active.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?: It’s a win, and that’s a heck of a lot better than what the Rockets have been getting lately. Their defense is still a significant wart, and I’m not sure exactly what to take out of a close victory against a putrid Nets team without its top two players in Williams and Lopez. The play of Dragic was really encouraging, and Chase Budinger’s professionalism despite yo-yoing, off-and-on minutes has been admirable. He had 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting with 5 rebounds, and it’s a sign the players believe in McHale and trust him (well, except if you’re Kevin Martin). The Rockets play at Cleveland tonight, and that will be a bit of a better test as the Cavs are a surprising 7-6 against the West this season. The Rockets will be without Lowry again, and they’re only 1-6 in back-to-backs that end on the road. But all that matters at this point is getting wins, especially on the road, and making up ground as fast as you can.