Goran Dragic and the Rockets simply earned a win Wednesday they had to get. Simple as that, nothing more and nothing less.
WHO: Rockets 107, Bobcats 87
WHAT: Not much to say here. The Bobcats, who fell to 6-35 overall, are the worst team in the NBA, and Houston simply took care of business. There should be no gloating, happiness or excitement surrounding Wednesday’s win, simply because if the Rockets are to be taken seriously as a contender, a win like this should be the norm. Expected. Houston is 24-20 and has now won two in a row; however, it is still in 8th place in the West, having made up no ground even with winning two of its last three games. Houston is 1 1/2 games above Minnesota for 8th, and 3 games ahead of Phoenix and Utah. With the win, Houston improved to 10 games over .500 at Toyota Center.
WHAT HAPPENED?: The Rockets looked like the playoff team they think they are, and the Bobcats looked like the worst club in the league. No surprises here, and nothing really to write home about. Houston shot 53.7 percent from the field and assisted on 27 of 45 field goals, again showing the crisp ball movement it displayed in Tuesday’s win in Oklahoma City. Five players scored in double figures. Luis Scola had 14 of his game-high 23 points in the third quarter to put this one to bed early. Let’s sum it up like this: Hasheem Thabeet saw the floor. That should tell you everything. Houston held Charlotte to just 40.7 percent shooting, but that’s more indicative of the Bobcats’ lack of talent than Houston’s defense. Houston scored 60 points in the paint, a season high. The Bobcats were held to a season-low 28.
LEE GETS HURT: On the eve of the trade deadline, Courtney Lee left the game in the third quarter after suffering a hand contusion. Not good for teams who desire his services, but it apparently isn’t serious. Lee dislocated his finger in two spots and will wear a splint for six weeks, but said Wednesday after the game that he’s fine. Up until that point, he had scored 9 points in 32 minutes in the starting place of Kevin Martin, who sat out his second straight game with a sore shoulder. Lee is the Rockets’ most versatile perimeter player and a winner. Reports are the Rockets are asking for a lot in a deal for Lee, as they should. Either way, I hope he’s a Rocket come tomorrow night.
KYLE WHO? Just kidding (maybe), but backup Goran Dragic is doing his best to prove fans’ points that Kyle Lowry is expendable. Dragic is averaging 17.3 points on 53.2 percent (25-for-47) shooting overall, and 47.6 percent (10-for-21) shooting from behind the arc, to go with 8.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds since replacing Lowry in the starting lineup. While Lowry is the better defender and passer, and is as tough and gritty as they come, Dragic electrifies the offense with his penetration and risk-taking. It’s a tough call, but here’s what we do know: the Rockets have two point guards very capable of starting in this league. In my opinion, Lowry, the undeniable heart and soul of this team, should be the one who stays.
DEFENSE MATTERS: The Rockets are 12-0 when holding opponents to 42.4 percent shooting or worse. Needless to say, when this team defends, it is very tough to beat. The only thing is it picks and chooses when to play defense, and it does not have that luxury (few teams do). For the season, Houston is surrendering 98 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting, good for 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
ROCKETS’ DIAPER DANDIES UPDATE: It was a blowout win, so that meant Marcus Morris and Greg Smith saw time. In 7 minutes, 46 seconds, Morris missed all three of his shots and recorded two turnovers. He did not record another stat. Smith made his only field goal in the exact same amount of time, and also had two rebounds and two fouls.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?: As I stated, the win was expected. Even in the second game of a back-to-back following an inspired win against the West’s top team, you just have to beat teams like the Bobcats in your sleep, and the Rockets did. The good news is their reward is a two-day rest before lacing them up for a tough upcoming stretch at the Clippers on Saturday, at Phoenix on Sunday and versus the Lakers on Tuesday. All big games, obviously, even Phoenix, which is making a push for the 8th spot and is 20-22 overall, having won 7 of its last 10 games. The X-factor may be what kind of Rockets team will be taking the floor against the Clips Saturday. I don’t expect a blockbuster deal by today’s 2 p.m. trade deadline, but I expect a medium-sized deal (maybe multiple) that brings in picks and young talent. I wish a blockbuster would get done. There are a lot of empty pieces on this roster. But I don’t see it happening. Prove me wrong, Daryl Morey. Prove me wrong.