Rockets News

Dwight Howard Heats Up as Rockets Blow Out Miami

By Tamberlyn Richardson
5 of 5

Jan 2, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Houston Rockets forward Kostas Papanikolaou (16) drives past New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Rockets 111-83. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

X Factor:

Kostas Papanikolaou started his rookie season playing more minutes then initially expected based on numerous injuries to the team, but his own injury (first degree sprained MCL in his knee) resulted in him missing games. By the time he was ready to return to the line-up new additions Corey Brewer, Josh Smith and Alexey Shved had joined the team. Coach McHale was trying to integrate the new players and therefore Papanikolaou had several DNP/CD (did not play, coaches decision).

However in the restructured line-up which saw Motiejunas and Smith switch starting spots the other ace McHale pulled out of his sleeve was a reintroduction of Papanikolaou to a return in minutes off the bench. There was immediate benefits in this move as he provides a good ball handler to play in concert with Smith and with the energy of Brewer and Smith his steadiness of hand works well.

Further his rebounding was an added bonus as he collected 7 rebounds, 5 of which were offensive and had 2 steals.

His plus/minus of plus +22 ranked behind only Howard and Smith.

In the end, Trevor Ariza who tied his career high of steals with 6, summed up the Rockets best win of the season following their worst loss the night previous with these words:

"“We were embarrassed last night,” Ariza said. “We know we’re a better team that what we showed and the way we’ve been playing. Tonight we needed to try to turn things around. The best way to do it was to step it up on the defensive end and we did that.”"