Feb 4, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets mascot Clutch entertains the fans as the Houston Rockets play the Chicago Bulls in the second half at Toyota Center. Rockets won 101 tom90. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ariza: It quite literally felt like deja-vu watching Ariza Wednesday as he had one of his better offensive games, but his defense as usual was stellar especially on the perimeter and as was his help defense in the paint. The last time I remember him playing this well on both ends was during Howard’s first sustained absence.
With that said, other than Harden no Rocket can use this extended All-Star break as much as Ariza who has logged substantial minutes.
Donatas Motiejunas: If we get this Demo until Howard returns the Rockets are going to be in great shape. At different times in the game he went on his own mini-scoring streaks helping to pad the Rockets lead. He notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds shooting just under 50%.
Josh Smith: This was EXACTLY what Houston was hoping they were getting when they acquired Smith and to be honest I almost gave him MVP of the game.
His energy and effort on the court was contagious and visible to all watching the game. Even if you aren’t a proponent of keenly observing defensive sets, switching and slides it was impossible not to notice his activity on the court.
When he wasn’t blocking shots he was altering them and his chemistry with his team mates was also obvious as the whole unit could be seen looking like they were on a string for their defensive slides and switches.
Part of this may be due to Terrence Jones return, however I specifically noticed how well the head band brothers work together.
Also on full display was Smith’s passing ability and once again it’s noticeable specifically with Brewer. When Smith grabs a rebound his head is always up looking for Brewer in transition and easy buckets.
Of note: an interesting tidbit visiting announcers Shane Battier and Jeff Van Gundy shared last night was that it was actually Smith who requested to come off the bench not a mandated coaching choice as many people assumed. Bottom line I’ve liked what we’ve seen from Smith pretty much since the Suns loss and it feels like he might be the one to work in concert with Harden in leading the team with Harden taking the offensive lead, Smith taking the defensive lead and Ariza playing Robin to both Bat Men.
Joey Dorsey: Okay so who knew Dorsey had skills in the paint? Not once but twice Wednesday we saw him utilize a spin move to great benefit. The first time he spun and passed out to an open perimeter player and the second time he used the spin to move around Gasol and score. He had Battier and Van Gundy in shock on the sidelines. My thinking is perhaps his mentor was sitting in the front row as a spectator that evening: Hakeem Olajawon.
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I mean it makes sense Dorsey would take advantage of the Rockets Hall of Fame center given his proximity and relationship with the team.
What Joey lacks in talent he makes up for in desire and hard work, so if the Dream can teach him even a couple of moves it will be hugely beneficial especially with Howard out.
Ultimately Dorsey did a capable job at his primary responsibility which was blocking the paint, protecting the rim and rebounding.
Rest of the Bench: Though their stats don’t jump off the sheet I continue to be really impressed with Jason Terry‘s leadership and Corey Brewer‘s energy and positivity on the court. In one play Brewer stole the ball and as he was falling out of bounds he whipped the pass down court to a waiting Rocket.
As per above, his chemistry with Smith is tangible and feels like this unit that sat literally last or 29th for most of the season could end the year top 10 if they continue playing this way. For his part Terrence Jones had some nice contributions and worked well with the team, but wasn’t as big of a factor as his first few games. I’ve noted with most players returning from injury they come out of the gate strong and then suffer a minor set-back as fatigue catches up while they regain their conditioning.
Next: The Goat?