But the real Kyle Lowry made his first appearance this season while Brad Miller filled in beautifully for Yao as the Rockets pulled out the 102-99 win, their first road victory of the year, upping their mark to 2-6.
The game looked like a carbon copy of every other Rockets game this year: Houston holds a small edge with a few minutes to go, then the opponent takes over. Not this time. Kevin Martin (20 points, 5 boards) hit a big 10-foot jumper with 1:00 left, putting the Rockets up 5, and they held on for the win as Darren Collinson’s three to tie at the buzzer was not close.
Lowry, who has been a mess this year, played like he recently had a conversation with Adrian Balboa in a hospital room. He pushed the tempo, penetrated the defense and got physical with the Pacers on both ends of the floor. 13 points, 7 assists, 6 boards, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 1 energized team for Lowry.
The box score may not completely reflect it, but he made the difference tonight.
He did have some help though: Brad Miller, getting the start against Roy Hibbert, had his best game of the season, posting an impressive 23 points, 8 boards and 5 assists. He was effective in many ways — passing out of the high post, taking Hibbert off the dribble and, most unbelievably, knocking down the long ball. Miller was 3-3 from downtown, including a pair of treys in the fourth (the last of which tied the game).
There was more bad news, however — with just under a minute and a half left, Chase Budinger appeared to sprain his left ankle landing on Mike Dunleavy’s foot going for a rebound. Bud hit the court immediately and had to be helped off the floor by his teammates. You can only laugh to keep from crying at this point. Injury after injury piles up and, as a Rockets fan, it feels like it has been this way for years. Hoping for a good report on Budinger, but this is his third ankle injury since he’s been with the team.
Luis Scola scored the first 6 Rockets points of the game and he added 9 more in the third period, finishing with 16 points and 9 boards. I wouldn’t say Jordan Hill (4 points, 2 blocks) had a complete game tonight, but he sure had a couple of nice highlights in the form of nasty jams.
The New York Knicks are the dance partner for Sunday and though every game is big right now, this one is especially large for the franchise. The Rockets own the rights to swap first round draft picks with the Knicks in 2011, so a Rockets win combined with a Knicks loss is doubling your pleasure. After gaining some early respect with a 3-2 start, New York has dropped four straight. No doubt Jordan Hill would love to make that five.