The good news is the Rockets (3-6) are now riding their first winning streak of the season. The better news is the New York Knicks (3-7) look terrible, which could lead to them coughing up a nice lottery pick to the Rockets in an exchange of picks this June.
While Martin and Scola did what they have done all season — score efficiently and in bunches — it was Hayes’ defense that stole the show.
Amar’e Stoudemire (25 points, 8 boards) averaged nearly 30 points and over 10 boards last season against Houston, so it was no big shock that he was tearing the Rockets up early. He hit six of his first seven shots and had 12 points just seven minutes into the game. Amar’e had his way against a bigs lineup of Scola and Brad Miller (8 points, 3 boards), scoring 19 points on 8-12 shooting when not facing Hayes.
But against the Chuckwagon? Forget about it. Stoudemire was 1-6 for 5 points (3-6 from the free throw line). His only field goal against Hayes came in garbage time with 0:21 left. Chuck was that good.
Kyle Lowry (7 points, 7 boards, 6 assists, 3 steals) started this one and though he did go just 1-6 from the field and turned it over 5 times, he really ran the show. Midway through the first quarter I commented on Twitter that I liked the Rockets ball movement — it was sharper tonight and that was initiated by Lowry. The Rockets have been battered by bad news lately, but the biggest bright spot right now is the return of Lowry.
Speaking of ball movement, right after Courtney Lee came into the game, there was a play where the Rockets were whipping the ball around the perimeter and the ball just stopped in his hands. The flow was killed as he tried to take his defender, missing from 20-feet out. That wasn’t the first time that scenario played out for Lee and I couldn’t help but wonder when he was going to be effective for the Rockets.
Ish was dishin’, too. He had five assists in just 12 minutes of action, including four of those in the second half. Two of those passes saw Jordan Hill (10 points) as the beneficiary — Ish ran the break and found Hill for slams in transition (See: Video).
Wins. It’s nice to see the Rockets finally string a pair of them together. They’re without key players in Yao Ming, Aaron Brooks and Chase Budinger, but Scola and Martin are stepping up and the team is getting some strong point guard play to light the way.
The Rockets come back home to face the Chicago Bulls (5-3) on Tuesday before hitting the road again for a pair against the Thunder and Raptors. Joakim Noah comes in as the league’s 2nd-best rebounder (13.3) and 10th best shot-blocker (2.0). Carlos Boozer is still out with an injury but that hasn’t phased Derrick Rose (23.6 ppg, 9.5 assists) — Lowry will have his hands full.