One of the Rockets “keys to the game” was to stop Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. Yeah… that didn’t quite work out.
Rose exploded for 33 points — including 17 in the game-changing fourth quarter — as the Rockets fell 95-92 Tuesday night at home to the Bulls.
The Rockets would have won the game if officials had not used a new rule allowing them to go back and check the replay. Kyle Lowry hit a three late in the fourth as the shot clock expired which was ruled good, but a few minutes later the officials overturned it after taking a look at it on video. The same happened again a few minutes later on a Lowry drive as the clock expired. In both instances it was the right call, but that didn’t make it any less painful to watch points get yanked off the board that you thought were in the bank.
Still, the Rockets should have won the game just the same if not for an abysmal start to the fourth quarter. The Rockets led 81-73 going into the final frame and then watched Rose turn the Toyota Center into his personal Pop-a-Shot. The Bulls went on an 18-0 blitz — yes, that’s right, eighteen — with 14 of those points scored by Rose. An 8-point Rocket advantage became a 10-point deficit.
You can’t win many ballgames when you take a nap for a 5-minute stretch in the most crucial of quarters.
There was also a questionable tactic employed by Rick Adelman that has drawn criticism from the fans. After getting off a bad shot with 32 seconds left, the Rockets got back on defense, down by just three. A defensive stop and rebound would give the Rockets the ball back with a minimum of 7-8 seconds left and a chance to tie. Instead, out of a timeout, Adelman called on his players to foul right away. Joakim Noah made both at the line and it was a fouling game the rest of the way, a game the Rockets could not win.
Luis Scola continues his terrific season with 27 points on a mighty efficient 11-17 from the floor (against a very good defense). Brad Miller added 21 against his old mates. Kevin Martin chipped in 18, but did not have a good shooting night, going 5-15 from the field.
Rebounding (40-32 Bulls) hurt the Rockets — no Houston player grabbed more than five. The Rockets bench also was a disaster tonight, getting outscored 29-8. Yes, the team is missing three key players (Yao Ming, Aaron Brooks, Chase Budinger), but that’s no excuse for Courtney Lee, who had an “Is he playing?” type stat line: 14 minutes, 2 points, 3 fouls, 4 turnovers and a -22 on the court production.
I thought Lowry, who had a pretty good road trip in which it appeared he was rounding back into form, struggled tonight. Yes, he had to handle Rose, was up against a very good defense and played very heavy minutes (43), but he didn’t impact the game like he had in Indiana and New York. My hope right now is that he’s a little out of shape from the injuries and will get better as we go.
The Rockets will have to get sleep on the plane. Houston heads to Oklahoma for the tail end of their back-to-back, taking on Kevin Durant (28.4 ppg), Russell Westbrook (23.5 ppg, 7.7 assists) and the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight.
The Rockets have not beaten an above-.500 team to date. This would be a good start.