Pleased to see ya, K-Mart.
Going to Sactown Royalty II: The Peachquel? Well then you might be interested in the official StR Night II t-shirt. We loved all the entries, but there could be just one winner. And that winner was M4L, a Kings fan lurker who submitted this gem:
Buy the t-shirt here. (Quickly, too: just two weeks until StR Night II has arrived.) (And FYI, no StR profit in this shirt -- the price is Spreadshirt's base production price.)
Still need StR Night II tickets? Buy 'em quick!
THE SCOUTING REPORT
HighTops has the word:
Houston has had the worst record of any team in the West during the last 10 games (3-7). They’ve fallen out of the playoff race and are currently tied with New Orleans, four games behind Portland for the 8th spot. The Rockets' success is based on defense and their ability to beat the weaker teams. They are 15-7 against sub-.500 teams and 15-22 against teams over .500. They hold their opponent under 100 ppg about 50% of the time. But when their opponent scores 100 pts or more, the Rockets are only 10-22.
Houston and Sacramento have almost identical PPG, FG%, and 3P%, but the Rocket’s allow four fewer ppg. In fact both teams have almost identical stats in Rebs, Blocks, Steals and Turnovers. And after starting out the season very well, both teams have done poorly since Jan. 1st. Houston is 8-11 at home and 3-9 on the road since New Year’s Day, and both teams are 2-4 since the trade deadline with the two wins coming at home.
Strangely, two games after the trade deadline that brought Kevin Martin to Houston, Rockets starting SG Trevor Ariza injured his hip and Martin moved into the starting SG spot. Similarly, three games after the deadline Jason Thompson had a back injury, guaranteeing Carl Landry, the other half of the big trade, the starting PF spot.
As good as Houston is defensively, they have a tendency of coming out at the beginning of games with a lack of energy and discipline. But, as easy as it is for them to give up 60 in the first half, they’re more than capable of holding you to 40 in the second half to get back in the game. They won’t do it by blocking shots: they’re the fourth-worst shotblocking team in the league.
Rick Adelman is pretty much the same coach as he was in Sacramento. Even back in December he had cut his rotations to eight or nine players, and even with all the player changes since the trade, he’s again into an 8- or 9-player rotation. And he’s playing all his starters extended minutes. Martin and Aaron Brooks are the backcourt and Shane Battier, Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes make up the frontline. With Ariza and Kyle Lowry on the injured list, Chase Budinger, David Andersen, and Jared Jefferies are his main reserves.
Martin’s game was off for the first couple of games, but since then he’s playing like the same Kevin that started the season for the Kings.
"We’re playing better which is encouraging. I feel better about the way the team is playing and about the way we’re finding ways to score. We’re running more, we’re going to the free throw line more, and we’re getting easy baskets," said Scola.
Martin is already Houston’s leading scorer-averaging 24.2 ppg on 42% field, 39% from three, and 92% from the FT line. In six games he’s already hit 50 of 56 from the foul line.
Aaron Brooks is 2nd in scoring with 19.7 ppg on 43% field, 39% from three, and 81% from the FT line. In the same six games he’s 13-16 from the line and averaging 23.8 ppg.
Shane Battier, the 8th year SF, is scoring 8.4 ppg on 42% field and 43% from 3’s and 7 rpg.
Luis Scola, their leading rebounder at 8 rpg, is scoring 12.5 ppg on 44.7% from the field.
Chuck Hayes, the 6-6 Center, who has started all 59 games this season, is scoring 4.5 pts/ 5.5 rebs on 47% shooting.
The two teams have played twice with the Kings wining at Arco Arena on November 13th 109-100. JT was the leading scorer and rebounder for the Kings with 27/12. Beno and Tyreke each played 40 minutes and combined for 42 pts, 9 rebs, and 8 assists while Brooks and Ariza combined for 38 pts, 7 rebs, and 10 assists. The Kings controlled the board 54-35 and the offensive glass 16-9. But the Kings turned the ball over 18 times to only 10 by the Rockets.
In the 2nd meeting two weeks later in Houston, the Rockets won 113-106 by outscoring the Kings 33-22 in the 4th quarter. The Kings were without Tyreke, who had a hand injury. Spencer Hawes was the leading scorer and rebounder for the Kings with 24/9, and the starting backcourt of Beno and Donte Greene combined for 31 pts. Omri had 13 pts off the bench, while Carl Landry scored 20 pts off Houston’s bench. In total Houston’s bench outscored the Kings bench 42-23. Houston won the rebounding battle 42-38 and 12-9 on the offensive glass, but Landry had a total of 7 rebounds with 4 offensive rebounds.
Neither team is playing exceptionally well, although the Kings did score over 100 pts against 2 good defensive teams, Utah and OKC. And the Kings defense has looked better with their new line-up. Martin and Landry seem to have worked themselves into their new teams line-ups fairly well. But the lack of size on Houston’s front line should give the rebounding advantage to the Kings; although the Rockets 3-point shooting should keep them in every game.
Landry and Hayes are best friends and we might see Spencer defend Scola just so the friends can battle to see who’s best. Since Martin was out most of the year, Beno may have more experience guarding him, but that would leave the unenviable task of guarding Brooks to Tyreke. The game could very well come down to which team is best at defending the player that they traded away. Or, which team gets off to the best start.
THE KEY BATTLE
Luis Scola vs. Carl Landry. As HighTops notes, we could very well see Hayes stuck on Landry. But since each backcourt is stacked offensively, it could really come down to interior scoring, and Landry and Scola are the best on their respective teams in that category. Scola is skilled and crafty (deadly combo), while Landry is measured yet fierce. While Landry's numbers have improved over the past week, he's still not fully integrated into the Kings attack. Maybe he never will be -- the guard dominant play with splashes of post has worked well in the past three games. We'll see.
DISPARAGING NAME PAUL WESTPHAL WILL USE TO MOTIVATE SPENCER HAWES
The Rockets will have fewer than 27 offensive rebounds, but more than two.
Beno Udrih will bite on a Kevin Martin upfake.
BOLDEST PROCLAMATION OF ALL
Martin will get crossmatched on Tyreke Evans, and Martin will step back to prevent the drive, and Evans will drive anyways, and Evans will score.
5:30 PM PT. Two Game Threads (5:30 and 6:45) and a post-gamer (8:15).