Houston leads the 4 game series 2-0 after beaten the Kings 118-105 on December 14th in Houston and 102-93 in Sacramento back on December 19th. Tyreke missed the 1st game and shot poorly in the second; 6-21 for 14 points in 37 minutes with 6 assists and 5 rebs and he had 4 turnovers and was blocked 4 times. They split the series last season 2-2 with each team winning one game on the others home court.
In the 1st game the Kings actually outshot the Rockets from the field and from the FT line, hitting 42-80 for 52.5% from the field and 17-22 for 77.3% from the charity strip. But the Kings turned the ball over 18 times to Houston’s 11, and the Kings were out rebounded 14-10 on the offensive glass. Houston ended up making 4 more field goals on 12 more attempts. Plus they made 10-23 or 43.5% from beyond the arc while the Kings shot only 4-11 for 36.4%. DeMarcus and Carl led the Kings in scoring with 17 each, and Scola led the Rockets with 21 and Chase Budinger was 2nd with 18.
The 2nd game was just 5 days later, but boy did things change. It was the Rockets that turned the ball over, 20 times to the Kings 13. The Kings again lost the rebounding battle 50-38 but only 16-15 on the offensive boards. Unfortunately, the Kings couldn’t take advantage of their FGA advantage and only shot 35-91 for 38.5% from the field while Houston shot 37-83 for 44.6%. Again the Rockets shot well from long distance, hitting 11-25 for 44% from beyond the arc while the Kings were 7-14 for 50%. Besides the bad shooting by Tyreke which I already mentioned, Beno was 0-7 and Greene was 3-13. DeMarcus led the Kings in scoring with 19 while Tyreke and Cisco were tied for 2nd with 14. Martin had 22 for the Rockets and Scola was 2nd with 17.
On a side note, this was the week that the Kings acquired Jermaine Taylor, and he received a DNP- CD with both teams.
At the trade deadline, Houston acquired Goran Dragic and a future first round pick from Phoenix in exchange for Aaron Brooks. It will either be Phoenix’s pick if it’s outside the lottery, or it will be Orlando’s pick. They also acquired Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll and a future first round pick from Memphis for Shane Battier and Ish Smith. The Memphis pick is lottery protected, starting in 2013.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey had this to say about the trades. "The reality is right now this team, as constructed, isn’t a championship caliber team. I’m not telling any secrets, so we need to figure out how to upgrade the team. These moves will position us better to get there, than if we had kept Shane and Aaron for sure." "Shane is someone who we would have liked to keep, but had a good chance of losing in free agency; Aaron Brooks was the same."
On the acquisition of Thabeet, "Unfortunately, you cannot acquire 7-3 centers after they become good easily, if at all. So you need to take a chance on a guy who you think has a chance to contribute over time. " The overall feeling is that these moves don’t make the Rockets better now but puts them in position to make the moves that need to be made in the future. Morey also stated that they believed that Lowry and Brooks were both starting caliber PG’s and that they wouldn’t be able to pay both of them the money they would need to keep both.
The Rockets entered February with a record of 22-27. They were 6-4 prior to the trade deadline and have gone 4-1 since the trade deadline. They are currently 11th in the West with a record of 32-32, and only 2.5 games behind 8th place Memphis.
Chase Budinger has moved into the starting SF spot. In the last 6 games he’s averaging 18pts / 4.6 rebs/ 1.7 asts in 31 mpg. He’s shooting 6 of 12 for 51% from the field and 38% from three point range and he’s shooting 86% from the FT line. Goran Dragic has been in 4 games and he’s averaging 7 pts/ 2.5 assts/ 2 rebs in 12.5 mpg off the bench. Thabeet has seen only 4 minutes of action he has 3 fouls and 1blk for his entire stat line.
The Rockets are 8th in scoring and 6th in 3pt shooting. They’re only 25th in defense and only 23rd in rebounding. They have the 4th best FT shooting percentage and are 8th in getting to the FT line.
The Rockets dominated the Kings at the rim in the 1st game shooting 19-27 on 13 assisted baskets to the Kings 10-15 on 3 assisted baskets. In the 2nd game the Kings had a 2 shot advantage in the paint, but that was entirely due to DeMarcus who was 8 of 11 on 1 assisted basket while the rest of the team was 8-27 with Tyreke, Beno and Pooh combining for 0-9 in the paint. The King can’t win in a jump shooting contest with the Rockets. We need to press our advantage in the paint against the Rockets centers, 6-7 Chuck Hayes and 35 year old Brad Miller. That means that the Kings need to be somewhere in the range of 30 attempts at the rim and a total of 45 attempts in the paint. I’m looking for a lot of drives into the paint by Beno, Taylor and Thornton, and dishes to our bigs when they can’t finish.
It’s unknown whether or not PW will change his starting lineup again or how many minutes Cisco will see or if Omri will play. Even so, no one on the Rockets frontline demands a double team so the guards and wings need to stay with the 3-pt shooters (Martin, Lowry, Lee and Budinger). As, always this game in going to come down to defending Luis Scola and keeping him off the boards. I like the fact that JT, Sammy and DeMarcus have shown some decent man defense while staying out of foul trouble. But, can the Kings defend off screens and the pick and roll and will they help defend? The answer to those questions will probably determine the outcome of this game. Defense Kings Defense.