Delfino Divine As Rockets Cut Down Nets Once Again
HOUSTON - Carlos Delfino spent his Friday night digging the Nets’ grave one backbreaking trey at a time. He set up shop in the corners, waited for the defense to collapse, then coolly collected the ensuing kick-outs before launching the shots that would ultimately lead to Brooklyn’s demise. His execution was as methodical as it was effective; every jumper a spade driven into the ground to deepen the hole. Thrust. Plunge. Lift. Repeat.
It took him 47 minutes to do the deed, preparing the Nets’ final resting place while putting up 22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in the process. His handiwork complete at last, Delfino finally stepped aside. Only one more task remained. Beaten, bloodied and bruised as they were, Brooklyn’s basketball team lay ready to be buried. So James Harden shoved them in.
Such was the sequence of events during an evening in which the Rockets had to get a little down and dirty to knock off the Nets by a final score of 106-96 – Houston’s 13th consecutive victory over the Brooklyn newcomers. The game was physical and at times testy as the Nets frequently attempted to counter Houston’s small-ball lineups with brute size and force. Yet nothing the former New Jersey denizens could muster packed quite the wallop as the one generated by Delfino and the rest of the Rockets’ bomb squad. Houston drained 16 of its 30 attempts from beyond the arc Friday night, the final one a dagger courtesy of Harden who shook free from Keith Bogans to ice both Brooklyn and the game.
“Our ball movement was key,” said Harden, who finished with 22 points despite experiencing what was, by his increasingly ridiculous standards anyway, an off night. “Guys moved the ball, got easy shots, and defensively we played pretty well, but our offense got a lot of big shots, a lot of threes. We just moved the ball and made the defense move.”
That sparkling ball movement was on full display during the first half when Houston’s offense outclassed any and every defensive look Brooklyn threw their direction. The Rockets’ pace and space attack shredded the Nets in transition and via the pick-and-roll, repeatedly generating open looks at the rim and from the corners. And though Houston’s defense wasn’t exactly racking up stops en masse either, the Rockets were scoring with such ease and at such a rapid rate that it hardly seemed to matter.
In the second half, however, Brooklyn began to crawl back in the game by using its size on the offensive glass and an assist from the unwelcome return of a season-long bugaboo for Houston. After turning the ball over just four times in the first half, the Rockets coughed it up a whopping 13 more in the second, including a head-scratching stretch that saw them commit four offensive in the span of six minutes. Houston’s lead, once a 15-point bulge in the early stages of the fourth quarter, eventually dwindled to three, threatening to negate the strong supporting efforts from the Rockets’ kiddie corps of Donatas Motiejunas, Greg Smith and Patrick Beverley.
With the Rockets’ outlook looking increasingly dire, Delfino went back to work to make sure his manual labor wouldn’t go wasted. On back-to-back possessions in the closing minutes, the Argentinean marksman knocked down a triple from the wing and a pull-up 22-footer to beat the shot clock, digging a 6-point hole from which the Nets would not emerge.
“That’s what he does,” said Houston head coach Kevin McHale. “Carlos is a big shot taker and a big shot maker. He’s not afraid. He’s played in a lot of big games and he was really good tonight.”
And-1s: With physicals from Houston’s deadlines deals still pending, the Rockets were unable to take the wrapping paper off their new acquisitions, Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt. And while it’s entirely possible they will be cleared for action in time for Saturday’s game against Washington, it’s unlikely they’ll see anything in the way of meaningful minutes against the Wizards given the fact they have not yet been able to spend even a second of practice time with their new team.
Their first opportunity to work out with Houston’s players and coaches will likely arrive on Monday, and after the game McHale discussed what he most wants to see from the rookie Robinson as he joins the Rockets in the heat of the team’s playoff chase.
“It will be fun,” said McHale. “Molding (a player) comes a lot in the summer and comes at different times. Right now we’ve just got to get him comfortable with what we’re doing and there won’t be much molding; it will mostly rebounding and running the simple, basic stuff. Then when we have the chance to work with him in the summer, we’ll work with him.
“For him right now, any young guy, you’ve got to find out what you do well. For him I would say offensive rebounding – that’s what I’ve seen him do in this league. I’ve seen him run real aggressively. So if he can add defense to that then he’s going to find a way on the floor. If you offensive rebound and you run hard and you can defend, then you can play out there. So that’s what he’s got to do right now. We’ll worry about the rest of that stuff later.”
He did a nice job tonight. He made shots. That’s what he does. Carlos is a big shot taker and a big shot maker. He’s not afraid. He’s played in a lot of big games and he was really good tonight.
He played well. He’s been playing really well in practice and I kept telling him, ‘Hang in there, young fella.’ It’s tough on these young guys, we have so many of them. But Donatas has been playing very, very well for a long time in practice and when he has chances, so I think he’s going to keep on earning more time.
(on the opportunity to coach Thomas Robinson)
It will be fun. Molding (a player) comes a lot in the summer and comes at different times. Right now we’ve just got to get him comfortable with what we’re doing and there won’t be much molding; it will mostly rebounding and running the simple, basic stuff. Then when we have the chance to work with him in the summer, we’ll work with him. For him right now, any young guy, you’ve got to find out what you do well. For him I would say offensive rebounding – that’s what I’ve seen him do in this league. I’ve seen him run real aggressively. So if he can add defense to that then he’s going to find a way on the floor. If you offensive rebound and you run hard and you can defend, then you can play out there. So that’s what he’s got to do right now. We’ll worry about the rest of that stuff later.
On the game:
“Our ball movement was key. Guys moved the ball, got easy shots, and defensively, we played pretty well, but our offense got a lot of big shots, a lot of threes. We just moved the ball and made the defense move. We started moving the ball and making the easy pass. We were kind of trying to do too much in traffic and they were causing turnovers, so we kind of slowed down in that sense and got a couple of open looks. It was a very good road win for us. Now we have to go into Washington tomorrow and play well.”
On what Jeremy Lin has brought to the team:
“Talent, which is what we need. He’s doing a good job of leading, definitely by example, going out there and just playing. He’s making shots, making plays, he’s doing everything.”
On pulling out the win:
“Yeah, I think that’s a sign of our growth as a team. We probably wouldn’t have done that earlier in the season, we probably would have folded and given away the game. We kind of regrouped, took their hit and counter-punched and we were able to get the win. I think we’re getting more mature as a team and as individuals. We’re understanding not to panic and to get back to what we do best. We made it tough for them.”
Nets Interim Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo
On the game:
“We really defended so much better in the second half. We played so much better in terms of what we were trying to do in the second half. We didn’t execute our game plan very well in the first half. I think we executed a lot better in the second half. They average 106 points, they made threes. We got offensive rebounds, we needed to finish a little better in the paint and we needed to convert our second chance. They did more of the things that they wanted to do than we were able to do.”
On team shooting:
“It’s not about a guy or two guys. They shot 53 percent, we shot 44 percent. They shot 53% from three, we shot 33%. We didn’t do some of the things that we needed to do offensively or defensively. I thought we played hard, particularly in the second half. I thought our effort was really good in the second half. We just didn’t make enough good plays or too many mistakes to beat a good team.”
On Rockets offense:
“Their offense if just beautifully conceived and they have a one, two and three that can all bring it up. They can all run pick and rolls, they can all shoot the ball from deep also. They can all put a lot of pressure on you at the one, two and three spot defensively. They’re a very good offensive team. We defended them a lot better tonight than we did in Houston and they still got 106 points.”
Nets Center Brook Lopez
On the second half and fighting back:
“We kept crawling back in there but we just weren’t able to get over the hump. I think they were shooting the ball well. We needed to run them off the line a bit, but I think we definitely played our best basketball in the second half.”
On the team playing with a lot of fight:
“I think if you take out one thing, that’s definitely what you want to take. We just want to continue with that intensity and that effort and bring it on Sunday.”
On guarding James Harden [as a team]:
“You have to honor him and you have to play him honest. I think in the second half we did a pretty good job of helping each other out even though they as a team hit some late threes. For the most part, I thought we could run him off the three-point line more.”
Nets G/F Keith Bogans
On the altercation with James Harden:
“It was just getting physical. We were going back and forth at each other and started to talk a little bit and it really wasn’t personal or anything. We were just playing basketball.”
On how the situation was solved and calmed down:
“Well, I was taken out of the game and coach made it real easy, but you know it happens. I didn’t lose my cool and it is just part of the game.”
On not being able to get over the hump and take the lead:
“Well, the way we played in the second half is the way we need to play the whole game. We fought, we played defense, we got stops. It was just that stretch at the end when we didn’t make shots. We just need to play the way we played in the second half for 48minutes instead of 24minutes.”