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Tuesday January 11, 2011 0:24 AM

Slump Busters

Rockets snap 5-game losing streak with 108-102 shocker over Celtics

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - For so many NBA teams, the TD Garden in Boston is a house of horrors – a place where the mischievous Celtics’ leprechauns help the home team dispatch one opponent after another.

For the Rockets, however, the Garden has simply become the pot of gold at the end of a long (very long, in fact, given the team’s recent 6-games-in-9-nights stretch) rainbow.

Brushing off injuries and a deck seemingly stacked completely against them, the Rockets went into Boston and stunned the heavily favored Celtics for the third straight year. Houston hit shot after shot in the second half, connecting on nearly 62 percent of their field goals in the final two quarters, to hold on for a rousing 108-102 victory, putting an emphatic end to the Rockets’ five-game losing skid in the process.

That Houston did so without the services of leading scorer Kevin Martin (sore right wrist), Brad Miller (sore left knee) and Chuck Hayes (sprained right ankle) shouldn’t even be considered surprising at this point given what the Rockets have done in Boston the last two years facing strikingly similar circumstances. Two years ago, Houston knocked off the then defending champion Celtics without the luxury of playing with Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest. Last season it was more of the same, as the Rockets won without Yao Ming, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier and Trevor Ariza.

“I don’t know what it is,” said Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman. “Every time we come here we have people out and we end up winning the game. It’s nice to see. It just shows what you can do when you go out there and you bust your tail.”

Indeed, the Rockets came out with a confidence which belied the struggles the team had faced since the calendar flipped to 2011. Instead of wilting, Houston instead put Boston on the defensive right away with a backcourt featuring Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks, who returned after missing three games of his own due to the aggravation of an earlier ankle injury.

That combo quickly showed itself to be a dynamic duo on the offensive end, as the Celtics struggled to handle the quickness the pairing possessed and the unlimited shooting range of Brooks. AB, in fact, looked better than he has at any point since first sustaining his injury, showing off the lightning-quickness and sharp cuts that had at times been noticeably absent duing his initial return to action.

There was no such hesitancy in his game Monday night, however, as he burned Boston for 24 points, 11 of which came during his clutch fourth quarter performance. Lowry, meanwhile, was excellent throughout as well, steering the ship with a steady hand and playing strong defense on his way to collecting 17 points and 8 assists.

“We got two guys in there who can create and can shoot the ball,” said Brooks, while describing what makes his pairing with Lowry so potent. “As long as Kyle can guard the two-man that makes us very dangerous because Kyle can rebound the ball down there.”

“Those two guys are tough,” added Adelman. “Either one of them can play the pick and roll. It just puts another shooter on the floor for us.”

Perhaps most satisfying, however, was the fact this game stood as the very epitome of a team win. Literally every player who saw minutes Monday night produced impactful plays to help Houston emerge victorious. Shane Battier and Jared Jeffries provided a hug boost on the defensive end, Luis Scola was his steady self, and following a rough first half Jordan Hill brought big time energy after the break on his way to finishing with 12 points and 8 rebounds.

Chase Budinger and Patrick Patterson, meanwhile were near perfect on the offensive end, as both players knocked down 5-of-6 from the field while proving to be a significant part of an offensive attack the Celtics simply could not stop despite possessing the league’s top-ranked scoring defense. Houston finished the game having hit more than 52 percent of its shots from the field, an even 50 percent (10-20) from 3-point land, and came up big when it mattered most by draining 10 of its first 12 shots in the fourth quarter, allowing the club to build enough of a cushion to stave off a late Celtics’ run.

“We moved the ball tonight,” said Adelman. “We moved the ball and didn’t try to go one-on-one. We wanted to keep attacking, we wanted to push it at them.

“We don’t have a lot of size around the basket, defensively or offensively so we have to find a way. If we penetrate and kick those 3s are good shots for us. With Aaron it’s just good to see him back. He will put that dagger in your heart. He hit that 3 when the game was on the line. It was a huge shot for us. It’s just nice to see him back.”

QUOTES

Rick Adelman

Re the win “We were struggling at the start of the year and the guys came out and played a solid game. We shot the ball well and never folded, never gave them an inch. It’s just a nice win to get.”

Re the last couple games “We moved the ball tonight. We moved the ball and didn’t try to go one-on-one. We wanted to keep attacking, we wanted to push it at them. They are such a good half court offense team that we wanted to get in motion and keep pushing at them. Every time we stopped that and tried to go one-on-one we got in trouble. It was nice to have Aaron and Kyle together because they both worked hard. We won here last year with those guys, same type of game, and they really set the tone for us.”

Re the offense “We are a pretty good offensive team. We played Miami, one of the best teams too, and shot a pretty good percentage against them. We can score, if we play together and move the ball. These guys are first in assists, we are second. It doesn’t surprise me, if we play the way we are capable of we get good shots. You just have to make them.”

Re responding with a three “That’s part of our game. We are one of the better three point shooting teams. We got to take that. We don’t have a lot of size around the basket, defensively or offensively. We have to find a way. If we penetrate and kick those threes are good shots for us. With Aaron it’s just good to see him back. He will put that dagger in your heart. He hit that three when the game was on the line. It was a huge shot for us. It’s just nice to see him back.”

Re the game-plan “We wanted to be solid. We mixed it up, played some zone against them. We only had four big guys so I was worried about foul trouble. We just wanted to be solid and try to not put them on the line, try to make them make shots over the top of us.”

Re Aaron “He becomes a shooting guard and like I said, those two guys are tough. Either one of them can play the pick and roll. It just puts another shooter on the floor for us.”

Re Jordan Hill in second half “He was just more active. Hat’s what he has to do. Sometimes he has a tendency to stare and to watch the game instead of reacting. Defensively he has to play the ball, he’s got to follow the ball. Offensively he’s got to go to the basket all the time. Pick and rolls, whatever he has got to roll he has to be a factor there. Sometimes he stands around and settles for 15 foot jumpers and that’s all you get from him. That’s not going to be good enough for us. He’s got to do more, he’s got to make them react to him. It’s something we have talked about. We feel the same way about Luis too. This team really jumps pick and rolls hard. The guy who sets them has to roll and if he rolls we are going to get good shots. If they stand then Boston becomes a very good half-court team.”

Re the injuries “That’s what I told them after the game. I don’t know what it is. Every time we come here we have people out and we end up winning the game. It’s nice to see. It just shows what you can do when you go out there and you bust your tail. After five tough games and I was very proud of the way these guys approached this game.”

Kyle Lowry

Re double teaming the Celtics backcourt “Pushing the tempo. Those guys are great players so we had to make them play defense just like we had to play defense. We pushed the tempo up and pushed the ball at them. We got to get good shots just like they get good shots.”

Re responding to a run “Make a shot. We made shots tonight and that was big for us. We played with a sense of urgency. We were confident. We played with an effort that we need to continue on playing with.”

Re wins being bigger than others “It’s a good win for us. It’s a good confidence booster. Beating a team like this, in this building, is a pretty good win for us.”

Re answering a run “That’s what you have to do. You have to make shots. Against this team we played awesome tonight. Everybody that played and dressed up in this uniform tonight played with great enthusiasm. It was awesome”

Re winning in Boston “We get a good game, make shots up here.”

Re a lack of intimidation “We are NBA players just like they are. They are a team just like we are a team. We got to go out there and lace them up and play 48 minutes just like they do.”

Aaron Brooks

Re injuries “The first year was Tracy and Ron, the next year it was Yao and somebody else, it was Kevin and Shane, and this year Kevin and our big guy Brad Miller. We still find a way to get it done. We figured the more people we sit out the better we play here. We just had a good game, played together, and got it done.”

Re being intimidated “We just wanted to go out there and play the game. Go out there shoot our shots, we have shooters, play together, on defense just hustle. We got after loose balls, we tried to get our shots up, as many shots as we can. Shane played great defense, we all pitched in, and we gutted it out. We needed a win.”

Re the defense “We just wanted to contest every shot. Ray Allen is one of the premier shooters in the league. There was a stretch where he got it going, Daniels got it going, we just wanted to work hard and make every shot difficult. I think we did a good job of that and we sustained our offense throughout the game.”

Re Aaron and Kyle “We got two guys in there who can create and can shoot the ball. As long as Kyle can guard the two man that makes us very dangerous because Kyle can rebound the ball down there. As long as he can defend that two guard that makes us even more dangerous.”

Celtics Coach Doc Rivers

Re any similarities between Kevin Durant’s being out and Kevin Martin’s being out: “No, we just wasn’t ready. I told our guys I thought overall it was probably our worst defensive effort in three, four years as far as overall effort. You know – and it’s on the starters, it’s not on the second unit – I thought our second unit actually got us back in the first half and in the second half, and all they did was came in and played hard. They played aggressive. And I also told our starters that when we’re down men like we are with Perk (Kendrick Perkins) and Delonte (West) and Kevin (Garnett) out, our second unit needs your help. They need you to play well, to give them a cushion. It shouldn’t be the other way around. And so, just a really disappointing game for us. You know, a home game without one of their best scorers – I don’t know if he’s their best player, but he’s their best scorer. We’ve lost to Oklahoma City at home, without two of their best players. So you look at some of our other losses, record-wise, you know it’s mental. That’s a mental mindset and it starts with me. I’ve got to somehow figure out a way of getting them to see the urgency of the whole season and not the single game. And to me, you can see them thinking about the individual game and not the ramifications of the entire season. And playing Game Seven on the road. And hell, not just in the Finals if you make it there, but in the playoffs. In the East, which is going to be difficult. This year’s not like last year where you can coast. You don’t have home court this year, you could go home.”

Re Glen Davis’ minutes: “He’s getting too many minutes, quite honestly. Thirty-eight minutes is too many for Baby. We don’t have a lot of options right now; Luke (Harangody)’s playing okay but we may have to go small. But that’s too many minutes and that’s on me. Baby shouldn’t play more than in the thirty-range, because I think the fatigue is bothering him.”

Re fourth quarter wild shots going down for Houston: “It’s our fault. Every shot they made that looked wild – it’s funny, at halftime, I told our guys, I said, ‘We’re giving them confidence. An offensive team, your giving confidence. You go into the fourth quarter and you’ve given them confidence, they’re going to make shots.’ We said it at halftime: they’re going to make shots. That’s what they do. Especially now when they see themselves with a chance to win. And they made some crazy shots. But it was due to our inability to play defense for three quarters. You know, you give a good offensive player confidence, he’ll make crazy shots on you. We see it all the time on our end.”

Re is it a cop-out to say the Celtics lost because they missed Kevin Garnett: “No, it’s mental – it had nothing to do with it. This game had nothing to do with Kevin Garnett. Kevin Garnett didn’t play, and it had nothing to do with it.”

Re is it easy to fall into ‘cruise control’ in the NBA at this time of year: “Well, I’m looking at some teams that are winning a lot right now so I’m going to say no.”

Paul Pierce

Re: Not coming in with the right mindset? “Exactly what it is, if we got to come in with the right mindset no matter who comes into our floor, I really don’t think that should matter, we play a certain type of way each and every game. We’re a defensive minded group and for some reason over the last couple games, its just not happening, I don’t know. I mean everyone’s got to look themselves in the mirror, check there selves at the door and just figure this out, get through this little skid we’re on”

Re: 4th quarter, trying to come back? “They played with the lead most of the game, I remember checking in and they were up ten, and they hit some tough shots, but then a lot of that was our defense on the other ones, some of them challenged, you got guys coming in the game, Buddinger you know what he does. We got to make the adjustment, their bench played well and pretty much everybody that played for them tonight played well, and we just played with no resistance”

Re: Not letting games like this slip away? Game 7, homecourt? “You know especially at home, I think we need to really take advantage of games where their best player isn’t playing, guys coming off injury. These games mean a lot down the road, and but at the same time, they’re going to suit up and play, and we got to understand that nothing is given to us cause their down a man, or they’ve been struggling for most of the year. We got to put our work boots on and come with our A game, we’re not taking advantage of this, there are a lot of games that we’re letting slip away that we’re supposed to win”

Ray Allen

Re: Shoulder injury “I just took a hard hit, and kind of collapsed on the side. I’m sore, I’ll feel it tomorrow. My shoulder but kind of my side, you got so much adrenaline running that you don’t really feel it, once I got in the back I felt it”

Re: Was it a legal screen? “No cause the rule states that, if there’s a screen set, you have to give the person a chance to see the screen and then move out the way. I didn’t even know the screen was there and when I went to step I just hit the screen, and it caught me like on the side of my hip”

Re: Doc saying one of the worst defensive efforts? “I agree, I wont say it’s the worst, I thought there was just a stretch where we just couldn’t stop anybody. I cant say that, we knew that they were going to run. I blame the starting five because we gave them too much confidence early. That fourth quarter stretch came where it seemed like they hit everything. Where guy’s weren’t where they needed to be, or in position, rotation, moving the ball around. They scored and then we did a terrible job of rebounding. And times we did stop them, they got their hands on the ball and tipped it back out or tipped it into the rim. Those are the things early in the game we got to put a lid on”

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