Recap: Rockets at Hornets, April 19, 2012
Big Hurt In Big Easy
Hornets deal Rockets' playoff hopes potentially fatal blow with 105-99 OT win
HOUSTON - The Rockets’ shooting stroke strangely went missing in the second half once again. And this time it may very well have taken the team’s fast fading playoff hopes with it as well.
Languishing through an agonizing stretch during which scoring became a massive struggle, Houston let a double-digit lead slip away in a game it had to have before ultimately succumbing to the New Orleans Hornets 105-99 in overtime. The loss leaves the Rockets a full game behind Phoenix and Utah for the 8th and final Western Conference playoff spot with just three games remaining, placing Houston in the unenviable position of needing an enormous amount of help if they’re to somehow sneak back into the postseason picture.
It’s all part of a maddening reversal of fortune for a Rockets team that, just ten days ago, was riding high on the heels of a perfect 4-0 road trip. Such high times seem a lifetime ago now, however, with the Rockets reeling and fruitlessly searching for answers following a season-high sixth straight defeat.
“I have no answer,” said Luis Scola. “I really don’t know what has happened. I’m trying to find the answer and I just can’t find it. I believe maybe that it has created a kind of snowball effect: one bad things leads to another and then another. We weren’t playing that bad tonight. We went up ten, and then all of a sudden we started missing shots. We felt the pressure and could not finish the game. I just don’t know what has happened.”
The straightforward answer Thursday night lied in the fact that the Rockets quite simply stopped hitting shots. After knocking down seven of the first 11 3-pointers they attempted while building a lead that at one time ballooned to as many as 13 points, Houston went just 4-of-20 from beyond the arc the rest of the way. But it wasn’t just the Rockets’ long-range game that abandoned them; Houston shot just 33 percent from the field in the second half and a meager 56 percent at the free throw line overall as well. Couple that with a 57-40 disparity on the glass and it should come as no surprise that the Rockets’ fate was so unfriendly.
During the first half, however, it seemed as if Houston was well on its way to snapping out of its doldrums. As they did the night before against Dallas, Courtney Lee and Chase Budinger began the game red-hot, helping their club take the early advantage against a Hornets team that, for all their on and off-court ills this season, has shown a gritty, grind-it-out disposition that has forced many of their opponents to fully earn their victories. Marcus Camby, meanwhile, was simply sensational in spite of his ailing back once again, knocking down a bevy of midrange jumpers on his way to leading Houston with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists at the halftime break.
But as it’s so often been during their recent slide, the third quarter proved to be the Rockets’ bugaboo once again. Houston shot just 30 percent from the field in the period while en route to getting outscored 26-13 as Eric Gordon (game-high 27 points) went about the business of dissecting the Rockets’ defense with his surgical play off the pick-and-roll. And in the fourth quarter and overtime, it was a familiar face that delivered a series of daggers as former Rocket Carl Landry (20 points, 10 rebounds) routinely gobbled up offensive rebounds for backbreaking put-backs that put a serious dent in Houston’s playoff hopes.
"A very tough one for us,” admitted Budinger, who matched his season-high with 22 points. “We needed this one tonight to hopefully try to get back in the playoffs. This one definitely hurts everybody, hurts our team and hurts our chances ... You can never give up. There's definitely still hope for us. You've just got to win out and hope that other teams lose."
(On the Hornets’ Defense): “They were packing it in on us and we settled too much for the three. We need to be able to drive sometimes. We started off and missed some easy shots and missed some free throws down the stretch.”
(On) Dealing with these situations: “We need to step up to the line and make those free throws. We need to get some stops when we need it. Ayon pumped faked us and made some plays in the end. When the ball gets out of Gordon’s hands you need to be happy and everyone needs to play solid basketball. We just weren’t very good. That 3rd quarter was terrible. We just need to get ready and play on Friday night. This is the NBA; you just need to get it done.”
(On the 2nd half play): “I think they (Hornets) picked up their defensive intensity. It seemed like we weren’t hitting the shots we were hitting that got us back in the game. We had some great looks. We turned the ball over too many times. We couldn’t box them out on defense and they got some put backs; Carl Landry had a couple of key baskets that put them back in the game. The same with Al-Farouq Aminu and Ayon. He (Ayon) had a double-double off of the bench tonight. They did some isolations with him and we couldn’t stop it. They pretty much just fought their way into the game.”
(On the losing streak): “I have no answer. I really don’t know what has happened. I’m trying to find the answer and I just can’t find it. I believe, maybe that it has created a kind of snowball effect: one bad things leads to another and then another. We weren’t playing that bad tonight. We went up ten, and then all of a sudden we started missing shots. We felt the pressure and could not finish the game. I just don’t know what has happened.”
Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams:
(On finishing home schedule strong): “I talked to the guys about how we had to bounce back, and I thought Greivis (Vasquez) and Chief (Aminu) did a good job of playing the right way. Greivis didn’t shoot it well but he had nine assists and he was trying to make the right plays. I thought last night he made some plays that just weren’t the right plays and he was just throwing the ball away. And Chief (Aminu) didn’t have any energy last night and tonight he came out aggressive, the right way and our team just played the right way. Carl (Landry) has a double-double, Gustavo (Ayon) almost has a double-double, and Eric (Gordon) is just Eric and sometimes you can take it for granted how good he is. Overall, I thought everybody contributed. Dyson came in and gave us big energy going to the basket and picking up full court, and even Darryl Watkins gave us some good energy. Lance (Thomas) did a good job starting the game off. It’s a cliché, but it was a big time team win.”
(On not finishing in regulation): “I thought I may have held Eric (Gordon) out too long. Normally, I want to get him back in at six minutes, but I held him until four because that second team was playing so well. When you play against a team that shoots 31 threes it’s hard to control what is going to happen in the game. They hit a couple threes and tied it up and I was okay with that. We had the ball at the end, Eric (Gordon) had a good shot, he missed it, and I’ll live with that. I want him to make it because I know he can, but on a back-to-back at home you don’t mind overtime. I think if they would have been in that situation and they were down two, they would have gone for three because they were coming off a back-to-back and on the road you want to get it over with as fast as you can.”
Hornets Forward Carl Landry
(On the game): “It was nice to get a win against my old teammates. They’re all good guys. They’re low post players. It was a dogfight tonight. We got it going, hung in there despite not having a good first half and got the win.”
(On the crowd tonight): “The fans were great. That was like a sellout crowd. It was so loud with everybody supporting us and behind us 100%, even though we’re not making the playoffs. We really appreciate their support.”
Hornets Guard Eric Gordon
(On the game): “We’re just trying to play the game. We knew they were still trying to make the playoffs, but the best team won tonight. They’re still a really good team. Hopefully, they make the playoffs, but we’re just trying to get better. I missed a couple of shots early on, but I thought I was going to get that last one. I had a good, clean look, but it didn’t go in. I’m glad we got the win. It meant a lot to get the win for the fans at the last home game. We’re going on the road and we will look for wins there.”