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Tuesday March 29, 2011 11:50 PM

Rockets Take Down The Nets

Houston makes it look easy, rolls to 112-87 romp over New Jersey

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

NEWARK, NJ - New Jersey never had a chance.

The moment Kyle Lowry was cleared to play, it was over. The Rockets’ talismanic and rapidly-rising-through-the-ranks point guard made sure of that. Showing no ill effects from a sore left foot, Lowry helped Houston seize control of Tuesday night’s contest right from the outset and the Rockets rolled all over the Nets from there, cruising to a 112-87 victory.

“Kyle certainly didn’t look like he was hurting at all at the start of that game,” Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman said of his point guard who finished just three rebounds shy of recording his second triple-double of the month. “He got us off to a big start again… We had the ball moving and we pushed it at them from the very start and that’s what we wanted to do.”

Indeed, the way in which Houston carved up the Nets was so clinical and so clean it made one wonder if this surgical dissection even left a scar. Incredibly, after a season that started with the Rockets all too frequently falling victim to some of the NBA’s lesser lights, Houston has now elevated its play to such a high level that the dregs of the league simply don’t stand a chance. The Rockets are just too in sync, too precise and too dialed in.

Don’t know your defensive assignments and rotations inside and out? Not sure how best to attack Chuck Hayes in the low post (hint: just don’t)? Still haven’t located Kevin Martin as he makes a beeline to his favorite spot just beyond the 3-point line in transition? Then prepare to suffer a similar fate to the one experienced by the Nets, who found themselves so overwhelmed and overmatched that a mercy rule could have been implemented by halftime and surely no one involved would have felt a need to protest.

“We’re happy, we’re having fun and we’re flowing,” said Lowry, whose final line included 16 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds, all in a tidy 29 minutes of action. “We know who’s going to get the ball, how we’re going to score, how we want to score and how we want to play.”

That much is readily apparent to anyone who’s consistently watched the Rockets play since the All Star break. Houston’s record during that stretch is now 13-4 with eight of those wins coming by 15 points or more, and seven of those eight occurring in the month of March alone. In other words, the Rockets aren’t just winning, they are playing elite basketball. At some point in late February, the light bulb went on and everything started to click. Now everyone knows their role, everyone has bought into the system in place and the end result is an on-floor product that is almost as unstoppable as it is easy on the eyes.

The ringleader of it all is Lowry, whose prodigious March numbers mirror the type of success the team has enjoyed in the win column. The Philadelphia-native is averaging more than 20 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds per game this month, with shooting percentages that are outstanding across the board. What’s more, he’s become an extension of his coach on the floor, making all the right reads and play calls, ensuring that the Rockets’ offense never misses a beat.

“[Kyle’s] an extremely smart player,” said Adelman. “There’s a lot of times when we’ll be in a timeout and I’ll look to him or he’ll have a suggestion… and it’s probably along the same lines as I’m thinking.

“Our offense is one that you have to find your strength. You have to know what your strength is in the offense. But usually it’s the players on the floor who are the catalysts and a guy like Kyle, for instance, he’s a catalyst for that… But I just think this group of guys, they’ve been playing hard for two years now and they stay with it, they practice it, they listen, they’re easy to coach and as a result, you see the results on the court.”

Tuesday night that meant yet another dominating Houston win. But in retrospect, perhaps the game was over before it even began. The Rockets had put in the necessary time, hard work and repetition that allowed them to reach this higher level of hoops consciousness. Now, only injury or some similar misfortune could counteract their sublime chemistry and cohesion.

So the second Houston’s ringleader stepped out on the floor, the handwriting was on the wall: Kyle Lowry and the Rockets were about to roll; and the Nets never had a chance.

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

It was a good win for us. I thought we came out with a lot of energy and played very well offensively. We got 30 assists and 9 turnovers. We had the ball moving and we pushed it at them from the very start and that’s what we wanted to do.

We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now and, like I said, I was really pleased with the energy we had tonight. After losing in Miami the other night where we played pretty good but didn’t defend them very well, I thought we came out tonight and did a nice job. They hurt us on the boards a little bit and Lopez hurt us some, but for the most part these guys all understand what they can do within our offense and they’ve been going to their strengths.

Kyle certainly didn’t look like he was hurting at all at the start of that game. He got us off to a big start again. It’s important going into the game tomorrow night in Philly that we should have a lot of energy tomorrow, too.

(pregame)

I think we’ve been playing at a really high level and I think it’s because we’ve had guys that have been around, with Luis and Chuck four years and some guys three years, and they’ve been on the court doing it. And because of the moves we’ve made, they’ve had to step up. We’ve thrown them out there on the court and fortunately they’re comfortable playing with what we’re doing.

I think it’s the way we play, players like to play that way and they’re rewarded if they make the right cuts and do the right things. Our offense is one that you have to find your strength. You have to know what your strength is in the offense. But usually it’s the players on the floor who are the catalysts and a guy like Kyle, for instance, he’s a catalyst for that. Kevin Martin can get his shots but hopefully it’s within our offense and everything else. But I just think this group of guys, they’ve been playing hard for two years now and they stay with it, they practice it, they listen, they’re easy to coach and as a result, you see the results on the court.

[Kyle’s] an extremely smart player. There’s a lot of times when we’ll be in a timeout and I’ll look to him or he’ll have a suggestion… and it’s probably along the same lines as I’m thinking.

KYLE LOWRY

(did your foot hinder you at all?): It was a little sore. It’s really tender right now but a good team win for us is always worth it.

(taking care of business against lesser teams): We just play. We’re just playing good basketball. Everyone knows their role and everyone knows the type of situation we’re going to be in. We’re just trying to get as many wins as we possibly can to try to make our push.

(importance of being on same page as head coach): I think it’s really important. I think he gives me a lot of freedom and has given me a lot of confidence to go out there and be a good point guard. Being on the same page, the same wavelength, getting guys involved and knowing who to give the ball to, it’s really important. Everyone says you have to be the extension of the coach on the floor and that’s what I’m trying to be.

We’re happy, we’re having fun and we’re flowing. We know who’s going to get the ball, how we’re going to score, how we want to score and how we want to play. We’re confident we’re just finally getting something going.

LUIS SCOLA

Today we were focused from the very first minute. We got up on the scoreboard and we never let them back in. Everybody was ready to play and everybody was concentrating and that’s why we’re winning games. We weren’t like that early in the season and we are like that now and that’s why we’re winning and that’s why we were losing back then.

Focus, concentrating, and everybody’s on a high level. I don’t know what comes first: when you focus and are ready to play and you’re solid you play at a high level automatically, or when you’re not you’re going to have bad games and everything is going to look easy and when you play the other way it’s going to look hard. I think it’s all related. When you’re focused and ready to play and when you’re in the game every game you’ve got more chances that you’re playing the game at a high level so that’s why everybody is playing at a high level right now.

CHUCK HAYES

(taking care of lesser teams better now): At the end of the season you’re either going to compete and play for something, or you’re going to fall back and count the days until the summer’s over. Here, with this team, we love competing with each other. Earlier in the season, we let games like these get away. Well, now, we know what we want to do; we know how we’re going to win and we play that way.

Everybody knows their roles, we know where the shots are going to come from, the leadership, the effort. We’re just playing well right now despite some of the losses we’ve had since the break; even the games we’ve lost we could’ve won.

Nets Head Coach Avery Johnson

(On Nets Start): “First quarters we have been getting off to really poor starts. We were cooking good there for a minute. I think the score was 7-2 and then we made three defensive errors in a row, two of which led to three pointers and then the onslaught began. There was a stretch where we started to turn the ball over. We are just not quick enough when we turn the ball over to get back in transition. It was a culmination of defensive errors, poor offense, which lead to them having a 34-21 first quarter lead. Right now with the state of our team, we are not that good to survive early poor starts.”

(On Houston’s Fast Break Offense): “Just what we thought about them, they hurt us with that fast break offense in Houston and that was when we were relatively healthy. We got to do a better job of getting back on defense and making the defense pay a little bit more on offense. We have poor spacing, and then we missed some shots.’

(On Current Coaching Experience): “I knew what I signed up for and I knew it would be a lot of long nights, but that’s what the challenge was. When you’re a team that was decimated like we were and we had to change over the roster, we knew we would have some long days and it would be a process. That is why we have been preaching process. We knew we would have some difficult moments, disappointing results, embarrassing losses, but that doesn’t sway us one bit. We are going to watch some film tonight and be in early tomorrow for our next game.”

Nets forward Kris Humphries

(On the game)
“I think we all just have to take it amongst ourselves and be mentally prepared to go out there and do our jobs. It’s a tough way to play. You want to have fun and compete, and having games like this just takes it to a get-it- over type attitude. I love playing basketball, playing in front of fans, and being able to do that. If you can do that year round that would be unbelievable. We have to play the right way and trust each other and really do what we’ve done when we’ve had success this year.”

(On if there is motivation behind everybody else still having something on the line this year)
“I was saying it earlier today, however each individual on this team has to motivate themselves, you have to do it. There are plenty of reasons to play hard and it should never be a problem of motivation. Luckily we have another one tomorrow and we’re trying to turn it around.”

(On the Knicks game tomorrow possibly having extra motivation for them)
“All that talk is more for the media but for us, it’s just competing. It is a situation where we kind of have a lot of the same fan base and stuff like that so I see there is kind of a rivalry in that sense, but at the end of the day it’s about competing. We’re just going out there and trying to win whether we’re playing for the playoffs or not or whatever the case is, you play to win. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Nets guard Sasha Vujacic

(On where this game slipped away)
“First half, somehow we started well. First quarter we were in the game and they started a little run. They played the right way. They know how to play, they know each other. They play tough so they won.”

(On if he was surprised with their lack of “fire” this game)
“Yeah, I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what was the purpose of us playing like that but we tried. We wanted to win obviously, but we have to flush this one down the toilet. Tomorrow is probably the biggest game of the season and we have to come in with the right mentality.”

(On if they overlooked this game due to the magnitude of tomorrow’s game)
“Maybe, maybe a little bit. I think that it was a lack of focus today or something went wrong that they just caught that momentum and we were trying to get it back but they didn’t let us back in the game. As soon as we got something they called a timeout or they made a big basket so tomorrow; it’s a big game.”

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