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Sunday March 11, 2012 0:51 AM

Rockets Cut Down Nets

Dragic keys fourth quarter rally as Houston wins 112-106

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




NEWARK, NJ - At some point, the New Jersey Nets were going to miss.

That might have been a tough sell, but Kevin McHale had no choice but to hammer that point home to his troops. Having watched Houston’s 10-point lead evaporate as the Nets drained one ridiculous shot after another, McHale knew that eventually those off-balance, fadeaway 20-footers were not going to fall. The Rockets would simply have to stay focused, keep their heads up and continue contesting everything New Jersey’s players hurled toward the hoop.

The message hit home. The Rockets dug in. And finally, mercifully, they got the stops they needed to snap their five-game losing streak and escape New Jersey with a 112-106 victory.

“We got a couple stops when we needed them but there weren’t many stops in that game,” said McHale. “That was just some (incredible) shooting by them. They had our defense scrambling. They were feeling it a little bit.”

That last statement has to go down as an early candidate for understatement of the century. After the Rockets enjoyed a first half that saw them take a 10-point lead into the break, New Jersey responded by setting the nets ablaze in the third quarter. MarShon Brooks drained turnaround jumpers from all over the floor. Jordan Farmar sliced and diced his way to the hoop. And all Gerald Green did was produce the highlight of the season with a windmill alley-oop jam that will be replayed approximately 1.8 billion times – an estimate might prove overly conservative when all is said and done.

By the time the period ended, the Nets had hit 14 of their 18 shots from the floor, cut Houston’s lead to one, and ignited a previously sleepy Prudential Center crowd. The Rockets, in other words, were on the ropes.

Relief would not come right away. For the first few minutes in the final frame, the picture began to look even bleaker. The Nets kept scoring at will while Houston’s offense entered into a minor funk. With eight minutes remaining, the Rockets faced their biggest deficit of the game as New Jersey went ahead 93-88 on a 3-pointer from Green.

And then Goran Dragic took over.

Playing major minutes due to Kyle Lowry’s absence, Dragic proceeded to score 11 of Houston’s next 15 points to put the Rockets back on top. Masterfully dissecting the Nets’ porous defense, Dragic was at his whirling dervish best, both attacking the rim and draining shots from downtown on his way to finishing with 23 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds. His play provided the spark Houston so desperately needed, putting Houston in position to snap out of its slump if only it could produce a key stop or two on the defensive side of the ball.

The Rockets got their chance in the final minute. Clinging to a one-point lead, Houston’s players locked-in as New Jersey came out of a timeout attempting to iso Brooks once more against Chandler Parsons. The two rookies had squared off for much of the night, and both had taken turns torching the other on the offensive end. Brooks, however, had done his damage via an assortment of seemingly impossible shots made over Parsons’ outstretched hands, so this time Parsons took no chances, ultimately swatting aside Brooks layup attempt, preserving Houston’s lead and giving the Rockets the pivotal stop they had so desperately needed.

“You try to make him put it on the floor,” said Parsons, who continued his torrid March stretch with another tremendous all around effort, scoring 16 points to go along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. “You try to make him dribble the ball which I did almost every time, but he just hit some incredible shots. That was a tough matchup and when someone is on like that you’ve got to force them to drive and that’s what I did on that last shot. I made him go all the way; usually all game long he was stopping, he was pivoting, he was shot-faking, and somehow he gets his shot off. But the last play I was just fortunate to get the block by making him go all the way to the hoop.

“It was all of them: Morrow, Green, Marshon – they were all hitting incredible shots and making incredible plays as a group. We were contesting, we had hands in their face – sometimes I had two hands in his face. You just have to tap him on the butt, tell him good shot, then go down and try to keep forcing them to take those tough shots. “

“It was huge. We were all hating that losing streak so it was big for us to get back to our winning ways and now hopefully we can build on this.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

“It was a hell of a game. It was kind of like a good old fashioned shootout, everyone was making shots. We needed a win. We dropped five in a row. We dropped a couple of overtime games that were heartbreakers. We had a lot of bad taste in our mouth coming into this game and we found a way to win.

They made tough shots. They had our defense all stretched out trying to run at people, and then they would swing it around, guys were making shots. Gerald Green and Brooks were on fire and Farmar was pretty darn good himself.

I told them, ‘I guarantee they’ll miss a couple of those shots. I promise you, guys, those are tough shots that won’t always go.’ Then Chandler made a block, Patrick made a block, we came up with the balls – we got a couple stops when we needed them but there weren’t many stops in that game. That was just some (incredible) shooting by them. They had our defense scrambling. They were feeling it a little bit.

(On Chase playing instead of Terrence): Terrence wasn’t feeling good tonight. He had a stomach ache in the second half so I went with Chase.

CHANDLER PARSONS

(defending Brooks): You try to make him put it on the floor. You try to make him dribble the ball which I did almost every time, but he just hit some incredible shots. That was a tough matchup and when someone is on like that you’ve got to force them to drive and that’s what I did on that last shot. I made him go all the way; usually all game long he was stopping, he was pivoting, he was shot-faking, and somehow he gets his shot off. But the last play I was just fortunate to get the block by making him go all the way to the hoop.

It was all of them: Morrow, Green, Marshon – they were all hitting incredible shots and making incredible plays as a group. We were contesting, we had hands in their face – sometimes I had two hands in his face. You just have to tap him on the butt, tell him good shot, then go down and try to keep forcing them to take those tough shots.

(ending losing streak): It was huge. We were all hating that losing streak so it was big for us to get back to our winning ways and now hopefully we can build on this.

GORAN DRAGIC

It was a tough game for us. We’d lost five games in a row and especially this game was very important for us. We had a 10-point lead at the half and they came back very strong. They were hitting contested shots, we didn’t shoot the ball too well and suddenly they were in front by one, two points. But still, we fought until the end, our defense was solid, and our offense was much better and in the end we won the game.

I knew I was going to play a lot of minutes because I was talking to coach before the game. Today I was so tired in the third and fourth quarter and my legs were really heavy but we were battling to win this game.

Nets Head Coach Avery Johnson:

(On the Game):

“First of all, what a great second half by our guys. We weren’t playing very good and efficient in the first half, and we were kind of feeling sorry for ourselves especially with Deron not being here. But they picked it up in the third quarter. Furious run that we had. And then at the end of the game, just a couple of plays here and there. We actually tipped the ball in which was a tough break for us. You could see two or three of our guys going up to get the rebound. We committed a foul that was an untimely foul. We couldn’t get the ball in the basket. But again, our guys really played hard. For our guys to get six guys in double figures and shoot 53% from the field, score 106 points on a back to back night is good, it’s just that our defense wasn’t very good.”

(On Gerald Green):

“It feels great because Gerald has been really professional, and he’s worked hard since he’s been here. His attitude’s been good. He’s a polite young man. And this is a kid you root for. He’s been through a lot, but you look at what he did tonight. Even on defense I thought he was very competitive defensively. But you know, he made some big shots for us, made some plays, had one that didn’t go down for us late in the game. But you can’t fault his effort. He was one of the real reasons why we got back in the game.”

(On Green’s development)

“More than anything defensively he’s competing. He helped us win that game last night. Offensively he’s doing a good job of mixing up his game. Putting the ball on the floor, he’s doing a nice job of posting up. Obviously he can catch lobs for us. We haven’t had a guy all year who can do that. He jumps higher than most guys, especially in transition. You know, Gerald’s doing a nice job of keeping it simple. He’s taking good care of the basketball, and we need that type of energy out of the three position.”

(On Jordan Farmar and MarShon Brooks’ games)

“In the pregame like we talked about, we needed to spread around our scoring, and we got it spread out pretty nicely tonight. So again, that’s what we’re going to need especially with Deron being sidelined.”

Nets Forward Gerald Green

“On the Windmill Dunk”

“I have done that plenty of times. I usually do that in pre-warm up or practice. Teammates tell me “next time you get a dunk, try and do something nasty”. I am just so glad that it went in. I caught it and I was thinking that I was high enough to windmill it.”

“On playing for a contract”

“I don’t really try to play for myself, I try to play and help the team. Whatever I can do to help the team, that is what is best. If we think individually, then you get sidetracked. Winning is everything in this league. If I don’t do anything to help the team win, then I feel like I am hurting myself and hurting the team. I would rather get two points and get the win, and be satisfied”.

“On the similarity to Jeremy Lin”
“Coming from the D-league, and signing 10 day contracts, it brings light to an individual like myself, or somebody else who is trying to get back in the league. I don’t think that I am Jeremy Lin , he is doing a great job in New York, and that is an unbelievable story. I am just so happy to be here , I can’t thank this organization more than enough”.

Nets Guard MarShon Brooks:
(On the Game):

“On the last couple of possessions we didn’t execute well. Obviously we didn’t get the shots well. We just didn’t execute. Personally myself, I had an isolation play. It may have felt like I made a pretty good move, but Chandler Parsons made a better play, came and blocked the shot”.

(On playing without Deron Williams):

“I think it was confidence boost for everybody. Not only myself, but Gerald Green played well of the bench. We all believed in ourselves before the game. We weren’t up, we weren’t down. We weren’t looking down saying you’re doomed. We fought hard, but we came short and I think our fans appreciated that”.

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