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Thursday March 17, 2011 1:11 AM

Rockets Take Care Of 'Cats

Balanced effort lifts Houston to 94-78 victory as club records second win in a row

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Be quick but don’t hurry.

That was one of the classic maxims courtesy of the late, great, legendary coach John Wooden.

On the surface it sounds like a paradox; a command certain to cause confusion among the hundreds of young men he led during a decades-long run as the head hoops coach at UCLA. And no doubt many of his charges greeted those words with quizzical looks upon hearing them for the first time.

Eventually, however, the true meaning of that maxim began to sink in and take hold. Basketball is a game of speed, explosiveness and fast-twitch fibers, yes, but all of that means very little if it’s not properly utilized within the team concept. There is a game plan in place, filled with various reads and ways to attack an opponent’s weakness. And inherent within that game plan is an understanding that much of the movement – all those back cuts, ball screens, and pin downs – is based on precision timing which requires players to recognize the defense before going on the offensive with an efficiency of motion so synchronized it seems as if the five men on the floor are connected by a single string.

When it works it’s a thing of beauty and an instrument of destruction capable of carving a defense to shreds. What it is not supposed to be, however, is a haphazard sequence of events in which each player goes full bore, bouncing and racing around the floor like some sort of human superball. Instead it takes patience, subtle changes of speed and a cerebral approach to angles. Master those, and sooner or later an opening will appear. And when it does, that is the moment when the offense can uncoil, strike swiftly and sink its fangs into the heart of a helpless defense. Patience. And then pounce. Be quick but don’t hurry.

It’s a lesson nearly every young player in the NBA needs to learn and, coincidentally enough, that process itself requires patience and time. The Rockets are witnessing that developmental learning curve firsthand right now as a pair of their young bigs work their way through the early stages of their professional education. As with any growth cycle, there will always be flashes of progress accompanied by periods of painful mistakes. But during Houston’s 94-78 victory over Charlotte, there were signs that Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill may very well be shedding some of their growing pains and preparing to take the next step forward in their evolution.

Both men are blessed with all the physical tools necessary to succeed: Patterson with the strength, solid fundamentals and sweet midrange jumper, while Hill has the height, length and bounce required to be a presence in the paint. Up to this point in their NBA infancy, they’ve only been asked to be energy guys, the type of players who come off the bench and provide 10 to 15 minutes of all-out passion and frenetic effort. Nuance was not their game, fire was.

But with Luis Scola sidelined the past four games with an injured knee, more has been asked of both Patterson and Hill. Each has started two games during this stretch and each has had to adapt to larger roles. That’s meant understanding the importance of pacing oneself – Patterson admits to unnecessarily tiring himself out during his first start – and also adhering to the vital need to play within the team concept on both ends of the floor: knowing where they’re supposed to be; picking their spots; and unleashing their ample athleticism at the proper time as opposed to just aimlessly bounding up and down the court.

Wednesday night showed they’ve been paying attention. After a rocky effort in his first career NBA start, Patterson bounced back against the Bobcats by scoring 12 points to go along with 10 boards. Best of all, he was especially effective in the fourth quarter, making several plays that helped his team put Charlotte away once and for all. Hill, meanwhile, delivered his second straight strong game off the bench, tallying 10 points and 6 rebounds in just 15 minutes of play. Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman took note of their efforts, while focusing in on the areas in which he’d still like to see them improve.

“It’s going to take [Patterson] some time to understand,” said Adelman after the game. “He is very active and very quick and a lot of times when we do things his guy leaves him to go help and he needs to see that quicker and use his quickness. He did at the end of the game; he stepped into gaps and he got the ball. He did a nice job and I thought Jordan came off the bench and gave us a nice lift.

“They can’t wait for Kyle [Lowry] or the ball-handler to find them. They’ve got to get open so the guy sees them quicker. A lot of times (opponents) will rotate a small down on them just like we do and they accept that, they stay behind the small. If they go in and get in front of the guy or make them guard them, it leaves somebody open on the weak side all the time. They’re just two young guys who the more they see it, the more they’re going to do it consistently. I thought Jordan did a great job tonight doing that.”

To be sure there will be more bumps along the way. But in time, all these things will become second nature. Patience is required of both the team and player. Here, too, Wooden’s words still echo with deeper meaning: Be quick but don’t hurry. The Rockets know they can’t rush the timetable. All players learn at their own pace. But as the Rockets attempt to make a mad dash for the playoffs, there’s no question that the quicker Patterson and Hill can master this lesson, the better off all involved will be.

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

Solid win for our guys. We came out and defended them pretty well and did what we had to do. Controlled the game right from the start and that was a big win for us.

I thought we followed the game plan pretty well with what we wanted to try to do. They didn’t shoot it very well, Jackson didn’t shoot it very well, but we wanted to do certain things against them, not give them easy baskets and not let them get to the rim or the line that often, and I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job.

We actually had pretty good shots and moved the ball, at times, pretty well but other times we kept it on one side of the court way too much, instead of moving their people a little bit. But it was a solid win and a win we needed to get before we had Boston coming in here. We’ll try to build it.

(on Patrick Patterson): It’s going to take him some time to understand. He’s very active and very quick and a lot of times when we do things his guys leaves him to go help and (Patterson) needs to see that quicker and use his quickness. He did at the end of the game; he stepped in to gaps and he got the ball. He’s a young guy and he’s learning about the league and he’s got that ability with his quickness to do that. He did a nice job and I thought Jordan (Hill) came off the bench and gave us a nice lift.

(on Jordan Hill’s strong play last two games): Same example I gave for Patrick: We do things a lot of times that their man helps and their man is the one who goes over to pick up a cutter, and those guys have to step into the gaps. They can’t wait for Kyle or the ball-handler to find them. They’ve got to get open so the guy sees them quicker. A lot of times they’ll rotate a small down on them just like we do and they accept that, they stay behind the small. If they go in and get in front of the guy or make them guard them, it leaves somebody open on the weak side all the time. They’re just two young guys who the more they see it, the more they’re going to do it more consistently. I thought Jordan did a great job tonight doing that.

CHUCK HAYES

(On his tying the season high on rebounds and assists) “The other day (Monday) I couldn't miss. Today, I couldn't hit a shot but I got rebounds and assists and we got the win. We got the win and that's all that matters. We get off to good starts and somehow we always let teams get back in the game and everybody is going to make a run but this is our second win that we got at home and we're going to try to keep it going Friday.”

(On the Rockets defense) “Honestly, Chase (Budinger) did a great job on (Stephen) Jackson tonight. Just his activity, staying in front of them and playing him not to foul, Chase did a great job and for the most part tonight, Patrick (Patterson) did a great job on (Boris) Diaw and our pick and roll coverages for (D.J.) Augustin in the second half got better and tightened up. So, overall from a team standpoint, it was a great win.”

(Winning with a different style): That’s two games in a row now we’ve kept somebody under 100 so our defense is there and our offense is clicking at times. If we could put them both together I guess that’d be too much of a perfect game.

CHASE BUDINGER

(On the key to the win) “They (Bobcats) are a bigger team than us and our big guys did a great job of getting rebounds offensively and defensively. A lot of credit to Chuck (Hayes) Pat(rick) Patterson, and Jordan (Hill).”

(On the Rockets recent play) “The chemistry is great right now within our team. We are playing well. We are winning games and it is a great opportunity for me to get in the starting line up and I'm just trying to help the team win games.”

PATRICK PATTERSON

(On controlling the game) “I felt like we had our moments where we did and I felt like we had our moments where we didn't. We let them come back in the game at times. They were hitting jump shots and executing on the offensive end. So, I think at times we did control it for the most part but we'll have to do better on offense pretty much and defense.”

(On him and Jordan Hill slowing down their style of play) “It was really tough because the first game I tired myself out because being that energy guy coming off the bench right into the first play, I'm starting to run and do everything real hard and pretty much half way into the first quarter I'm tired. So I have to learn to progressively play throughout an entire game like that. So it was tough. Coach had been talking me about if I don't have the rebound don't go for it and on offense take my time, pace myself and on defense focus a lot on that.”

JORDAN HILL

(on sometimes needing to slow down): It can be (challenging). We’re just so caught up in running hard every time; running back on defense going to the boards hard. On offense you feel you need to do the same thing. But then maybe if you go slow on offense then maybe you start slacking on defense also, too, so you just have to stay focused and stay ready for when we get the ball.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS COACH PAUL SILAS

(On Stephen Jackson) “He really did struggle tonight. Any time your best player has an off night like that it’s tough. It was just an off night for him. He got the shots that he normally makes, but he didn’t make them tonight and when he went to the hoop, he didn’t get the fouls called.”

(On the Bobcats performance) “I thought our defense was OK, but when your offense is as bad as that, it has a negative effect on your defense. Our rebounding also was horrendous. It was one of those nights we didn’t have it.”

STEPHEN JACKSON

(On his night tonight) “My body felt fine, it was just one of those nights. I had wide open looks but the shots didn’t fall tonight. It wasn’t anything they did with their defense, it was just one of those nights.”

D.J. AUGUSTIN

(Playing in Texas) “It’s always great to play in Texas. I get great support here. Tonight we played well in the beginning and I got some shots to fall but we couldn’t keep it going.”

(On the Rockets tonight) “They got some easy transition points and knocked down some three’s. They played hard out there. They’ve got a lot of great shooters on that team. Budinger (Chase) hit some open shots and Lowry (Kyle) does a great job pushing the ball. They are a great all around team.”

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