• Print
Saturday March 19, 2011 0:52 AM

Rockets Romp To Big Win Over Boston

Hayes, Lowry set the tone as Rockets win in a runaway, 93-77 over Celtics

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - The Rockets’ faithful had seen this before: A shorthanded, seemingly overmatched squad with its back against the wall rising to the occasion and making magic at Toyota Center.

For whatever the reason, and no matter the parties involved, this is what the Rockets do, as if it’s embedded somewhere deep within the franchise’s DNA. The moment this team is counted out is precisely the moment it stands up and demands to be accounted for.

Summoning the spirit of 2009 – when a shorthanded Houston club gave the soon-to-be champion Lakers all they could handle – the Rockets tapped into more of their resilient, never-say-die mojo Friday while walloping the Boston Celtics 93-77 at Toyota Center. Never mind that Luis Scola missed his fifth straight game with a sore left knee and forget about the fact that less than a week ago Houston looked like the longest of long shots to make the playoffs. The Rockets simply went back to work, ignored the bleak odds and responded with the sort of trouncing that leaves you wondering what this team might be capable of the rest of the way.

Who deserves the credit? The more appropriate question is: Who doesn’t?

Start at the top with the sensational job done by Rick Adelman and his staff. Not once did they panic and never did they waver in their belief that this team, no matter the hardships experienced along the way, was capable of playing to its full potential. Now, Adelman sits tied with, coincidentally enough, Celtics’ legend Red Auerbach for ninth on the NBA’s All-Time list for wins by a head coach with 938 victories under his belt. And how gratifying it must be for Adelman to reach this milestone the way he did, with his team slicing, dicing and dissecting Boston’s defense en route to building a lead that once ballooned to as large as 29 points.

While the margin of victory may have been a surprise, Houston’s offensive exploits shouldn’t be, even given the Celtics’ well-earned reputation as a stalwart defensive team. Without a single All Star on the roster, the Rockets are routinely turning in prolific offensive performances, and they’ve done so thanks to a strict adherence to Adelman’s system: cutting, passing and pushing the pace with such precision and unrelenting energy that even the most stingy of defenses has difficulty dealing with Houston’s efficient offensive machine. And as the even-keeled architect of it all, Adelman deserves a lion’s share of the credit for making the most of the talent on hand and bringing his blueprint to life.

Of course, every draftsman needs devoted, skilled workers to ensure his vision sees the light of day and it’s here that Chuck Hayes and Kyle Lowry must be lavished with praise for the way they have seized the mantle of leadership for this team and placed it on a path toward success. When Shane Battier was dealt at the trade deadline, there was an immediate need for players to step up and fill the void he left behind, both on and off the court. And if anyone still harbored doubts about Hayes’ and Lowry’s ability to do so heading into Friday night’s game, surely those thoughts were vanquished after watching the way Houston’s tone setters took over from the opening tip.

When Boston’s notorious trash talker and neighborhood bully Kevin Garnett challenged Hayes in the second quarter, the Chuckwagon stepped forward and let KG know in no uncertain terms that such behavior would not be tolerated – ever – on his watch. Words, of course, are one thing; actions quite another. And Hayes wasted no time delivering the latter, stripping Garnett of the ball on Boston’s next possession, eliciting the sort of roar from Rockets’ fans that’s not only filled with approval, but also of vindication, passion and, perhaps most importantly, belief – because at the precise moment Hayes made his stand, everyone in the building, from the fans to the players themselves, knew the Rockets would refuse to back down and never roll over because their leader would never allow such a thing.

“It was just an intensity game and what they like to do is bully you and get in your head to try to make you think you can’t play with them,” said Hayes while recalling the game’s emotional turning point. “We just hit the bully back and see if he can take a punch. [Garnett and I] got into a verbal altercation and I let him know I’m not standing for it. Then the next play they tried to iso him on the block and that was the wrong time to do it because I had so much adrenaline rushing I was determined not to let him get a score – not even giving up a shot.”

While Hayes provided the muscle, Lowry resumed his role as the motor that powers nearly everything the Rockets do. The man’s play has been positively monolithic this month, averaging more than 19 points, 7 assists and exactly 3 steals per game in March. And he surpassed each of those totals Friday night, absolutely dominating his matchup with Rajon Rondo with the sort of relentless tenacity that has become his trademark.

Together, Hayes and Lowry have taken the reins of this team and made it their own. They supply the energy and intensity night after night and, what’s more, they deliver results. But perhaps the greatest testament to their leadership can be seen in the way their teammates have followed suit: Kevin Martin continues to be a silent assassin; Patrick Patterson is rapidly turning into an all-out beast; Jordan Hill is enjoying his best stretch of the season; And Chase Budinger, as Hayes was quick to point out in the postgame locker room, is doing yeoman’s work on the defensive end, having shut down Stephen Jackson and Paul Pierce in back-to-back games. Put simply, this team has assumed the identity of its leaders and, as a result, has now placed itself firmly back into the Western Conference playoff mix.

“I kind of knew I was a backseat leader with Shane here and I was fine with that,” said Hayes, discussing the way his role has changed following the trade deadline. “But when he left, I had to jump in the driver’s seat and I needed Kyle to be in the passenger seat because he’s our point guard and he’s been playing great. The guys need to hear his voice, so when they do hear his voice, they respect him and listen. And me, I’m going to talk but mine is more action. I’m going to say what I’m going to say and I’m going to get my point across and I want you to watch because my actions will let you know that I’m just as committed to this game and to this play as the next man.”

Together, Hayes, Lowry and their teammates had Toyota Center rocking Friday night in ways it hasn’t since the ’09 playoffs. Surely the Celtics never saw it coming. But maybe they should have. Backs against the wall, shorthanded, counted out – this is how the Rockets routinely respond. Can they continue to do so? The road to a playoff berth is still very much an uphill climb. Perhaps, then, the Rockets are precisely where they want to be.

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

(on the leadership of Kyle and Chuck): They don’t get enough credit for the way they played last year and this year, especially this year. You watch Chuck night after night and somehow, someway we have to get something going where he makes the all-defensive team. I don’t know what it’s going to take because he’s doing it at both ends of the court. He’s doing whatever it takes. But Kyle and Chuck, we made those trades and they were the ones who stepped up. We talked about you need to do more, you need to be – whatever your comfort zone is – you need to expand it and they’ve done that. I think there’s different guys on our team who have expanded that but they’ve set the tone.

(On the game) “I can't say enough about our guys and the way they played in the first half. We were just terrific. That was about as good as we can play at both ends of the court. We were reactive. We really moved the ball well. We were getting good opportunities getting to the free throw line and to the basket. We got a little stagnant in the 4th quarter but I'll take this game. When we're playing against that team and the way we needed to come out and play and the way our guys responded was just terrific.”

(On the play of the Celtics) “We knew that they were going to do that (be aggressive). We knew that they were very physical and they were going to grab and pull and they were going to try and intimidate. We've got a young group and all we talked about before the game and at timeouts and all the time was that you play through it. You got to keep your composure and play through it, keep attacking them. We play our game. I was really pleased at the way our guys approached it. I was really please by Chuck (Hayes). He didn't let (Kevin) Garnett get into him. He just played. That's what our guys have got to do. We are putting ourselves in a good position and now we have a real key game against Utah on Sunday. Like I said, I can't be more pleased with our attitude going into this game.”

CHUCK HAYES

It was an emotional game even before that with the fans, the intensity in the building, the sprinkle of green. Where did all these Boston fans come from? That blows my mind. But it was just an intensity game and what they like to do is bully you and get in your head to try to make you think you can’t play with them. We just hit the bully back and see if he can take a punch. We got into a verbal altercation and I let him know I’m not standing for it. Then the next play they tried to iso him on the block and that was the wrong time to do it because I had so much adrenaline rushing I was determined not to let him get a score – not even giving up a shot.

Two games in a row now Patrick’s played well, Jordan’s giving us energy off the bench and please take notice of Chase Budinger’s defense the past two games on Stephen Jackson and Paul Pierce. He’s been huge. You have to take your hat off to him; he’s not able to score as much because all his energy is going to the defensive end – now he’s getting a taste of what Shane Battier had to go through. Everybody is playing well right now and we’re just going to try to keep it going.

(leading this team): I kind of knew I was a backseat leader with Shane here and I was fine with that. But when he left, I had to jump in the driver’s seat and I needed Kyle to be in the passenger seat because he’s our point guard and he’s been playing great. The guys need to hear his voice. So when they do hear his voice, they respect him and listen. And me, I’m going to talk but mine is more action. I’m going to say what I’m going to say and I’m going to get my point across and I want you to watch because my actions will let you know that I’m just committed to this game and to this play as the next man.

(reminiscent of ’09 playoffs?): It was definitely like that in the building. From that series, we have only three guys left, so we’ve taken what we learned from that series and that whole season and tried to apply it to this new group and these young guys and hopefully they feed off us.

(On the win) “We've had some good wins this year on the road at Boston, Atlanta, Utah and so forth but the huge win for us tonight here and protect our home court. In these six home games we have to make our push and tonight we knew it was going to be battle tested and the guys responded well and played great.”

(On defending Kevin Garnett) “I study him and I study a lot of my opponents. Due to the fact that they play on television a lot, I get to watch him more than others. I know what he likes to do. I am breaking down his offensive game on both blocks so whenever he does try to match up against me, I do my best to make him take tough shots.”

KEVIN MARTIN

(on Chuck): He’s unbelievable. I’ve never played with a center shorter than me. Just some of the things he does on the court, it’s tremendous for our team and he’s a big anchor for why we’re playing the way we are since the All Star break.

(On the Rockets defense) “It was a very important game for us and we knew we had to do it on the defensive end. Chase (Budinger) Played good defense on (Paul) Pierce and I was just trying to keep Ray (Allen) off the 3 point line and Chuck (Hayes) was making (Kevin) Garnett take tough 2s. It worked to our advantage tonight.”

(On the play of Kyle Lowry) “He has been great for us. There are not enough words to say how he's been for us ever since the trade.”

KYLE LOWRY

(On his 3-point shots in the 1st quarter) “When you hit two 3s, it's pretty big. I just felt like we came out and we played our game. We pushed the tempo. We made shots and we played good defense. We got back in transition. They (Celtics) missed some shots but I think for the most part Chuck (Hayes) set the tone when he got his technical foul.”

(On the importance of standing up to the Celtics emotionally) “It was very important for us to show that because that's us as a team. There are five of us and when we go out there we play for each other. We're playing for the other guys in the locker room and the coaching staff.”

PATRICK PATTERSON

(On conserving his energy throughout the game) “I focused a lot on that, conserving my energy throughout the game rather than just letting it all loose. In a couple of opportunities I realized I couldn't get the rebound, couldn't get the board so I just went back into transition. So definitely I think that helped out my ability to maintain a steady constant level of high energy.”

(On the importance of the win) “It's a huge momentum booster especially when you beat a team like Boston with the great record they have right now and the great players they have. So, hopefully this will carry over to the next game against Utah here at home because we want to make this home stand strong, we want to continue this momentum and keep winning.”

BOSTON CELTICS COACH DOC RIVERS

(On the game) “There was only one thing we accomplished in the game and that is that we kept our starter’s minutes low. We couldn’t make shots. We missed point blank shots. I believe our bad offense led to bad defense.”

(On the Rockets) “They just killed us in the first half. Their guards distributed the ball well. We lost our composure. They slowed down and played after the confrontations in the first half. We played sloppy.”

(On the Celtics play) “We came into the game with the right mind-set. Overall our play wasn’t good. It wasn’t how we play as a team. They did everything better than us. Rick coached better than I did and their players played better than ours.”

GLEN DAVIS

(On the game) “It didn’t go our way. We just got our ass kicked and they beat us bad. They just beat us and that is it.”

(On his technical foul) “I was just reacting because he (Jordan Hill) pushed me into the stands. The ref told me ‘I called the foul and you didn’t keep quiet.’ I don’t understand the call.”

PAUL PIERCE

(On the game) “We are discouraged with how we played on the defensive end. We have to wake up as a team and decide if we want to play Celtic defense or not.”

(On the second quarter technical fouls) “Things did get hot and we picked up some technicals but that is not an excuse for the loss. I was very disappointed. Houston played off their energy and got the win.”

KEVIN GARNETT

(On the game) “We can’t let our offense dictate what our defense does.”

“We couldn’t get stops. Houston’s offense is playing very well. It seemed like when they took over the game, they just ran with it. We are not going to use excuses but we will figure things out and get it together.”

NOTES

Tonight’s attendance of 18,412 marked the largest home crowd of the season. Overall, the Rockets have 11 sellouts at Toyota Center in 2010-11.

Houston registered a 93-77 triumph over Boston tonight, holding the Celtics to an opponent season-low 77 points just game after limiting the Bobcats to just 78 points vs. Charlotte (3/16/11). The Rockets have now won their last 16 games when holding an opponent under 100 points, which stands as the longest active streak in the NBA.

The Rockets, who snapped a four-game home losing streak to the Celtics, also recorded a 108-102 victory at Boston (1/10/11). Houston sweeps the season series over Boston for the first time since 2002-03.

Houston won by 16 points despite setting season lows in second-half points (31) and fourth-quarter scoring (12).

The Rockets recorded 62 first-half points (20-40 FG, 7-14 FT, 15-15 FT) tonight. Houston has now hit the 60-point mark in a half 27 times in 2010-11. The Rockets posted a total of 30 such halves over the past two seasons combined (12 in 2008-09 and 18 in 2009-10).

Kevin Martin finished with 25 points (6-15 FG) and another two steals tonight, including an 11-of-12 night from the free throw line. Martin made double-digit free throws in his first game since a 13-of-13 performance at New Orleans (2/27/11).

Kyle Lowry totaled 20 points (7-15 FG, 4-7 3FG) and nine assists tonight. Lowry has now dished out at least eight assists in 20 outings this season (Rockets record: 14-6).

Patrick Patterson posted his second consecutive double-double off 18 points (8-12 FG), a career-best 12 rebounds and a career-high four blocked shots tonight. Patterson had swatted away a previous career-high three shots at Denver (1/3/11) and three vs. San Antonio (3/12/11).

Chuck Hayes added 11 points (5-7 FG) and 11 rebounds tonight, giving him a career-high 18 double-figure scoring games this season (10 in 2006-07). Overall, it was the fifth time this season for two Rockets to record double-doubles in the same game (last by Scola and Hill on 1/17/11 vs. Milwaukee).

Jeff Green led Boston with 17 points (7-10 FG) tonight, giving him double-digit scoring in four of the last five outings.

Kevin Garnett had 11 points (5-10 FG) and Paul Pierce had 10 points (6-6 FT) to top the Celtics through three quarters of action tonight. Houston has not allowed more than two players to reach double-figure scoring through three quarters in each of the last three games (one by Phoenix and two by Charlotte).

Rick Adelman tied Red Auerbach (938) for ninth on the NBA’s all-time list for regular season coaching wins with tonight’s victory.

Got a question for Rockets.com? Send it to Jason Friedman. And for up to the second news and injury updates follow the Rockets and Jason on Twitter.