• Print
Sunday February 27, 2011 3:08 AM

Rockets Keep Rolling

Houston's offense goes into overdrive, steamrolls Nets 123-108

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Easy to forget now, but there was a time when Chase Budinger couldn’t buy a bucket. During the first six weeks of the season his shot was off, his confidence shaken, and both his body and his ego were more than a little bruised. He called it the worst shooting slump of his life.

Look at him now.

Just once game removed from establishing a new career-high for scoring, Budinger made his transition into the starting lineup look as seamless as possible, pouring in an easy 27 points to help spark the Rockets to a 123-108 trouncing of the New Jersey Nets. The second-year swingman was the picture of near perfect efficiency Saturday night, requiring a mere 11 shots – 8 of which found the bottom of the net – to produce his final point total as he attacked the basket, drained bombs from beyond the arc and did everything possible to further make that early season swoon little more than a distant memory.

“I’ve thought about it here and there,” he responded, when asked if he ever stops to consider how far he’s come from those days when it seemed as if his slump would never end. “The best advice was from Coach [Adelman]: he told me every players goes through slumps like that and the best way is just to keep working hard and eventually you’ll jump out of it and you really just forget about that slump and start playing well.”

That’s precisely what he’s done of late, though never more so than he has over the course of the last two games. Beginning with his 30-point explosion Wednesday against Cleveland, Budinger has refused to simply settle for being a sniper, instead diversifying his game and putting his ample athleticism to good use by supplementing his shooting with regular forays toward the basket. As a result, he’s made himself a much more dangerous player on the offensive end, and it’s taken Houston’s offense as a whole to a higher level as well.

The Nets simply had no answer for the Rockets’ attack Saturday night as they turned Toyota Center into their own personal playground right from the opening tip. Houston hit two-thirds of the shots it took in the opening stanza on its way to setting a season-high for points scored in the first half with a jaw-dropping 71.

The offense was so good, in fact, that it helped mask the club’s lackluster effort on the other end of the floor through much of the opening 24 minutes. Though not nearly as potent as Houston, the Nets were putting points on the board at a rapid rate themselves, in large part thanks to the work of newly-acquired Deron Williams, who set a new Toyota Center record for assists by an opponent with 17.

But every time the Rockets clamped down and generated stops, the distance between the two teams increased at a rapid rate. Once triggered, Houston’s transition game was positively lethal, leading to a bevy of fast-break buckets and highlight reel plays. And even in their half court sets, the Rockets’ offense was a sight to behold, with exquisite ball movement that led to the team recording a season-high with 33 assists.

It was the sort of game needed for a club that had experienced an emotional roller coaster two days ago while watching teammates Shane Battier, Aaron Brooks and Ish Smith get traded in deadline day deals. And though there were plenty of questions about how the team would respond – and while there promise to be even more in the days to come – the Rockets’ initial response could hardly have been better. Budinger obviously made his mark in place of Battier, but he also had plenty of help. The entire starting lineup, in fact, was exceptional throughout the evening as Kevin Martin scored a game-high 30 points, Luis Scola racked up 23, Kyle Lowry dished off 9 assists and Chuck Hayes flirted with a triple double, tallying 8 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 7 assists.

“I believe after something happens like it did here, everybody always brings a little bit more energy than usual,” said Scola after the game. “We’ve got some news guys who really want to show what they can do for us, and we needed the game, it was a very important game for us.

“We need wins, regardless. We need to get ourselves above .500, get somewhere between 42 and 45 wins, and hopefully that will take us to the playoffs.”

And 1s: The Rockets’ reshaped roster gave Terrence Williams a chance to receive some playing time and he responded with 4 points, 2 boards and 2 assists in nearly 11 minutes of play. And though he shot just 2-of-7 from the floor, he did produce the highlight of the night, grabbing a rebound and firing a picture perfect chest pass the length of the court to a streaking Courtney Lee for a layup.

“He did ok,” said Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman, when asked for his assessment of Williams’ play. “He’s got to find a way. He’s very athletic but he has to use that athleticism; he has to attack the basket. But he hasn’t been playing, so we have to give him time and figure out what’s going to be his strength and what’s not.”

Goran Dragic, meanwhile, scored 6 points in his Rockets debut despite not even having the opportunity to take part in the team’s shootaround Saturday morning. And Hasheem Thabeet was held scoreless during two minutes of play.

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

(On the game) “It was a good win. We came out with a lot of energy and we defended them better after the second quarter. We were kind of up and down the whole first quarter, but offensively we were pretty good all night long pushing the ball. We had 33 assists. We're trying to find out where everybody fits, it was a good start tonight.”

(On Chase Budinger’s night) “He has to do that (on being aggressive). He got to the line 9 times. It’s a fine line. I talked to the whole team at half time. It's a fine line between taking that long shot or if you've got a chance to attack the basket, then attack the basket. He (Budinger) did a nice job of that. Not just settling for three's. He can get to the basket. He's very athletic and I thought he ran the floor very well tonight and Kyle (Lowry) did a nice job of pushing it.”

You have to trust your teammates. You can’t just panic and do it yourself. You have to trust your teammates, keep the flow going and that’s what makes us good.

(on Terrence Williams): He did ok. He’s got to find a way. He’s very athletic but he has to use that athleticism; he has to attack the basket. But he hasn’t been playing, so we have to give him time and figure out what’s going to be his strength and what’s not.

COURTNEY LEE

(On the flow of the offense) “When you miss guys (the trade), other guys have to step up and fill those shoes. Chase (Budinger) came in and did a good job coming out starting, being an athletic three for us and knocking down threes. Kyle did a good job of throwing the ball in. Scola (Luis) was drawing attention and kicking it. Every body did a good job. They did their roles today.”

(On the increased minutes of the rotation today) “You'll start to see a lot more guys playing a lot more now-a-days especially that Aaron (Brooks), who played a lot of minutes and Shane (Battier) who also played a lot of minutes, so that leaves a lot of minutes for other guys to fill. Whether it's myself or Chase playing more or Terrence (Williams) getting in there or Dragic (Goran) getting in there. You'll see a lot of guys going out there.

KEVIN MARTIN

(On the play of Chase Budinger) “He is our new starting 3 (position), so we had to get him going and he responded to it and he played great. He was an anchor to our team tonight.”

(On the Rockets improved defense in the second half) “We did get up and down the court a lot in the first half and I think our defense slipped a little bit because of that. Coach (Adelman) harped on playing some defense in the second half and we still played offense and got some stops.”

LUIS SCOLA

I believe after something happens like it did here, everybody always brings a little bit more energy than usual… We’ve got some news guys who really want to show what they can do for us, and we needed the game, it was a very important game for us.

We need wins, regardless. We need to get ourselves above .500, get somewhere between 42 and 45 wins, and hopefully that will take us to the playoffs.

CHASE BUDINGER
The first half, we were letting them get anything they wanted; we were giving up layups, we were giving up open shots and letting them get to the free throw line way too much. I think that has to be an emphasis coming into the last twenty games.

(team offense): We can’t rely on offense because defense wins you games. But we know that we can always come back because our offense scores points in bunches.

(on how far he’s come from the first 6 weeks of the season): I’ve thought about it here and there. The best advice was from Coach: he told me every players goes through slumps like that and the best way is just to keep working hard and eventually you’ll jump out of it and you really just forget about that slump and start playing well.

(on attacking offensively): That’s what I’ve got to do: not just settle for jumpers but attack the basket, try to get some layups and try to get to the free throw line. I’ve done a great job the last two games and now I just have to continue that.

GORAN DRAGIC

(On him trying to learn the Rockets offense) “Today after we finished the shoot around, they gave me a few plays and I went through that. It was my first game and I think the second game is going to be a lot better. I'm really happy that we won that game (tonight).”

(On his first basket as a Rocket) “I was worried how I was going to land on the floor, but the first basket for me as a player for the Houston Rockets felt amazing. I just need a little bit of time to learn the plays and to know the players and how they are playing on our team. I think I'm going to be OK.”

NEW JERSEY NETS COACH AVERY JOHNSON

(On the game) “There were a lot of points at halftime. Our defense has taken a significant step backwards. We have to get on the same page as a team. We’ll get better defensively. We don’t have chemistry as our guys haven’t played together. We are still working and now we have some post trade problems we need to work on.”

(On Deron Williams play) “Deron is out there playing hard and is trying to figure out his new teammates.”

JORDAN FARMAR

(On his injured left ankle) “I landed on someone’s foot. I took an X-ray and hopefully I’ll be okay. It’s throbbing with pain and I have never had one swell up this badly. It’s part of the game and tough to handle.”

BROOK LOPEZ

(On the game) “We dug ourselves too big a hole from the beginning. There were a lot of miscues and some were because we haven’t played together. We tried to stick with it and we gave up too many first half points.”

DERON WILLIAMS

(On his wrist injury) “It’s sore and it is going to continue but I’ll play through it. I hurt it twice in the span of three days, at the All Star game and last night (at San Antonio). It doesn’t need surgery, it’s more of a sprain.:

(On getting used to his new team) “It’s good to get into games but I would like to have some practices. I have to get used to what my teammates are doing. We need to get our chemistry together. We have a lot of good scorers and our problems have been on the defensive end.”

NOTES

Houston picked up a 123-108 win over New Jersey tonight. The Rockets have now captured the last nine meetings with the Nets, including five straight at Toyota Center. New Jersey also remained winless on Saturdays, dropping to 0-11 on the final day of the week.

The Rockets handed out a season-high 33 assists tonight. Houston has now dished out at least 30 dimes five times in 2010-11 (Rockets record: 4-1).

Houston finished 42-of-82 (.512) from the field tonight, upping its record to 8-0 this season when reaching the .500 mark.

The Rockets reeled off a season-high 29 fast-break points tonight, including 22 off the break in the first half alone. Houston’s previous season high was 24 fast-break points at Toronto (11/19/10).

Houston registered a season-high 71 first-half points (24-42 FG), topping the previous best of 69 points in the first half at Memphis (12/3/10). Overall, the Rockets recorded three straight 60-point halves. Houston also scored 61 first-half points and followed with 63 points in the second half at Cleveland (2/23/11).

Kevin Martin, who scored 30 points (10-18 FG, 9-11 FT) at Cleveland (2/23/11), netted another team-high 30 points (9-15 FG, 4-6 3FG, 8-9 FT) tonight. Martin now has 14 30-plus point outings in 2010-11 (Rockets record: 9-5).

Chase Budinger registered 27 points (8-11 FG, 3-4 3FG, 8-9 FT) and six boards tonight, marking the fifth 20-point game of his career and his third this season. Budinger also registered the first 30-point performance of his career with an even 30 points (9-18 FG, 4-8 3FG, 8-9 FT) at Cleveland (2/23/11).

Luis Scola added 23 points (9-15 FG, 5-5 FT), seven rebounds and four assists tonight, giving the Rockets three starters with 20 or more points in the same game for the second time this season. The trio of Scola (35), Kyle Lowry (22) and Kevin Martin (21) also combined for 78 points vs. Detroit (12/7/10).

Chuck Hayes picked up eight points (3-7 FG), a team-high 11 rebounds, a season-high-tying seven assists and two blocks. Hayes also led the Rockets with a season-best seven assists at Minnesota (1/24/11). Houston now stands at a perfect 7-0 in games when Hayes has at least two blocked shots.

Acquired at the trade deadline, Goran Dragic and Hasheem Thabeet each made their Rockets debut tonight.

Deron Williams recorded 15 points (3-12 FG, 9-12 FT) and 17 assists tonight, which set the opponent record for most assists at Toyota Center (Toronto’s Jose Calderon had 16 assists on 3/3/09, Phoenix’s Steve Nash had 16 assists on 11/17/09 and 16 on 1/31/10). Overall, Williams now owns 12 regular season double-digit assist performances against the Rockets dating back to 2006-07.

Brook Lopez, who notched 22 points (8-16 FG) and 10 rebounds last year at Houston (3/13/10), totaled 21 points (8-16 FG, 5-6 FT), seven rebounds and three blocks tonight.

Kris Humphries had 13 points (5-9 FG, 3-4 FT) and 11 rebounds tonight, picking up his team-leading 17th double-double of the season.

Ben Uzoh scored a career-high 18 points (6-8 FG, 6-6 FT) off the bench tonight, topping his 11 points vs. Milwaukee (1/8/11).

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.