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Saturday December 17, 2011 11:52 PM

Rockets Roll Past Spurs In Preseason Opener

Scola scores 20, Hill starts strong as Houston cruises to 101-87 victory

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - Seeing Luis Scola knock down elbow jumpers and befuddle opponents down low is nothing new. It’s all part of the unique package that makes him a fan favorite. He’s established, consistent and an absolute joy to watch. So to see him showcase mid-season form right from the start on his way to a seemingly effortless 20-point game should come as little surprise.

Jordan Hill, meanwhile, is still attempting to make his mark in this league, still looking to find his niche. He’s shown flashes for sure; glimpses into the gifts he possesses and what all that length, quickness and athleticism can bring to the Rockets’ frontline. What’s been lacking up to this point is consistency. Saturday night, however, he sent a message that maybe, just maybe, his time has arrived.

Building on a strong training camp that’s seen him draw praise from his coaches on a near daily basis, Hill kicked off the preseason with a 17 point, 13 rebound performance that helped lift Houston to a 101-87 victory over San Antonio. Hill was especially beastly on the offensive boards, pulling down 8 of his teammates’ misses during his 29 minutes of action.

His showing was a sight for sore eyes for a Rockets team searching for someone to step forward and provide the club with a formidable presence in the paint. It was, to be sure, just a single step and one undoubtedly aided by the fact San Antonio chose to sit two members of its famed big three in Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. But the fact remains: Hill was focused, relentless and strong, and he gave his team exactly what it needed. He has no control over the opponents he faces on the floor; only the sort of effort and energy that he brings. That much he handled with aplomb and his teammates most definitely took notice.

“He played great,” said Scola, who could just as easily have been talking about himself after scoring 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting in just 22 minutes of play. “I think he can really help us. We need a center and I always talk to these guys and say, ‘Why does everybody keep looking for a center – you’re a center, right?’ They should take this challenge and say, ‘You don’t even have to look for a center – I’m a center.’ I think today Jordan showed he’s a center and he can play. That was great for us today and I think he will be good for us the whole season.”

Hill certainly looked right at home with a Rockets starting lineup that was dominant from beginning to end. Scola got his club going early, draining his first four shots without the ball so much as even grazing the rim. And Houston’s defense – such a point of emphasis throughout training camp – got good results, too, limiting San Antonio to 35 percent shooting from the field for the evening.

To be sure, much more work remains. The Rockets were too foul-prone in the first half and conceded far too many layups and open corner treys – faults that a more full strength and in-form Spurs team are likely to feast on in the future.

All the same, it was a positive first step – for both Hill and the team. The key now lies in putting one foot in front of the other until both establish the sort of confident, steady and sustained stride that can be counted on night-in and night-out; the kind of excellence that leaves no doubt about the sort of effort that will be given every game. And if either ever needs a reminder of what that looks like, they needn’t search too far.

Luis Scola will be right there, draining jumpers from the elbow and dizzying defenders down low, providing a crash course in the art of consistency.

And 1s: Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced today that the team has signed second-round draft pick Chandler Parsons. The Rockets selected the University of Florida forward with the 38th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Parsons is expected to dress out for tonight’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.

Parsons (6-9, 200, Florida), who also played with Cholet Basket (France) in 2011, completed his four-year career at Florida ranked 12th all-time in school history with 1,452 points. He was named SEC Player of the Year and First-Team All-SEC as a senior. In addition, Parsons earned SEC All-Freshman honors in 2007-08. His grandfather, Don Parsons, played basketball at Rutgers and was drafted by the New York Knicks.

Tonight’s crowd of 12,859 helped the Rockets raise $65,000 through the sale of individual tickets to this preseason contest. Rockets Owner Leslie Alexander and the organization pledged to support 100 military families who need assistance during the holidays by donating proceeds of all single-game ticket sales from tonight’s preseason opener against the San Antonio Spurs. Each of the 100 families from the various branches of the military will each receive $650 gift certificates to assist them in meeting their holiday needs. The Rockets partnered with the Veteran’s Administration Hospital to identify families of service members who have been wounded while serving in recent wars. Proceeds will also benefit military from the 1st Battalion 23rd Marines who recently completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan, as well members of 1/158th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion who just returned from serving in Iraq.

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

I was happy with some aspects. We fouled too much but we’ve really been aggressive in practice and I’d let them beat the crap out of each other so I suppose that carries over into the game a little bit which is OK. I liked the offensive rebounding. I liked the fact that Jordan got 8 offensive boards. There were units that played very, very well together and that’s kind of what I was looking for. It was a good overall first exhibition type game.

(On the Rockets playing aggressive)  “We'll have to tone it down of course. I've looked at the film. We were getting attached on pick and rolls, we are doing what the league said,  we are getting fouls because we are using our arm and we are getting up on the dribbler but you can get up on the dribbler as long as you are not hand checking.”

(On Luis): yeah, Luis played well. He’s a gamer. That guy’s been a pro since he was 15-years-old. You get a whole different look at him when the popcorn starts popping.

(on his centers): I thought Jordan played very good. I thought he got tired and I thought Blair and Splitter did whatever they wanted there for awhile. Hasheem’s got to be able to move his feet a little better. He’s got to use his length.

KYLE LOWRY

We were flowing. The first couple of minutes, our first group was really flowing and cohesive because we played together last year. We worked in a few things from the new offense and it worked well for us. Coach told us the less plays he calls the better off we are.

(On Luis Scola): He was balling. He looked like he was in mid-season form. We all made fun of him because he really looked like he just couldn’t wait, but he played well. He and Kevin are going to be our two high point scorers.

(on Jordan Hill): Jordan played well. He’s been playing well all camp and he came out and showed how he’s been playing. The only thing about him is he’s got to be consistent and keep it up. 

LUIS SCOLA

(on Jordan Hill): “He played great. I think he can really help us. We need a center and I always talk to these guys and say, ‘Why does everybody keep looking for a center – you’re a center, right?’ They should take this challenge and say, ‘You don’t even have to look for a center – I’m a center.’ I think today Jordan showed he’s a center and he can play. That was great for us today and I think he will be good for us the whole season.”

(comfortable with Jordan as your starting center all season?): If he scores 17 and 13 every game then I’ll take him (laughs).

(on the team defense): We were making a lot of mistakes but we were working very hard and that’s what all this is about. We have to play hard and play together and then you’ll get good stuff out of it. We did today and that should be our trademark. A lot of things can happen, but nobody can play harder than us.

I’m excited. I think we have a good team. We still have a lot of work to do but I think we have a good team.

(On he felt tonight) “I feel good to play basketball. I sill need a couple more days to get in shape and to get my rhythm back but I feel pretty good.”

(On his play) “I had a couple of shots and made them. I was able to get it going. If I would have missed those first shots I would have had a different game. I felt good about the game and other things as well. I played good. I could run well up and down the court and I felt good. I want to take positive things away from this game. Instead of the shots I made, those could have went in or out. It doesn't matter. Some days they would come out but if I feel good we will continue to play good so that's what I think about how I played in this game.”

JORDAN HILL

(On his play) “I was just out there having fun. I was focused on my main focal point, rebounding and defending to the best of my ability and to help out my team in anyway possible to get a win.”

(On what the Rockets need to improve upon) “Defensively I think we got a lot better from the beginning of training camp. We need help mostly on rebounding. We just need to go out there and hit our man and play tough and try to go for the boards.”

TERRENCE WILLIAMS

(On his play) “First half...horrible. I realized that was really the most minutes I had played since December of last year with the Nets. I think once I got all the wrinkles out, overall for myself, things started to pick up again in the second half. Overall, as a team, I think we did a lot of great things. The film will tell us things we need to work on but overall I think we did good.”

 SAN ANTONIO COACH GREGG POPOVICH

(On the positive things he saw from his team)  “T.J. (Ford) showed some good leadership out on the floor. Tiago Splitter was really solid and it was great to see him with some consistent minutes after last year. James Anderson was pretty aggressive but he just couldn’t get it in the hole.”

(On the short pre-season) “Our games are going to come fast and furious. We will have to learn on the run and guys will not be in shape to play 40 plus minutes a game so other guys are going to have to step up.”

(On the Rockets) “Houston moved the ball very well and have a lot of depth on their roster. They are a very athletic team. Dragic looks healthy and that will be a big bonus for the Rockets. Luis (Scola) is Luis and he is a very special player in this league.”

MANU GINOBILI

(On the game) “I expected we would shoot better. We were rusty and missing two of our top players (Duncan and Parker). We did a better job in the second half. It was not a great game but it was not horrible either. We were all bad from the field. Defense was our biggest problem all game.”

 T.J. FORD

(On signing with the Spurs) “This was the best situation for me and they wanted me to help their team. It (His signing) was real quiet. I snuck over without anybody even noticing. It’s nice to be closer to home.’

(On the game) “It is still preseason and there is a lot I need to work on. I need to get more comfortable with the Spurs system but it was good to get out and control the offense.”

DeJUAN BLAIR

(On the game) “It was good to get the preseason and it was a lot of fun to be out there. We have a lot of things to work on and plenty of time to get things fixed. It will be good to get the season going.”

NOTES

The Rockets opened the 2011-12 preseason with a 101-87 win over the Spurs. Houston was 16-11 in 2010-11 when scoring 100 or more points at home.

Houston limited San Antonio to 87 points on 29-of-82 (.354) shooting tonight. The Rockets also held the Spurs to just 36 first-half points on 8-of-40 (.200) shooting. Houston’s best field goal percentage defense in a half last season was a 12-of-44 (.273) second half vs. the L.A. Clippers (1/26/11).

 The Rockets outrebounded the Spurs 56-38 tonight. Houston reached at least 50 boards 12 times last season (Rockets record: 9-3), including a season-best 58 rebounds vs. the L.A. Clippers (4/9/11).

Luis Scola finished with a game-high 20 points (9-12 FG) and five rebounds tonight. Scola recorded a single-season career best 32 20-point games last season.

Jordan Hill had 17 points (7-11 FG) and a game-high 13 boards tonight. His regular season career high in rebounds is 10, which he has accomplished on two occasions (last: 1/17/11 vs. Milwaukee). Hill also owns just two career double-doubles in the regular season.

Terrence Williams posted 14 points (7-13 FG) and nine rebounds tonight. Williams’ best regular season outing with the Rockets stands at 11 points (4-11 FG) and three rebounds at Orlando (1/7/11).

Goran Dragic, who recorded the first triple-double of his career with 11 points (4-8 FG, 3-6 3FG), a career-high 11 rebounds and a career-best 11 assists in the 2010-11 season finale at Minnesota (4/13/11), picked up where he left off with 11 points (4-8 FG), four assists and two steals in 19:19 off the bench tonight.

Manu Ginobili notched 16 points (6-14 FG), four rebounds, one assist and one steal tonight. In his previous outing in Houston (4/1/11), Ginobili had 23 points (7-17 FG), seven boards, six assists and three steals. It marked the first time that he reached each of those statistical totals in a single game last season.

DeJuan Blair also posted 16 points (5-9 FG, 6-12 FT) and a team-high seven rebounds. Blair also had 14 points (6-12 FG), 12 boards and three blocks last season against the Rockets at San Antonio (1/29/11).

 Tiago Splitter, who got the start at center tonight for San Antonio, added 13 points (6-9 FG) and three rebounds tonight.

Former Willowridge High School standout T.J. Ford made his debut with the Spurs by leading all players with six assists tonight.

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