Rockets Roll In NYC
Houston wins second straight by knocking off Knicks 104-96
HOUSTON - There were plenty of things to like about the Rockets’ 104-96 victory over the New York Knicks Sunday night.
Start with the supremely efficient scoring of Luis Scola and Kevin Martin, who combined for 52 points on the evening, often making it look easy as both continued their scorching individual starts to the season.
Then there was the spark off the bench from the likes of Courtney Lee and Ish Smith; guys who made big plays at big moments, none more spectacular than the alley-oop they paired up to produce in the first half.
Or perhaps you simply fancied the fact that the Rockets finally embarked upon their first winning streak of the season with the victory; one which also came with the added bonus of adding to the Knicks’ current malaise – always a nice touch given that Houston, if it so desires, possesses the right to swap first round picks with New York in the 2011 NBA Draft thanks to the trade deadline bounty the Rockets received from the Knicks last February.
But for all those fantastic performances and facts, no one person or thing shone brighter beneath the bright lights of Madison Square Garden Sunday night than did Chuck Hayes (and, yes, that even takes into account the courtside presence of the callipygian Kim Kardashian).
During a time when the Rockets are still attempting to rediscover their defensive identity, it was Hayes who showed them the way Sunday night. And on an evening when New York’s only consistent offensive option was Amar'e Stoudemire, it was Hayes who came in, did the dirty work and cooled off New York’s prized offseason acquisition, thereby rendering the Knicks’ offense ice cold and largely inept while the Rockets pulled away and turned a tight contest into a relatively relaxing triumph.
By now, Rockets fans are familiar with Hayes’ handiwork. They know that every so often he will seemingly singlehandedly take hold of a game and make it his own by virtue of his quick feet, versatility, smarts and superior defensive instincts, regardless of what his box score numbers look like after the game (though it should be noted that the Chuckwagon’s line of 8 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists was none too shabby).
This, of course, was one such game and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Rockets knew that after a rocky start to the season, a 1-2 record on their Washington/Indiana/New York road trip would be seriously tempting fate, especially with dates against Chicago and Oklahoma City looming on the immediate horizon. And when Stoudemire started the game by having his way with the Houston defense, it looked like the Rockets might find themselves facing just that sort of nightmare scenario. Then Hayes entered the game, Houston scored 6 straight points, and Stoudemire’s next two possessions consisted of a bricked shot attempt and a turnover.
Just like that, the tone had been officially set. And it should come as no surprise that when the Rockets went on their 19-4 second-half run that essentially decided the game, Hayes was on the floor throughout, smack dab in the center of it all.
So, yes, there was much to like about the Rockets’ most recent win in Manhattan. Martin and Scola were sensational – Lee and Smith rock solid in supporting roles. But for this night at least, the bright lights of Broadway belonged on someone whose game typically lends itself more toward the shadows than the starring roles. Chuck Hayes gladly stepped forward, set the tone and led the way. With his actions, if not his words, he demanded the spotlight and delivered a stirring performance worthy of an encore. Now it's up to him and his teammates to take this weekend's success and transform it into a season-long run.
On tonight’s game:
“I knew I was going to put Chuck (Hayes) on him (Amar’e Stoudemire). I was just trying to buy him some time while we had the lead, and we were playing okay. I was going to rest Chuck. I didn’t think I wouldn’t take him out for the rest of the game but we don’t have to worry about doubling him, Chuck stays in front of him, he’s such a good defender, a lot of people don’t realize how good he is but tonight he showed it again.”
On winning two in a row:
“It means a lot, just the way we’ve played. We came out these two and played solid games all the way through. We made some plays that gave us the lead, I wish we would have finished it stronger but I’ll take the win.”
On the current road trip:
“It was a good road trip for us. We’re going through a lot right now with two of our top four players out right now. We thought we were going to have them and find chemistry early, now we’re going to have to rely on whoever we have at the moment. We just have to keep on building chemistry and just go from there.”
On his performance:
“I felt good there’s something about playing in the Garden. I love playing in the Garden. The shots were going in. They make you work a little bit but it was fun night for us as a whole. Hopefully there are many more nights like that.”
On taking the lead:
“Yea that fourth quarter it comes down to execution on the defensive end and the offensive end, you get stops and get the defensive rebound, and on the offensive end you run the play, run the play hard, make it precise, and make them have to guard you.”
On tonight’s game:
“I have to look at it but if I am not mistaken, I thought there were layups and foul shots missed. Somehow we have to get over the insecurity or whatever it is that causes us to falter at crucial parts of the game.”
On having a losing record:
“You worry about it. Obviously, you don’t want to lose and everybody is pressing. The reality is that we are 3-7 and we have a game on Tuesday. You just have to figure out what is going on, how you can get better, what to do with the rotations and hit it on Tuesday. That is all you can do.”
On Amar’e Stoudemire:
“We are asking a lot of him. We have to do a better job of getting him open and we need to be a little more patient. I don’t think he is the problem…put it that way.”
On the poor shooting:
“That is definitely a problem. You don’t shoot well…that is a big deal. Our defense is better…it can be a lot better. We are losing the in between games…loose ball here, loose ball there…missed assignments…not making foul shots…fouling people when they are in trouble. Just making mental mistakes. We are not good enough to make mental mistakes and recover.”
On the losing streak:
“It is definitely something I am not accustomed to. It is not fun. We have to do a much better job out there collectively. We have to step it up. I know we are a young team and we make mistakes but we can’t keep doing the exact same thing. We have to find a way to grow up.”
On the team’s struggles on offense:
“We couldn’t score the ball. We have to find ways to score. It is tough when you have to work for every basket. When you are not getting easy baskets out there, it just makes the game harder. You have to orchestrate some easy baskets so that guys can get in the rhythm. Right now we have to work for every shot.”
On the team getting better:
“It is more attitude and more heart. We have to show more heart and go after it. Loose balls…we have to have those. Rebounds…we have to get those. We have to stick together and we have to turn this thing around.”
On the losing streak:
“I don’t have an answer or solution. It is a lot of things. We have to keep fighting one way or another. It is tough…it is frustrating. It is a lot of emotions I can’t even get into. It is tough to bear. It is tough to even talk about it. Somewhere, somehow we have to stay tough and we have to get out of this losing streak.”
More on the losing streak:
“It is a lot of the little things that you need to win games. It is not that our offense is that bad. It is not that our defense is that bad. We have a lot of lapses where our offense is not as fluid as it should be. We make a lot of mental mistakes on defense that hurts us. We have to figure this thing out. We have to stay strong. This is really testing us.”
On breaking the losing streak:
“We have to play smarter in certain situations. It is everybody. It goes to everybody. We have to all play harder in certain situations. We have to do it together as a team.”