• Print
Wednesday December 16, 2009 0:43 AM

Rockets Dispatch Detroit With Relative Ease

Big games from Brooks, Budinger key 107-96 victory

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

Houston - Feel free to delete the emails breathlessly wondering when the comeback will begin. Go ahead and dispose of the conspiracy theories questioning the motives of players, coaches and staff. Tracy McGrady has returned to action. And the Houston Rockets didn’t miss a beat.

Making his first appearance since February 9 following microfracture surgery on his left knee, an admittedly nervous T-Mac played eight effective minutes during a key first quarter stretch which saw the Rockets pull away from the Pistons and his teammates took care of the rest from there, helping Houston cruise to a 107-96 victory over Detroit.

“I didn’t get tired at all, surprisingly,” said McGrady, who recorded 3 points and 3 rebounds, while finishing +12 for the night. “My lungs were good. I could have actually kept playing. The style of play itself was fun, just getting up and down the court with these guys. This is what I’ve missed and to have that back finally, it felt good to win and have fun on the court – there’s nothing better.”

The Rockets received big efforts across the board as the team recorded its best shooting night of the season, hitting 54.7% of its shots en route to victory. The key to their success: crisp ball movement and points in transition, of course. The Rockets relentlessly pushed the pace, tying their season-high with 27 fast-break points, while the club assisted on 28 of its 41 makes from the field. So even on a night when Houston’s three-point shots weren’t falling (the Rockets hit just 2-of-16 from deep), the offense never missed a beat thanks to the Rockets’ return to the attacking style which had been missing of late.

“We pushed the ball really well and we just have to keep doing that,” insisted Rockets’ Head Coach Rick Adelman after the game. “We haven’t been doing that as much lately and tonight we were able to get out, get to the basket and score some easy opportunities.”

Aaron Brooks and Chase Budinger were especially effective attacking the Detroit defense as both players found success challenging defenders at every opportunity. Brooks produced one of his better games as a floor general, striking the proper balance between finding his own offense and getting his teammates involved as shown by his team-leading 23 points and 10 assists. Meanwhile, Budinger was busy taking full advantage of his first career NBA start, compiling a double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) in place of Trevor Ariza who was serving a one-game suspension for swinging his elbow at Raptors’ guard DeMar DeRozan Sunday.

“He was terrific,” said Adelman of his rookie swingman. “He made shots, he ran the floor and the thing he really did was rebound the ball. We’re kind of overmatched around the basket, (Detroit) is a really good offensive rebounding team and we needed our perimeter people (to help on the boards). He ran the floor, got a couple big baskets there and he did a nice job. He’s a very good player and I think he doesn’t play like your typical rookie. We needed a big game from him with Trevor out and he gave it to us.”

And 1s: McGrady’s return to the floor came as a surprise to many, even T-Mac himself. Coach Adelman informed McGrady that the time for his return had come when the seven-time All-Star arrived at the arena before the game.

“The more I thought about it after Trevor’s suspension, with the schedule the way it is with all these back-to-backs, I just felt we need bodies,” explained Adelman. “It was good opportunity to try to work (McGrady) in like I did tonight. I thought now’s the time. At first I was going to wait until we had some breaks in the schedule. I think not playing that many minutes, this works out well, then I can also go with the normal rotation the last three quarters. It’s kind of working him in and see how he’s feeling; we’ll go from there.”

McGrady entered the game at the 7:44 mark of the first quarter to a rousing standing ovation from the Rockets’ fans. Their gesture did not go unnoticed.

“It was awesome,” said McGrady. “It really sent chills through my body, knowing that they appreciate what I’ve done in the past and that they’re glad to see me back on the basketball court. I felt that.”

After the game, Adelman said he expects to use T-Mac in a similar fashion for the time being. Though McGrady remains ahead of schedule in terms of his rehab, he’s still working himself back into playing shape and both the coach and player see no need to rush anything.

“What I’m looking to see is we want to continue to run the floor and it’s important that he pushes himself to do that. The time he’s playing now there’s no reason not to do that. We’re looking for that and how he’s defending and moving without the ball. I know he can do things offensively, that’s never been an issue. He’s one of the best passers in the league and he’s got great size and he’s just smart – he knows how to play the game.

“It’s just the little things, like he took it to the basket and got fouled – those are the kind of things we’re looking for and his continued effort at the defensive end. With that injury, the lateral quickness and the comfort level is not there and he’s got to push himself to get through that.”

Adds McGrady: “I’m just following what (Coach) wants. Obviously these guys have a great rhythm going on right now so trying to add me in there is going to be kind of tough. Seven minutes is what we’re working with right now. Whatever it takes for me to get back on the basketball court, I’m all for it. I don’t want to mess up the rhythm because they’ve got something good going. I just want to add my part.”

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

I thought it was a good way to start the week. The first six minutes they were scoring and then we shut them down the last six minutes of the first quarter. We controlled it from that point on. The second quarter we had a little problem, they went zone and we took a couple quick shots but, overall, it was a good effort to start this week.

We pushed the ball really well and we just have to keep doing that. We haven’t been doing that as much lately and tonight we were able to get out, get to the basket and score some easy opportunities. We shot a good percentage and had 28 assists. That’s a good number.

(on McGrady): He looked fine. We’re just trying to get him into the flow and that’s about what you’re going to see, at least at this point right now. Just try to get his feet wet and see where he’s at after that. That’s what we’re going to do, pretty much what you saw.

The more I thought about it after Trevor’s suspension, with the schedule the way it is with all these back-to-backs, I just felt we need bodies. It was good opportunity to try to work (McGrady) in like I did tonight. I thought now’s the time. At first I was going to wait until we had some breaks in the schedule. I think not playing that many minutes, this works out well, then I can also go with the normal rotation the last three quarters. It’s kind of working it in and see how he’s feeling, see how he goes. We’ll go from there.

The time he’s playing him what I’m looking to see is we want to continue to run the floor and it’s important that he pushes himself to do that. The time he’s playing now there’s no reason not to do that. We’re looking for that and how he’s defending and moving without the ball. I know he can do things offensively, that’s never been an issue. He’s one of the best passers in the league and he’s got great size and he’s just smart – he knows how to play the game.

It’s just the little things, like he took it to the basket and got fouled – those are the kind of things we’re looking for and his continued effort at the defensive end. With that injury, the lateral quickness and the comfort level is not there and he’s got to push himself to get through that.

(On Chase): He was terrific. He made shots, he ran the floor and the thing he really did was rebound the ball. He came back and rebounded the ball and got a lot of rebounds. We’re kind of overmatched around the basket, ( Detroit) is a really good offensive rebounding team and we needed our perimeter people. He was terrific. He ran the floor, got a couple big baskets there and he did a nice job. He’s a very good player and I think he doesn’t play like your typical rookie. We needed a big game from him with Trevor out and he gave it to us.

TRACY MCGRADY

Feels good to be back. I was a little nervous about how I was going to be received by the crowd. I didn’t expect that (the standing ovation). That was awesome. Thank you. I didn’t know how my lungs were going to hold up - it was just jitters, it had been so long since I’d played. It was just a great feeling to be back on the basketball court.

(on the standing ovation): It was awesome. It really sent chills through my body, knowing that they appreciate what I’ve done in the past and that they’re glad to see me back on the basketball court. I felt that.

I didn’t get tired at all, surprisingly. My lungs were good. I could have actually kept playing. It was (fun). The style of play itself was fun, just getting up and down the court with these guys. This is what I’ve missed and to have that back finally, it felt good to win and have fun on the court – there’s nothing better.

I wasn’t concerned about my knee at all because I’ve been practicing. It sounds crazy but my practices have been harder than what that was out there. That’s what made it a lot easier, going hard in practice, playing some of these guys one-on-one and doing some of the things I wasn’t capable of doing last season.

Once I got the ball and got that first shot up and everything started to calm down a little bit, my body was just all thrown off. When I went to the free throw line it felt like I was still running. It was just everything was moving so fast. But it just felt good to go out there and be accepted by the fans.

I’m just following what (Coach) wants. Obviously these guys have a great rhythm going on right now so trying to add me in there is going to be kind of tough. Seven minutes is what we’re working with right now. Whatever it takes for me to get back on the basketball court, I’m all for it. I don’t want to mess up the rhythm because they’ve got something good going. I just want to add my part.

AARON BROOKS

We got out and ran and got some easy buckets, a lot of layups. We did a good job running the floor and that all starts with defense. We haven’t scored 100 points in awhile and we got a lot of layups today.

(nice to have the McGrady question answered today): Yeah, everybody was wondering when Tracy was going to play and everybody was asking for the exclusive but honestly we didn’t know. He came in and did a great job and I think as the season continues to go, he’ll get stronger and stronger.

CHASE BUDINGER

(on rebounding): It was an emphasis in practice. Coming into the game the coaches were on me to get on the glass and help out with the big men because they had some big guys down there and that’s what I did tonight.

(starting as opposed to coming off bench): It’s all the same – playing is playing. Starting the third quarter it kind of shocked me because I mostly am sitting on the bench at the start of the third quarter and almost forgot like, ‘Oh shoot, I’m in the game.’ But it felt good playing that many minutes and it felt like my college days.

I feel like I’m a transition player so I get on the break and I can finish around the rim. Credit Kyle and Aaron for getting me the ball in transition.

LUIS SCOLA

(On the Rockets offense) “We had open shots and when you play fluid offense, everything is easier.”

(On the return of T-Mac) “He looked pretty good out there. We didn't know he was going to play until the very last minute. I definitely didn't know. I came to the game and I saw him in a jersey and I said, 'Hey, who are you?' I was happy he was out there and he was looking good too. He made a couple of moves and he went to the basket. He looked good to me.”

CARL LANDRY

(On the challenge of being able to rebound against Detroit) “The emphasis on rebounding was big. They ( Detroit) have great guys, Kwame Brown, Jason Maxiell, everybody on their team can rebound. They even have big guards that can get in there and get the ball. I am not sure if we won the rebounding war but at the end of the day, hey, it doesn't matter because we won the game.”

(On Tracy McGrady) “It was good to see Tracy. We've got a pretty young team and he is a veteran player in this league, a superstar all-star type of player and he has led by example every practice, every game and every time he is here with us. He came back sooner than anybody expected so when he came in the game I stood up and gave him a round of applause because it's not easy.”

DETROIT COACH JOHN KUESTER

(on the game) “Going into the game I told our players the aggressor would win the game. Houston was very aggressive and that is why they won the game. They had a lot of easy opportunities in the transition game. We had 26 assists and only 9 turnovers and with those type numbers you would usually be in the game. We just didn’t defend well.”

(on the Rockets and their play) “ Houston did a great job. They are well coached and play with a tremendous amount of energy. They played hard and deserved to win.”

RICHARD HAMILTON

(on the game) “Every opportunity we had to make a run they answered it by making shots. We gave up too many easy transition baskets and they seemed to hit every open shot.”

(on his play) “I felt good early and then I hurt my hamstring. It was really hurting and seemed to tighten when I sat down and we’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”

(on the Rockets) “ Houston played well. We expected their movement because that is the way Coach Adelman teams play. They found their rhythm early and they played unselfish basketball. Brooks is a really good player and he’s showing what he can do at this level. He’s really quick.”

NOTES

Tonight’s 107-96 victory was Houston’s fourth straight home win over the Pistons. It also snapped Detroit’s season-best five game winning streak.

The Rockets connected on 41-of-75 (.547) from the field and hit 21-of-35 (.600) shots over the first two quarters tonight, setting Houston’s 2009-10 season highs for field goal percentage in a game and a half (prev. bests – game: .538 on 11/6/09 vs. Oklahoma City and half: .571 in second half on 11/2/09 at Utah).

Houston (21 FGM, 15 asst.) and Detroit (22 FGM, 15 asst.) combined to dish 30 assists on 43 field goals made in the first half tonight.

The Rockets tied their season high with 27 fast-break points tonight.

Luis Scola finished with a season-high 23 points (10-16 FG) and eight rebounds tonight. Scola set his previous season best with 22 points (10-15 FG) vs. Memphis (11/11/09) and tied that total with 22 points (9-17 FG) vs. Sacramento (11/21/09).

Aaron Brooks registered 23 points (10-20 FG) and 10 assists tonight. Brooks, who now has 20-point performances in six of his last eight outings, marked the fifth double-double of his career.

Carl Landry recorded 19 points (6-10 FG, 7-10 FT) and three rebounds tonight. Landry had 20 or more points in each of his previous two games (20 on 12/11/09 at Philadelphia and 25 on 12/13/09 at Toronto).

Rookie Chase Budinger made the first regular season start of his career tonight with Trevor Ariza serving a one-game NBA suspension. Budinger finished with 16 points (6-11 FG), a career-high 12 rebounds and a career-best five assists, while marking the first double-double of his career. His previous best in boards was a team-high nine rebounds at Dallas (11/10/09).

Tracy McGrady made his season debut tonight, coming off the bench for his fifth time as a member of the Rockets. His three points (1-2 FG) and three boards in 7:44 of playing time marked McGrady’s first game action since at Milwaukee (2/9/09).

Richard Hamilton led five Pistons in double-figure scoring with 21 points (10-22 FG) and four assists tonight, which included 17 points (8-12 FG) and all four of his assists in the first half alone.

Rodney Stuckey had 17 points (7-24 FG) and five assists tonight. Stuckey entered this game having scored 20-plus points in seven of his previous nine games.

Chucky Atkins dished out a season-high nine assists off the bench tonight.

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.