The Houston Rockets (27-23) recovered from a pitiful start to defeat the resurgent Sacramento Kings (17-32) 113-106 in overtime Monday, but with the Dallas Mavericks on the docket tonight, exhausted legs will likely be the story. Goran Dragic and Marcus Camby also left the game with injuries, but both players said they should be ready to go in Big D.
Houston came out of the gate flat — down by as many as 16 in the first quarter — and didn’t seize its first lead until the fourth quarter before dominating in OT. The game should have been a chance to seize a big lead and rest the starters for the Mavs tonight, but unfortunately those same starters dug a deep hole and required maximum effort to maintain the ultra-competitive eighth seed in the West, which is essentially a four-way grudge match at the moment between Houston, Utah, Denver, and Phoenix. Here are five thoughts on last night’s game:
1) DeMarcus Cousins is a stud. The mercurial power forward who already got a coach fired this season is a complete player, hothead or not. Cousins is strong, aggressive, and versatile, with a sturdy power game around the hoop and a consistent midrange jumper as well. He scored 38 points, and played the role of unstoppable force for the majority of the night. It also seemed as if Houston’s post players forgot how to box out, as Cousins grabbed a whopping seven offensive rebounds. He kept Sacramento in the game, and showed scouts all the on-court abilities that justified his high draft position despite the character risks. It’s worth mentioning, however, that he also had five turnovers and a technical foul. John Calipari’s coaching career came full circle last night as well, with his original “money” recruit, salty UMass veteran Marcus Camby, squaring off against the future in Cousins.
2) Patrick Patterson has game, too. It was a good night for Kentucky alums, as Patterson matched Cousins down the stretch and scored a career-high 24 points. The former Wildcat teammates waged an epic back-and-forth battle in the paint, but it was Patterson who made the clutch shots at the end— including the eventual 17-footer that sent the game to overtime — and finished off his best game as a pro with a Rockets victory.
3) Houston is running out of point guards. This one is pretty self-evident. With Kyle Lowry likely out for the season, much of the offensive leadership load has fallen on Dragic, who has proven more than capable since Lowry’s health scare. Unfortunately, the baby faced assassin with a voice like Borat tweaked his ankle a bit last night and had to leave late after securing yet another double-double (16 & 10). He says he’s good to go against Dallas because of “unfinished business,” but how much of that was adrenaline talking, and how fresh will he feel after an overtime game last night to go along with the bum ankle? Houston also has two 10-day contract stalwarts on the roster in famously tiny journeyman Earl Boykins and dreadlocked rookie Courtney Fortson.
4) Houston has to play really hard to win. Yep, this one was pretty obvious too. The Rockets do not possess the talent to take nights off and simply brush aside young, struggling teams like the Kings. They proved that last night; they have to exert maximum effort, get in the passing lane, and grab offensive rebounds at a higher rate than the opponent to stand a chance. When Houston doesn’t play with energy and goes through the motions, as they did in the first half last night (they entered the locker room down nine), they can lose to anybody, but they also have a tendency to play up to their competition.
5) If Goran Dragic continues to play this well, is Kyle Lowry expendable? I’ll let you guys mull that one over.