Thursday, April 21, 2005
Now, come on. Do I have to do this one?
Yes you do, David. Yes, you do.
You'll rue the day you crossed me, anticlimactic finish.
It was bench day to the Toyota Center for the Sonics. Antonio Daniels was placed on the injured list before the preceding game to rest his kneecap. Ray Allen sat for some rest, and the boxscore says he has a strained right ankle. Rashard Lewis sat out to rest the knee tendinitis he's had for most of the year. Danny Fortson rested by coach's decision in the boxscore, but I'm guessing his shoulder is still somewhat strained.
So, the game added up to a whole lot of Damien Wilkins and a whole lot of Ron Murray, in terms of playing time for both. Mateen Cleaves was the reserve with the most minutes, and no one got over 28 minutes other than he and all the aforementioned names.
It only took a few minutes into the game for the Rockets to pull away, and they opened up a lead of nine in the first quarter, and this was before Mike James started breaking down the defense. The Sonics did manage to pull back within two on a 9-1 run spearheaded by Vitaly Potapenko (how often have I said that this year).
James then tore up the hardwood, scoring 11 points in the second quarter as the Rockets easily got their lead out to double digits. Houston scored the first 13 points of the quarter, and carried a 15-0 run over from the previous quarter. Who broke up the run? Mateen Cleaves and Robert Swift. Welcome to the scoresheet, guys. The first half ended with Houston leading 56-38.
The Rockets got their first 20-point lead with a Bobby Sura layup on the first basket of the second half. They had a lead of 20 or more for good when David Wesley nailed the technical free throws after Jerome James was tossed. The Rockets had their first 30-point lead on a Scott Padgett three-ball with just under four minutes remaining in the quarter. The Rockets led 90-57 after three.
Four minutes into the final quarter, the Rockets eventually got their largest lead of 39 points after James hit a three. Robert Swift hit a couple baskets in the quarter. Ron Murray scored seven of his points in the final frame.
PEEK AT THE BOXSCORE
Ron Murray 22 pts/2 reb/4 ast (10-25 FG, 2-10 3pt, 41 min), Damien Wilkins 9 pts/7 reb/2 ast (4-10 FG, 0-5 3pt, 44 min), Luke Ridnour 8 pts/2 reb/8 ast (3-6 FG, 2-2 free throws, 24 min), Reggie Evans 0 pts/3 reb (0-2 FG, 24 min)
Vitaly Potapenko 13 pts/2 reb (4-6 FG, 5-7 free throws, 18 min), Robert Swift 10 pts/3 reb/4 blk (4-4 FG, 2-3 free throws, 17 min), Mateen Cleaves 8 pts/3 reb (3-8 FG, 0-2 3pt, 2-2 free throws, 31 min), Nick Collison 6 pts/9 reb (2-9 FG, 2-2 free throws, 28 min)
Jerome James Watch
2 pts/2 reb/1 stl/1 blk (1-2 FG, 1 turnover, 5 fouls, ejection)
shot 31-for-72 (43.1%) from the field, shot 2-for-18 (11.1%) from downtown, shot 14-for-18 (77.8%) from the line, were outrebounded 37-33, were beaten 32-28 in the paint and 20-4 on the break, turned ball over 13 times, bench was outscored 51-37 (but Seattle's bench outrebounded 17-16), won 12-1 on second chance points
Really, there's not much to say about this game in particular. Ron Murray took a billion shots, as he's apt to do, and the Rockets held him to less points than shots taken. Vitaly and Swift got minute-for-minute the best production on the night. They put Swift on Yao for a few minutes, so hopefully that cut his teeth on the NBA for a while. If they ever get that kid on track, it'll be a plus that this franchise hasn't seen in years, surely before I even started watching them back in the mid-90s. He blocked four shots in his 17 minutes, for goodness' sake.
I'd be ticked if I'd paid for tickets for the final game months in advance only to see Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis (hometown guy), and Tracy McGrady all sit out. Buzzkill. The only thing that sucks more than that is the NFL charging full price on tickets for preseason games. If you're a Houston fan and that happened, though, just be glad the team proved to be up to their on-paper talent after the start they had.
Other than this, well, it's back home on Saturday night for a seven-game series with the Sacramento Kings. Despite the late injuries, it's been a special regular-season ride for these Sonics, who greatly surpassed expectations and played a great brand of basketball. Biggest of props to Nate McMillan, who took basically the same team he had last year, with the main difference being no Brent Barry and adding Danny Fortson, and molding it into the jumpshooting, screen-setting halfcourt extravaganza that we've been seeing all year. This is the number one reason I've been anxious to see the Sonics in the playoffs; they've been executing in the halfcourt for the whole season. They haven't been making their living off transition only to have their pace slowed to a crawl in the playoffs. If their are two wins in the schedule this year that I think are most encouraging in terms of playoff-like scenarios, I look to the home win against Detroit, and the win at Houston the first time through.
I would have asked Jinkies if Peja ever fitted him with fake foil championship rings or ankle bracelets in honor of the championship he hasn't gotten yet.