Overview: Kevin Martin dropped a season-high 40 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, with 22 of those 40 coming in the first quarter. As a team, the Rockets shot 12-26 from beyond the arc.
The good news is that the Cavs’ starting lineup has something resembling an offensive philosophy. The Rockets are almost as bad as the Cavaliers are on defense, but even so there was a lot to like about what the Cavs were doing. They had four three-point shooters on the floor (Gibson/Mo/Parker/Jamison) on the floor for most of the time, ran a lot of high screen-roll action for Mo and let him work in the middle with the floor spaced, and were able to get some nice pick-and-roll type dives to the basket. There were a lot of open threes and open lanes for Mo, and the Cavs were able to remain competitive in the first half despite the Rockets hitting everything they threw up.
About the Rockets’ offense in the first half. It was crazy. First of all, Kevin Martin was an absolute house of fire. The Cavs’ defense wasn’t quite as bad as it has been for most of the losing streak, but that didn’t really matter with Martin, who’s always been something of a Cavs-killer. In transition, Martin ran to the three-point line and knocked them down. When the Cavs relaxed for a second in the half-court, he’d fling that funky shot right up and drain it in somebody’s face. When they reacted to the shot-fake, he’d blow by them or draw the foul. There was no answer for him — he had the most success against Manny Harris, but nobody was really able to throw Martin out of sync. When Kevin Martin is on, he’s one of the more efficient and ruthless scorers out there.
Outside of Martin, the Cavs didn’t allow too many easy looks — Battier was mostly left alone from beyond the arc, and Scola did a very good job working on Andy in the post, but outside of that the starters did a decent job defensively. Of course, doing a decent job defensively against everyone but the guy who scored 40 points on 19 shots isn’t all that great, and the Rockets got some easy ones once the game broke open. 96 of the Rockets’ 11o came from the paint, the three-point line, or the free-throw line, in case you were wondering.
The Cavs didn’t really break until they put their second unit in — once the Cavs couldn’t keep the floor spread and the ball stopped, things got ugly fast. Hickson stops the ball and really doesn’t belong right now — it’s a definite present/future question for Byron Scott with him. Ramon needs to rediscover passing or be out of the rotation — theoretically, he should thrive in this type of system, but that hasn’t happened. And Leon Powe is very useful in some situations, but he is not an uptempo player. Once the three of them checked in in the back half of the third, the game went from being somewhat close to being yet another blowout. At least the front office should know what types of players to target at the deadline. Until next time.