Yao Ming looked rusty — which makes sense after 15 months away from the game at this level. He rushed shots and missed things that by Thanksgiving will fall. Luis Scola scored 18 but took 18 shots to do it, including going 2-for-7 on midrange jumpers he can hit. He didn’t look like the player from the World Championships, he seemed bothered by the long arms of the Lakers front line (even without Andrew Bynum they can do that to people).
It’s going to be like that for a while — the Rockets may have two of the better international big men in the game, but it is the guards — Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin — that will carry this team for a while. Maybe a long while.
“It’s going to be Aaron and Kevin,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said after the game Tuesday night. “With those two guys on the floor we did some really good things.”
Brooks and Martin combined for 50 points and hit 7 of 12 from three. Brooks, as he often does against Derek Fisher, seemed to find his way into the paint at will (Steve Blake did slightly better on Brooks, which is the main reason he was in at the end of the game, and it paid off on the last play for L.A.)
When things went wrong for Houston on the Lakers 21-4 run in the third, it came back to the guards as well — the Lakers were bombing threes and the Rockets did not answer.
“Our offense got a little bit stagnant, a little bit on my part,” Brooks said. “We need to run a little offensive sets, a little more pick-and-roll.”
The Lakers are a tough way to open the season, but they are also the measuring stick. There were moments where you saw flashes of this team being able to count more on Yao and the guards being able to have more space because of him. But just flashes. It will take time.
Until then, the Rockets are all about the guards.