Pump Up Music: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones -- "The Impression That I Get"
The Big Picture: The Houston Rockets are unlike any other team in the NBA. The best description I've read of them, and please forgive me for being unable to find where I read it, is that they're a supercharged version of those old guys at the Y who have played together for fifteen years and play waaaaaaaay better than they look.
Put it this way: Without an All Star, they're looking at a playoff run, and if Daryl Morey can pull a miracle and add someone like Chris Bosh on a rental basis, they instantly become dark horse title contenders. Of course, the danger in building a team this way is that adding a superstar as the final piece could blow the whole thing to smithereens by disrupting all that lovely harmonious trust. Yao Ming is perfect for them because he's extremely unselfish, yet takes the team on his back when appropriate, and still within the framework of what the team is trying to do, generally. When Yao decides to take over, it's not at the expense of guys like Aaron Brooks, but because they need him.
Just take a gander at their roster. They've consistently played nine guys all season, and they've started the same lineup 36 of 37 games. Chase Budinger brings up the rear in minutes played among those nine, with 534, and the next most minutes played is Jermaine Taylor, who's played 70. For comparison, Nazr Mohammed has played 507 minutes for the Bobcats this season, D.J. Augustin has played 586, and Flip Murray has played 591.
There's a clear plan in place, it appears the entire management team trusts their player evaluations, and this far into the season it looks like they've hit home runs (or at least solid doubles) with Chase Budinger and David Andersen.
Key to Victory: Team defense is paramount against the Rockets. Aaron Brooks is probably the only guy we should be worried about doing something on his own (and you know I'm always anxious about those super quick point guards), but the Rockets don't really iso and go, from what I've seen. Instead, they rely on movement away from the ball to get guys open, and they'll run at a moment's notice. None of them are going to break down Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson, and Chuck Hayes isn't going to push anyone around on the offensive block, but they'll chip away and chip away and chip away until they've got a lead and then a win. The Cats have to make sure they're in the correct position to press their individual athletic advantages.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Chase Budinger was a superstar volleyball prospect coming out of high school.