Are Ron Artest and the blue-collar Houston Rockets destined for playoff success?
Blue-collar muscle could end the heartbreak in Houston.
After years of bitter first round defeats, the Rockets, thanks to a one point win over the Blazers on Sunday evening, hold a commanding 3-1 series lead and are on the verge of advancing to the Western Conference Semi-finals.
Simply put, this new-look Houston side is suited for the playoffs.
Contenders have a lockdown guy. And coach Rick Adelman has the luxury of using two defensive specialists: Ron Artest and Shane Battier. In game four, these two took turns against Brandon Roy. Ron-Ron’s strength slowed Portland’s star, while the CEO (Battier) did a great job playing angles.
Artest and Battier’s efforts have had a trickle down effect. Power forwards Luis Scola and Carl Landry have produced on both ends of the court. Deadline acquisition Kyle Lowry is a heady point guard, while Chuck Hayes, although undersized, provides infectious hustle.
This group, with Yao Ming leading, have chemistry. Consider that the Rockets won game four despite shooting a measly forty percent from the floor. Instead of getting down about their misses, they simply outworked the Blazers for extra opportunities.
Most importantly, as a team, they defend. In the final minute of Sunday night’s contest, Houston got three key stops before Rudy Fernandez hit a three-pointer. The highlight was Battier and Roy combining for a block-charge combo on Roy.
Immediately following the game, the television cameras zoomed in on Artest and Tracy McGrady congratulating teammates. Slowly, the cameras left the injured T-Mac, who was decked out in a flashy three-piece suit, for the muscular Artest.
The image was ironic. Artest, with all his baggage and in just his first season with the Rockets, will likely win a playoff series –something the talented McGrady has never achieved. Chalk it up as a victory for blue-collar grit.