I am wary of beating the Kevin Martin drum too often, as I do not want to bore anyone to tears. But, people: Shane Battier — the guy who can stop Kobe Bryant — was shadowing Speed all night, wire to wire. How did Martin perform under constant pressure from a first team All-Defense guy? 27 points on 14 shots.
And glass? Glass? Kevin Martin has no use for your God-forsaken glass!
Tracy McGrady, also with an amazing defender covering him (Ron Artest), scored 32 points on 31 shots. Mac has and had a better all-around floor game than Martin… but there's little question that at this point, Speed's a superior scorer.
Moving onto Shelden Williams: He was a +14. I'm not terribly sure how to translate that; his defense was good in spots (last possession, for example) and awful about twice. His rebounding was no great shakes — Houston had almost as many offensive rebounds as Sacramento had defensive rebounds, which is really f%#$ing terrible. It was mentioned in the game thread, but: Brad Miller got ejected real early in the third quarter… and he finished as the team's leading rebounder. Eep.
Shelden had a case of the Mikkis, losing one transition pass inexcusably and another in the paint which most non-crustaceans would have picked. But again, he had flashes of goodness on defense, scored some buckets and drew some fouls, and did not once play outside his own ability, which was fantastic. The last thing we need during this audition period is a kid trying to do too much, like Spencer Hawes's flirtation with the three-ball in December or Quincy Douby's forays into the pick-and-rolls. (No offense, Q, but the pick-and-roll is not your friend. There was a nice pick-and-pop with Miller in there, but as fast as QD is… sorry. The corner just isn't getting turned fast enough.)
The most impressive Shelden play of the night, however: Less than a minute left in the first half, Martin with the ball at the top of the key. Williams lays a MASSIVE pick on Battier — so massive, Martin dribbles into the lane, loses the ball, regains possession, backs out to the three-point line right side, settles, fires up a shot… and Battier's still 10 feet away trying to get his bearings.
Hawes hasn't set tremendous picks thus far in his career; Mikki Moore's have been hit-or-miss. (He's really thin [as you well know], so it seems he compensates a little by either moving out early or shoving his shoulder into the pickee, depending on his mood.) A HUGE part of Miller's excellent offense is his ability to set definitive picks and free up his guards. With that pick on Battier, Shelden showed me he's got that attribute. I'm not sure he can drill the open 18-footer like Brad nor hit cutting baseline drivers — in fact, I know he cannot do those things. But the stiff screens are a plus. A plus plus. Lay them out, big man, lay them out!
Closing question: Does Reggie Theus
a) think Francisco Garcia is younger than 26 years old, thus viable under the Youth and Beauty Mandate?
b) think Joe Maloof won't notice that while ancient Anthony Johnson got only 12 min, Douby got only 5 min?
c) realize that, because of Rick Adelman, this is the one game the Maloofs really, really cared about winning no matter what, to Hades with the youngsters?