Michael Pina is a senior at the University of Delaware about to graduate with a BA in English concentrating in Journalism. Once he graduates in May, He’ll be living in his hometown of Boston.
The Houston Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night for a few different reasons. Their inability to stop Yao Ming and his never ending onslaught of offense, physical interior defense that clogged the lane and forced the Lakers to shoot low percentage jumpers and last but not least, Aaron Brooks.
Los Angeles has a very good basketball team, but they’re not impenetrable. Their front line, although vastly improved over last year, remains remarkably brittle, and their back court is tied with Orlando’s for the worst still playing in this post season. Derek Fisher is 34 years old and even though he’s still a very reliable spot up shooter, defensively he simply can’t stay in front of Houston’s dynamic point guards. Head coach Phil Jackson really doesn’t have too many other options to solve this little match up problem, with Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown not exactly eliciting memories of Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, the Zen master better cook something up or the Lakers could find themselves in trouble. A possible solution might be locking Brooks down with number 24, one of the best on the ball defenders in the game, but that would eventually create other match-up problems.
At this year’s trade deadline, the Houston Rockets decided to jump in on a three-team deal, shipping their starting point guard Rafer Alston to the needy Orlando Magic for a consistently feisty back up in Kyle Lowry (who was dealt from Memphis). At the time, Houston was a playoff contender, which shows just how much confidence they had in the one time Oregon Duck. Rockets brass knew what they were doing and Brooks has exceeded expectations.
In game one, the former McDonald’s High School All-American logged 36 minutes, nearly 10 more than what he averaged in the regular season and five more than what he did against Portland. In that series, he averaged 21 points per game on the road, in one of the most intimidating venues the league has to offer, a truly astonishing number for a point guard playing in his first real post season series. His mental toughness and grit are something that can’t be taught and aside from his Rucker Park handle and uncanny ability to score, that is the sole reason why Brooks has the ability to be an above average player in the league. While a senior in college, he hit several game winning shots against defenses that knew he was the only option; to say that’s impressive is a slight understatement.
He’s a score first point guard who knows when to get his teammates involved, a truly rare commodity in the NBA. Paraphrasing Charles Barkley from last night’s telecast, when Brooks is getting his own shot, he’s able to get Scola, Landry and other big guys going which really helps the squad.
Second to Rondo as the quickest point guard left in this year’s playoffs, he was not only able to get to the rack at will in game one’s third quarter, he was finishing strong. That coupled with a jump shot that must be respected makes him an extremely important player in this series (and the next if they choose to advance).
Towards the end of the game Brooks looked like a cross bred mutation between Bob Cousy and Curly Neal, dribbling the ball all over the front court with a confidence and demeanor you would normally see in a six or seven year veteran.
Now obviously his supporting cast isn’t too bad with Ron Artest, Shane Battier, Yao Ming, Scola and a capable backup in Lowry, but Aaron Brooks poses the greatest mismatch in the series and if they can’t stop him, the Rockets will advance farther than even the most knowledgeable basketball fan could have predicted.