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Friday, May 15, 2009
Luis Scola's Early Work

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Luis Scola
Why is this man clinching his fists and howling? He just gave Houston a 17-1 lead (Ronald Martinez/NBAE via Getty Images)

In the Rockets' first round series against Portland, Luis Scola was the primary beneficiary of Nate McMillan's strategy to double-team Yao Ming. With Scola's primary defender, LaMarcus Aldridge, devoting much of his attention to Yao down on the low block, Scola drifted out to 15-20 feet, where he punished the Blazers. Scola averaged 16.2 points in 33.3 minutes over the six games against Portland.

The Lakers have been more attentive to Scola. Over the first three games of the conference semifinal series, they sent Lamar Odom to help on Yao. But their weak side defenders did a better job than Portland's depriving Scola space, while the their ball side defenders cut off angles to Scola. The result was far fewer open jumpers and driving lanes for Scola, who shifted his focus to the glass, where he's done solid work against the Lakers.

Once Yao was lost and Chuck Hayes became the Rockets' starting center, the halcyon days of The Open Luis Scola 18-Foot Jumper figured to be history. The Lakers' center would undoubtedly slough off Hayes and make life tougher for Scola and the Rockets' other scorers.

Scola had unremarkable Games 4 and 5, but Thursday night, he fueled the Rockets' jackrabbit start with a 14-point first quarter: 

Scola was the pacesetter in Game 6. His absence for the game's final 8:48 gives you an idea of the kind of fourth quarter Carl Landry had for Houston. Landry scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds, one on a mad scramble which sent him crashing to the floor where he gobbled up the ball and called timeout while sprawled on the hardwood [4th Quarter, 3:56]. Scola will be back in the lineup to start Game 7 on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center, where the Rockets will try to record one of the more improbable series upsets in recent memory. If they beat the Lakers, it'll be because they got lockdown perimeter defense from their wings, post defense and solid screens from their center whose most profound asset is a "low center of gravity," dynamic play from their impish point guard, and the full breadth of Luis Scola's arsenal.

Scola's adaptability has been a constant throughout the Rockets' incredible run. When Portland's double-teams demanded a spot-up shooter, Scola set up at 18 feet. When it was imperative to find Aaron Brooks some daylight, Scola pancaked Derek Fisher (occasionally vice versa) and any other pursuers. When Houston needed a big man to create his own shots down low to have any chance of survival, Scola made it happen.