By the time Chuck Hayes was given one of the NBA’s toughest assignments, matched up with Boston’s Kevin Garnett on Wednesday, the job had become even tougher. Garnett was already on a roll before Hayes got in the game. Hayes, however, slowed Garnett long enough for the Rockets to turn things around in a performance they later called a key to the win.
“He came in in the second quarter, and he just battled Garnett when he really had it going,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “I can’t give Chuck enough credit. He hasn’t been playing, and he took on the challenge. He kind of set the tone in that first half for us.”
Though Hayes has often been used as a defensive specialist against the top-scoring power forwards, Garnett is a particularly tough matchup because the shots Hayes usually forces opposing big men to take — jumpers often a step or two deeper than usual — are the shots Garnett covets.
“He does such a good job of not bringing (the ball) low so I can’t swipe it down,” Hayes said. “He has a high release and a fade to his shot. My best position is if he is going to fade and shoot that shot, try to get him as far away from the basket as I can and try to do what Shane ( Battier) does so well and get a good contest of his shot.
“I did my best. He started off the game tremendously hot. He had them on fire. He was in rhythm. When I got in there and got on him in the second quarter, they tried to get him going again. I did everything in my power to try not to let that happen again.”