The focal point of the preseason opener for both the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets was Chandler Parsons playing quite well against his former team, but the best player on the floor was James Harden, who doesn’t seem like a changed player for good and bad despite a summer of improved responsibility with the national team.
Parsons scored 14 points including two 3-pointers as the Mavericks played without Dirk Nowitzk, giving Al-Farouq Aminu a spot in the lineup instead. Tyson Chandler made his return to a team he won the championship with, scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds, and there was also Monta Ellis with 13 points but also six turnovers and five personal fouls. Jameer Nelson started at point guard and looked like he needs a lot more time to be of significant help to the team.
For the Houston Rockets, it was a backcourt of James Harden and Patrick Beverley, with the only change in the lineup being Trevor Ariza playing alongside Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones. The Rockets have been trying a lot of different approaches to their power forward idea over the last couple of years. Jones has been a solid scorer so far, adding 7 points in 21 minutes in this game, while Howard finished with 6 points, struggling to finish near the rim.
Donatas Motiejunas was the team’s top scorer with some impressive moves near the basket, leading the Rockets with 18 points off the bench. Newcomer Kostas Papanikolaou is worth mentioning as well with 12 points and 6 rebounds off the bench, although he was trying a bit too hard to make it a more impressive debut, going just 2-for-7 from beyond the arc.
This is Harden’s team, without a doubt. He scored 17 points which seemed effortless. No more arguments, at least outside the team, about whether or not he should be just a shooting guard and help Jeremy Lin get involved, or is he free to do whatever he wants on the floor. Harden got half of his points from his ability to draw fouls on the way to the basket, whiel Patrick Beverley got to touch the ball and be an actual point guard for more than he’s used to. Harden himself was often the last stop and the end of the ball movement.
It was a good debut for Trevor Ariza, or shall we say return to the Rockets, a team he played for in 2009-2010, staying on for just one season. He scored 12 points on 5-of-7 from the field, and the 29 year old wing man’s biggest addition, if it does work out, will be adding another dimension of defense to a team that’s struggled with it in the past. If he can be the one to inspire James Harden to stop having these lapses in concentration when he’s supposed to be guarding someone, maybe this season isn’t going to be one big decline for the Houston Rockets.
The end result, which really doesn’t matter this time of year, was 111-108 for the Rockets, as the Dallas Mavericks got to shoot 64 times from the free throw line, including a terrible 3-of-10 combined for Raymond Felton and Devin Harris.