The Houston Rockets finally beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, as James Harden outscored Kevin Durant in an interesting individual duel that was simply about making more shots and not playing better basketball. In the 111-107 win, Jeremy Lin failed to stand out in another so-so game from the point guard who wants to play like one, but also isn’t making the most of the opportunity given to him in the starting lineup.
Russell Westbrook wasn’t playing. Maybe some rest, or maybe Scott Brooks is afraid to play him against the Rockets. He forgot that Patrick Beverley is injured as well. Dwight Howard out, Kendrick Perkins out. In short? Both teams missing some key players, which meant more Durant and more of Harden, which is something of a double-edged sword, especially for Houston.
The best thing about Perkins not playing was Harden having no trouble finding room in the paint. He scored 39 points despite his 9-of-22 from the field night. He kept making it into the paint and going for the shot almost every time. He did have nine rebounds and 7 assists, but when you add up the 20 times he went to the line (17-of-20), you realize there was hardly a play he wasn’t involved in, spending 43 minutes on the floor.
Serge Ibaka didn’t make it easy for him and Chandler Parsons and finished with six blocks. Parsons shot a bad 5-of-17 from the field but was 10-of-11 from the line and made life slightly difficult for Kevin Durant, who did try and share the ball early on but gave on that late in the game, getting some mixed results with his pull up 3’s that is something the Thunder should try to mix from time to time with actual drawn up plays. Durant did score 28 points, making it 40 consecutive games of 25 points or more, but his defense was bad, like a lot of games, allowing Parsons to score 23 points.
Jeremy Lin wasn’t “feeling it” either, but that’s what you get when you turn a point guard with a shaky long range shot into something he’s not. Lin finished with 8 points and 3 assists, continuing the trend of bad games against the Thunder but as we’ve mentioned about a million times – he needs to be used differently. It doesn’t really matter when Harden goes to the line on almost every possession, and no one is going to complain when Harden scored 39 points. The problem is that fool’s gold factor to it all, which the Rockets continue to ignore, or simply decide to live with and hope for the best.
Terrence Jones had a solid outing, one of the few Rockets players to shoot over 50% from the field. He had 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Omer Asik finished with 8 points and 12 boards. Only three bench players were used by Houston, as McHale ignoring Jordan Hamilton and Omri Casspi continues to be suspicious, but he was able to get away with one despite once again his team not showing any signs of being well coached. Just having a skilled scorer who hardly misses from the line, but the same player and following him blindly might also mean the team underachieving when the playoffs arrive.