The Houston Rockets, especially when Dwight Howard is playing, are first and foremost about James Harden. But he doesn’t always shine or make most of his shots. In the 100-95 win over the Phoenix Suns, he got plenty of help, especially from Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza.
With Harden into his shoot-and-miss but not stop mode (5-of-21 from the field, 1-of-9 from beyond the arc), it was up to other players to make up for the missing shots. Patrick Beverley played off the bench while Jason Terry continues to start, and Beverley scored 19 points including five 3-pointers. Trevor Ariza scored 19 points, completing 43 minutes a night after 44 minutes in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Defense might have been the Rockets greatest success. Not just holding the Suns to 95 points, but limiting them to 36.6% from the field, and making it very difficult for the trio of Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Gerald Green to be effective on a consistent level. Despite turning the ball over 22 times and shooting 40.7% from the field, the Rockets now have a defense capable of keeping them in games they’re misfiring in.
To be honest, if it wasn’t for Harden’s misses, the shooting numbers for the team wouldn’t be that bad. He seemed to be picking up from his slow start efficiency wise, but he is shooting just 41.1% so far this season, averaging 25.2 points per game. He scored 15 against the Suns to go with 12 rebounds and 7 assists. There’s no doubt this is his team, but a little bit more responsibility when it comes to his shot selection will go a long way.
The Rockets bump up to 16-4 after winning seven of their last eight games. Still no Howard or Terrence Jones, but the combination of Tarik Black in the lineup along with Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas creates an athletic group of forwards that do a good job of making it hard to penetrate, thus making them a lost less soft in the paint than initially thought when Howard went down with a knee problem.
Calling them the best in the NBA would be foolish with so many players missing, but if Harden gets his act together and becomes a lot more consistent with his shooting (which means taking better shots, nothing else), then there’s something to talk about, especially once everybody else comes back from their injury vacations.