The Houston Rockets needed some late fourth quarter heroics from James Harden and Jeremy Lin in order to overcome the Denver Nuggets in a 130-125 overtime with as Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik also lent in a big hand during different stages of the game, once again starting some sort of winning streak while getting closer to securing home court advantage for at least one round in the playoffs.
James Harden led the team with 32 points, but he was having a rough game shooting-wise until the final minutes of the game. Jeremy Lin was out on the bench until 7:33 left in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets were leading by five at that point. He wasn’t perfect, but he made four big free throws while James Harden was finally getting over all of his previous mistakes and started doing things a little bit simpler, driving to the paint and shooting good 3’s instead of the bad decisions he made earlier in the game.
Those points led to a 117-117 tie, Harden hitting the game-tying three pointer with seven seconds left in the game. In overtime it was all Houston, especially Chandler Parsons. He scored 8 points, including two 3-pointers, twice off of Harden assists as he surprisingly decided to actually act like a point guard in crunch time. Jeremy Lin added two assists as the Nuggets withered away, as you’d expect from a team that has nothing to play for.
The defense was still atrocious from Houston. Denver scored 60 points in the paint and 22 on the fast break, as Harden turned the ball over five times, with Aaron Brooks and the Nuggets being very aggressive in their attempts to create the live ball turnover. Missing Patrick Beverley is hurting, but even more so is the absence of Dwight Howard. Omer Asik scored 18 points and 23 rebounds (including 7 on offense), but everyone knows it’s simply not the same thing.
Lin scored 19 points in a good shooting day for him (7-of-12 from the field) to go with four assists. He isn’t playing like a point guard, and he won’t be as long as Harden is on the floor next to him. Harden hardly rests during the game, which results in severe drops in concentration, focus and ability. The Rockets simply looked bad when Lin wasn’t on the floor, but it has become something of a custom to take him off the court for no reason. This time McHale had the sense to bring him back in time, although Harden would have tried to do the same things he did in the ending no matter who is playing next to him.
The Rockets haven’t won a playoff series since 2009, and it would be exaggerating to say it all depends on Jeremy Lin. There are a lot more factors at work here, but Harden is probably the constant. He’s going to do the same thing no matter what, give and take a few decisions to pass the ball here and there. Lin making the most of the opportunities he has on the ball, not to mention the return of Howard and having a much more focused Parsons on the floor might mean a postseason that lasts longer than the Rockets have gotten used to.
Howard should be back soon, and the Rockets can look forward to a mostly soft schedule the rest of the way: Lakers, Denver and Minnesota on the road, Pelicans and Spurs at home before finishing on the road at New Orleans. They’re not likely to catch up with the Los Angeles Clippers, but they should be able to keep this winning streak going in order to at least go in as the fourth seed, which means hosting Portland in the postseason opener.