For the Houston Rockets, allowing only 104 points is a stout defensive performance. They just seem to need an Eastern Conference opponent to be able to run against. James Harden as always led the way with his scoring, but the big surprise and memorable moment of the game was Jeremy Lin making himself noticed with defense.
It wasn’t the kind of defense you want to see from a point guard; more of the exciting type, when a small guy manages to block a big guy. Josh Smith in this case. Lin finished with 16 points and 8 assists after having a terrible time against Russell Westbrook who simply tortured him in the Rockets’ latest defeat. James Harden was doing his usual thing – lowering his head and feeling unstoppable on the way to the basket, finishing with 28 points. The Rockets did seem to do a bit better without him on the floor, which might tell him that after a hot streak followed by two very tough losses, maybe some adjustment in his game is necessary.
We had two kind of bad losses and we needed to come back and play our brand of basketball and do whatever it takes to get a victory. We really moved the ball well obviously shooting 61 percent in the first half. We made a ton of shots. We moved the ball really well and attacked.
The Rockets might have been really happy with their ball movement, but it didn’t have much to do with Harden. He did finish with 5 assists, but when the ball is in your hands so much, you’re bound to make an unselfish play once in a while. The Rockets are at their best when Harden draws defenders and kicks it out instead of trying time and time again to draw the foul and get the points.
Lin was surprising in his defense, regardless of the highlight move or not. He had 4 steals to go with his rejection, and looked a lot more mobile and aware of where to go and what to do during the game. Atlanta don’t offer the toughest of challenges when it comes to backcourt play, but it is a encouraging sign that he is developing on both ends of the floor. Lin needs a defense to help him, and the Rockets did make it relatively difficult to score from the interior.
The thing that made Kevin McHale the happiest about the win, besides Carlos Delfino (20 points) finding the hot hand off the bench and plenty of players getting involved thanks to the excellent passing game (a total of six in double figures) was finally cutting down on the turnovers after combining for 24 in the previous two losses.
We just can’t afford to turn the ball over. If we don’t do that and we make just good and simply plays, usually we can get some pretty good shots with some movement, and our guys knocked them down tonight.
It’s been said a million times, but Jeremy Lin and James Harden decide where this team will go. Not just with their hot hand, but with their decision making and ability to keep the ball moving, especially Harden. If the two remain unselfish in their play, the Rockets are the kind of team that can put up 110-120 point every night.