The main reason the Houston Rockets have lost two consecutive home games? James Harden getting too much credit, freedom and power from Kevin McHale. At the expense of Jeremy Lin and team basketball that is proven to work much better for the Rockets, not to mention an attitude of selfishness spreading through the team, running the promising start and making it seem like adding Dwight Howard doesn’t change a thing.
Once again, Jeremy Lin had to start the game coming off the bench, playing only 26 minutes. Patrick Beverley spent 38 minutes on the floor. He didn’t have a bad game, scoring 19 points, adding 5 assists and 4 steals. However, the Rockets are simply a worse team when he’s on the floor next to Harden than when Lin is. James Harden? In a season that’s been about extremes, he’s reached a new low.
How low? Scoring only 12 points on 4-of-15 from the field, combined with bad defense and the usual array of bad shots and decisions on offense. In the two games against the Clippers this season, he’s averaged 13.5 points, and is an awful 33.3% from the field over the last couple of games, shooting 26.7% from beyond the arc.
The Rockets didn’t lose just because of Harden. Their whole concept of playing defense just makes it feel like Dwight Howard did switch teams this summer, but he’s landed in the same scenario, twilight-zone like. No perimeter defense, and a team that relies completely on him to stop the penetrating players. Against some teams it might work; against the Clippers, who offer more than just one kind of threat, it’s a bit too much to ask of him. Howard finished with 21 points, but he still isn’t utilized correctly, despite having a head coach who should be an expert in big men and making the most of them.
There’s also the insistence of playing Dwight Howard and Omer Asik together. Except for their game against the Dallas Mavericks and the Charlotte Bobcats, the Rockets were behind by the time the twin tower opening partnership was broken up. It’s fine to try and keep Asik happy with a starting spot, but not at the expense of the team having to come from behind almost every time.
Lin played for 26 minutes, finishing with 6 points and 7 assists. He did come in to game again in the fourth quarter just as the Clippers were making their final run that the Rockets couldn’t keep up with, but it wasn’t on him that the team lost. For most of the game, the Rockets had their short periods of looking good and team-like when he was on the floor. Suddenly the dribbles become shorter, the spacing becomes wider and the ball actually moves around. The Rockets continue to shoot badly from beyond the arc (7-of-26), taking away one of their biggest weapons, but that is partially because they keep taking them in wrong moments.
Where does this end for the Rockets? Harden isn’t going to be scoring 12 points too often, but his tendency to block out everyone else and cost his team too many possessions on both sides of the floor, with foolish shots followed by lazy defense and foolish personal fouls isn’t going away anytime soon. Not as long as Kevin McHale keeps up the attitude of letting Harden do what Harden wants, and F’ the rest of ’em.
Jeremy Lin isn’t a perfect player or solution. He turned the ball over six times in what continues to be a big problem for him. However, some of the answers to the Rockets’ problems can be found by simply giving him more minutes on the floor, and more time with the ball in his hands. Being a better player doesn’t always present itself by scoring points. Volume scorers don’t usually benefit their teams. Beverley might make it easier for Harden to play without worrying too much about anything but scoring, but Jeremy Lin continues to be the right choice the Rockets continue to miss out on.