The Houston Rockets played like a team that can win an NBA title as they won on the road against the San Antonio Spurs for a second time in a row. James Harden put on a show late, Chandler Parsons was great early on, but it was also quite pleasing to see Jeremy Lin, for most of the game, playing like an actual point guard and getting the kind of minutes he should be.
The Rockets came away with the 111-98 win as James Harden led the team scoring 28 points, including 16 in the final quarter. To say he played as part of the team is a bit of a stretch, but it’s hard to ignore him when he’s hot. Harden had no problem slicing through the Spurs defense, no matter if he had one or three players in his way. A hand in his face for the tough shots, or wide open after some excellent ball movement.
The problem with his kind of show is that it becomes something you expect to see every time. As we’ve grown to learn from Harden, these late game heroics off individual antics aren’t something completely dependable.
Early in the game it was Chandler Parsons who simply could not miss, finishing the game with 21 points, hitting five times from beyond the arc, usually from very deep and not just barely touching the line. Terrence Jones was the big surprise and the one who benefited the most from the Rockets playing the right kind of basketball for most of the game, which meant the ball moving through Lin and Parsons, creating open looks for more than just Harden.
Dwight Howard was in a mighty struggle with Tim Duncan, but came out on top. He finished with 15 points and 20 rebounds, rejecting two shots as well. The Spurs scored 44 points in the paint but shot only 40.7% from the field, as the Rockets showed a lot more energy and desire on defense, allowing Howard to stay close to the rim, doing an excellent job with Jones during their time on the floor together.
Lin finished with 13 points, adding 8 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. He was hardly involved in anything statistical in the final 7 minutes of the game, coming in as the Rockets went on their big finishing run, but it’s hard to ignore the impact he has when the ball goes through him and he isn’t standing around like an extra on some TV show. When the balls go through him and Parsons there’s movement, and the defense has to shift. Harden is more talented in creating points on his own, but he’s hit or miss with his approach. Moving the ball and actually thinking with it, creating opportunities for everyone on the floor is the safer route in the long run.
The Rockets aren’t perfect. Not having someone to backup Howard will turn into a problem at some point, but the bigger one will come once Patrick Beverley returns. The Rockets are at their best with the lineup that played together for most of the game in the win over the Spurs, as none of them spent less than 34-35 minutes on the floor. Lin might not be the best man on man defender in the world, but he works very well in a team context and coming up with help steals and disruptions. After seeing this unit work together better than they have all season with a proclamation win, it’s going to be a very foolish decision to try and prove once more that Beverley belong in the lineup, which he doesn’t.