The Houston Rockets at times look like a team that’s figured it all out. James Harden sometimes, in certain moments, seems like a player who knows that the best way for his and his team to succeed is to stop playing like he’s alone on the floor. And Jeremy Lin? He continues to make the most of his minutes, and making his teammates look better than when he’s on the bench.
James Harden led the Howard-less Rockets with 28 points and 8 assists. As one of the commentators said during the game: When he’s hitting his 3’s, he’s close to unstoppable. Yes, Harden was quite hot all game long against the no defense the Timberwolves like to show from time to time, going 6-of-10 from long range. He felt so comfortable he didn’t even go to the line that much, feeling that taking contested 3’s was the better way to get points.
But that’s the honey trap or Fool’s gold quality about Harden. He’s talented, but every big game from him drags on to a next one, or at least in attitude. He thinks he’s capable of doing it all and when defenses get a bit tougher while Kevin McHale gets a bit more narrow minded in his basketball thinking, the Rockets get stuck. It’s great to see him score so easily and flaunt his talent, but that’s not the kind of basketball that will win things for the Rockets, who need a more balanced approach.
So while Harden finished with 7 turnovers, which is what happens when the ball is in your hands way more than it should be, the rest of the Rockets had a good game. Omer Asik is enjoying life as a starting center again, adding 12 points and four blocks, including a huge one on Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Chandler Parsons finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Patrick Beverley had a good game with 14 points, but the most surprising one was Donatas Motiejunas with 20 points on 6-of-11 from the field.
Two reasons Motiejunas looked like an All-Star for one night? Jeremy Lin looking for him and finding him with some tough passes, and the Timberwolves defense, which rears up its ugly head on back to back games. Not that the Timberwolves defended that well in the overtime win over the Mavs, but it seemed like their offensive firepower was extinguished in that game. Kevin Love did score 29 points and Gorgui Dieng had a career night with 22 points and 21 rebounds, but in a 129-106 win it doesn’t really matter.
Lin played 30 minutes, looking great throughout the night. He finished with 11 points and 10 assists, adding some good defense which is usually ignored by those trying to find the weaknesses in his game. More than the numbers, as we’ve mentioned before, it’s the way the Rockets look when the ball is in Lin’s hand for more than catch-and-shoot plays. Tough passes don’t look so difficult anymore, and the unpredictable happens. You know, the stuff you expect a good passing point guard to do.
Lin also makes Harden look better, only the people running this team don’t always realize it. Yes, Harden can score 25-30 points on many nights just by shooting on his own, but with Lin on the floor and looking for Harden, making him the shooting guard he’s supposed to be, it’s not just Harden that looks better while Lin gets to pick up assists. The Rockets play better as a team, which should be the most important thing in this whole story. Too bad it doesn’t always seem to be the first thing on some distinguished gentlemen’s minds.