Things aren’t as simple for the Houston Rockets without James Harden, but it does allow them to be more creative. Omer Asik playing the entire fourth quarter instead of Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lin sitting down for most of it while Omri Casspi and Chandler Parsons lead the team on huge surge to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 93-86.
This is what the Rockets should be about – no single player, no big star overshadowing the team. Kevin McHale isn’t usually the most creative of head coaches, but when he sees an opportunity to bench Lin, for no apparent reason, he goes for it. Patrick Beverley wasn’t anything special in the win, but McHale preferred him on the floor for whatever reason. Luckily for him, the continuing excellent play of Parsons and Casspi helped him get away with the win.
Lin himself didn’t have a special night – he finished with 14 points and 2 assists, and even looking better than usual on defense. He didn’t keep an eye on Mike Conley on every possession, but he had a part to play as the Grizzlies point guard shot a terrible 2-of-14 from the field, as Memphis try to figure out how to go on without Marc Gasol for a while.
The big difference between the fourth quarter, as the Rockets outscored Memphis 38-23? Hitting three point shots. They were only 25% from beyond the arc before the final period but 4-of-8 with the game on the line. It wasn’t great defense that kept the shots from falling – it was simply wide open shots that didn’t connect. The defense and energy from Parsons and Casspi, not having any problem being two stretch 4’s in the same lineup, did the rest.
Casspi scored 16 in yet another very efficient performance, shooting 4-of-6 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, getting to the line six times and hitting all his shots. Chandler Parsons led the team in scoring with 17 points.
Dwight Howard? He didn’t see a second of basketball during the final quarter. McHale didn’t like what he was seeing so he improvised. The fact that it did work out for him doesn’t make him a basketball genius, but it’s yet another hint that thinking outside the box with this team is possible when you’re not clinging on to the notion that James Harden has to be involved in every play and possession. Howard is the bigger name, but in that moment in time, Omer Asik, scoring only 2 points but grabbing 10 rebounds, was the better player to have on the floor.
We just kept on trying to find a lineup that would really click, and that last lineup we had there did a great job.
Lin didn’t have a game to remember and had another example of his head coach not trusting him when the game is on the line if he can go with someone else, but if this is his weaker night, the Rockets are in good hands with him running the point most of the time, or at least until James Harden returns, and the old, dysfunctional order is restored.