The Houston Rockets didn’t find it too difficult to beat the Sacramento Kings who lost their two best players early in the game. What was interesting to watch unfold was the separation of Jeremy Lin, a full-time bench player at the moment, from the core of the team, which now revolves completely around James Harden and Dwight Howard.
For a second game in a row, just like after the win over the Blazers, no one can complain about the decision to put Patrick Beverley back in the lineup. Beverley can’t have two good games in a row (finished with 6 points, 8 assists on 2-of-9 from the field), but the Rockets didn’t need him to. The Kings lost Rudy Gay early on and a bit later had to deal with DeMarcus Cousins leaving the game with an injury. There wasn’t much they could do from that moment.
The Rockets won 119-98, led by Dwight Howard with 26 points, getting a lot of alley-oop feeds from James Harden, who scored 24 points, adding 9 assists. Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin had 4 assists each, as the Rockets had no problem scoring in transition against the no-defense the Kings presented, making things easier with their misses by shooting only 39.5% from the field. The Rockets finished with 29 assists and scoring 66 points in the paint.
I thought we were settling for a lot and playing East and West. We told them to get to the hole and put pressure on the basket and they did.
McHale was praising Harden especially after the game. No surprise, although he did deserve a pat on the back from finishing off the Kings by mostly sticking to the plan of attacking the rim. He was only 0-for-5 from beyond the arc because some things in his game simply don’t change no matter what’s in front of him. The Rockets shot 8-of-31 from beyond the arc and made a mess from the free throw line despite getting there 40 times (hitting only 25 shots). Most of the blame goes to Harden, who was an awful 6-of-17.
And what about Lin? He played 30 minutes, including the final 16 minutes of the game, but that’s not indicative of anything. The game was in garbage time when he was brought back in the lineup, finishing with 13 points and 4 assists. However, before this season began some had thoughts about a triangle between Harden, Howard and Lin. That doesn’t exist anymore, with Lin being pushed out of the spotlight for various reasons. The last two games have been proof that the Rockets are heading in the right direction, but it’s too small of a sample size, especially with the Kings playing without their top two players for most of the game.
The Rockets still have the same problems: No backup for Howard, especially with the extended list of injuries keeping Terrence Jones out, and who knows what’s going on with Omer Asik. Patrick Beverley in the lineup hasn’t been consistent, and when things will be tougher for James Harden against better defenses, not having someone who knows what to do with the ball next to him if the Rockets stick to this line of thought is going to come back and bite them at some point.