James Harden

Playing against teams who are already in the garbage time of the season is always a good thing to be going through while trying to improve your playoff position, so it’s no wonder the Houston Rockets, led by an in-form James Harden and a similarly sharp Jeremy Lin continued their impressive run of wins towards the end of the season, playing some of their best basketball this season.

Even if James Harden did finish with 33 points, it doesn’t mean there was some selfish streak going on. In his last couple of games since coming back from injury, the return of Houston’s best player hasn’t changed the right kind of team flow going for the Rockets, helped mostly by the fact that Jeremy Lin isn’t reduced to a spot up shooter role.

The Rockets beat the crashing Portland Trail Blazers 116-98, still staying one game behind the Golden State Warriors in the race to avoid one of the two stronger teams in the West. James Harden was back to his aggressive way of attacking the basket, finishing with 33 points, adding 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Jeremy Lin had 22 points and 9 assists, finishing with the best +/- of the entire team.

It took a while for Kevin McHale to understand that playing Jeremy Lin over 30 minutes a night and letting him be the actual point guard for over 50% of the time, not taking away too much from Harden’s dominance, which is still the most valuable individual asset the Rockets have, is pretty good for the team. Blending Harden’s ability to attack the basket quicker than most defenses can react, while keeping the ball movement going is the key to probably reach sixth or putting up quite a fight and a possible upset in the first round of the playoffs.

If you look at the games we build leads, ball movement is what we do. Then you look at the games we give up leads, and that ball movement is what we fail to do. It’s pretty clear to us we can be two different teams, one that moves the ball and one that doesn’t.

Image: Source