Maybe it’s playing an opponent they’ve beaten plenty of times over the last few years, but it’s possibly something else. James Harden has figured out how to avoid finishing with horrendous field goal percentage, and it’s affecting everyone playing for the Houston Rockets, including Jeremy Lin.
For the first time since January 8, the Rockets won consecutive games, as their persistence to look for easier shots instead of pulling up for jumper after jumper paid off once again. The Brooklyn Nets haven’t beaten the Houston Rockets 12 times in a row, no matter what kind of basketball is being played. It was proved again in a 119-106 loss in which the Nets simply couldn’t get any stops in the paint, with the Rockets scoring 60 points from close range.
We weren’t doing what we were supposed to do. The coaches showed us a few days ago what we can look like. That was a nice reminder to all of us. Our spacing was unbelievable. It allowed more guys to penetrate, it allowed more guys to have open shots and we really moved the ball great.
Is that what it was all about? Could the Rockets have avoided 7 straight defeats and made themselves a bit more of a cushion in the race for the playoffs by simply spacing better? It also has a lot to do with defense and James Harden, the man everything depends on, playing a bit more selfishly during the bad games; but yes, spacing, good ball movement and making right choices when taking shots has a lot to do with it. It’s that simple some times.
James Harden led the Rockets once again with 29 points and 7 assists, once again making double digit trips to the free throw line, making 13-14. As long as teams don’t set up early to stop Harden from driving to the paint, the All-Star guard is going to continue making trips to the line more often than anyone else in the NBA, realizing once again that is the easiest way for him to get points and for the Rockets to look their best.
Jeremy Lin scored 14, his best in seven games, while adding 9 assists. James Harden getting most of the focus and the better positioning on the floor from the offense is making it very easy for Lin to look like a genius point guard. The Rockets did have their way in the paint, but it also made up for a lot of open looks from the outside, hitting 12-28 from beyond the arc, including multiple tres from Chandler Parsons, Carlos Delfino and Toney Douglas.
The surprise contribution came from Omer Asik, who has one of these monstrous games once in a while. The Turkish center finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds, coming up as the winner in the battle of the Centers. Brook Lopez scored 21 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, but didn’t look as fearsome and dominant as Asik did on the night.
The new, right way for the Rockets? It seems so, at least for a short while. The next couple of games, in Utah and Denver, two very tough arenas to play in, will tells us if a return to this style of basketball is more than a short term gimmick.