The undefeated start for the Houston Rockets is over as Dwight Howard gathered too many fouls early on, James Harden went into his selfish mode and Jeremy Lin struggled to put the pieces together after such a horrendous start from the team.
The Rockets lost Howard to foul trouble in the middle of the first quarter, and the game was never the same. They lost by 17 points in that quarter, and even though the Clippers didn’t do a great job on defense, the Rockets just didn’t create enough stops to make a game out of it.
Howard can’t afford to pick up three fouls in less than six minutes. It’s OK to take risks like that after he picks up two early on for Kevin McHale, but Omer Asik right now isn’t the kind of layer who is in a position to rally a defense around him. There was feeling of panic when Howard was off the court, and things didn’t get better when he came back, struggling to find rhythm again.
James Harden couldn’t find a way to to the basket, reaching the line only five times. The Clippers elbowed his way out of pick and roll penetrations, and forced him to make a decision – give up on the ball to other players or simply take shots. Harden, being the man he is, decided he’ll try and get his team back into the game by taking tough shots. It results in 6-of-16 from the field and 0-of-7 from beyond the arc, scoring 15 points in 33 minutes.
Jeremy Lin was a step too slow on both ends of the floor, as he happens to be quite a few times against the upper echelon of points guards in the NBA. He did score 14 points, adding 8 assists as well. However, the Rockets were a -24 points when he was on the court, as he was nowhere close to stopping Chris Paul or even slowing him down. However, the Rockets offense did look better when the ball was in his hands instead of Harden.
The Rockets got only 13 points and 9 rebounds from Howard, and another dismal 5-of-10 display from the free throw line. Omer Asik wasn’t much better at 6 points and 7 rebounds, taking only one shot from the field, struggling to make himself useful on offense with the no-post game ability he has.
The Rockets do have to be happy about their bench once more – Francisco Garcia scored 21 points and the Rockets probably were at their best when Omri Casspi was on the court, although plenty of those minutes were garbage time. He finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds while shooting 50% from beyond the arc. After almost finding himself out of the league, landing on a team that has a lot of uses for stretch four’s like him certainly has revived his career.
One loss doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but it does raise some warning signs about some bad habits – of Howard’s, of Harden’s, of Lin. Some of them McHale was aware of, but some nights in this league you’re lost no matter what happens, when too many things go wrong too early for you to be able to come back from.
They had 15 3s and a ton of paint points, so they had the best of both worlds. They just did whatever they wanted. We just couldn’t stop them.