A win for the Houston Rockets isn’t something to be taken lightly these days, but after a long losing streak, things are starting to look better. After all, when they play unselfish, balanced basketball, there’s quite a lot to expect from James Harden and Jeremy Lin, leading to only their second victory in 10 games.
When James Harden shoots the ball well, meaning he doesn’t settle for tough jumpers all the time but thinks about what he’s doing, the Rockets are in good shape. It means Jeremy Lin is getting enough touches, and the right kind. It means that when these to play basketball the right way, everyone on the team benefits.
Offensively our spacing was much better. We moved the ball, we didn’t play selfish and our defense was great, too. That allowed us to get out on the break, which is what we do best.
Patrick Patterson, back in the starting lineup, had a big game with 18 points and 13 rebounds. The Hornets were outrebounded 34-44, a big part of losing 100-82 at home, turning the ball over 15 times, allowing the Rockets to score 20 points on the fast break. Sometimes it’s all about energy and effort on defense, not to mention simply playing smart (which isn’t that complicated, believe it or not), and wins aren’t that hard to get when you channel the offense the right way.
Harden, after an awful stretch of shooting for the past couple of weeks, scored 30 points, adding 8 assists and 8 turnovers (not good, we know) while making 8-15 from the field, 2-3 from beyond the arc (60% eFG) and 12-12 from the line. James Harden is leading the NBA with 10 free throw attempts per game, making a career best 85.5% of them this season. Harden looking for points in the paint instead of the outside with tough contested shots is better for the Rockets. Better spacing from Parsons and others makes it easier for Harden to find the open men, and there always are when Harden drives to the paint.
Jeremy Lin was having a terrible time as well lately (funny how that goes together), but one of his best defensive efforts in his short career, coming up with 6 steals, led to a very good and calculated game from the point guard, adding 8 assists and scoring 13 points. Most importantly? Like Harden, he didn’t try to force anything. When Harden and Lin play the right way, like Kevin McHale says, which means moving the ball well and trying to find ways to the basket instead of taking long-range shortcuts, the Rockets are a much better team.
It was about making the easy play. Sometimes I tried to do too much, but for the most part our team played great defensively and offensively for four quarters. We needed it a lot just for our confidence. We played the right way and guys made shots There were a lot of things that really put us over the top tonight.
If the Rockets are to hold on to the 8th spot in the Western Conference (22-21, 0.5 a game above the Blazers), it’s going to be about being consistent with this kind of basketball.