Maybe Kevin McHale has been paying attention, because the return of James Harden to the Houston Rockets backcourt didn’t hurt the dominance of Jeremy Lin, which made both the returning star and Chandler Parsons look quite fresh despite missing a few games and with the need to shake off a little rust.
Lin didn’t have complete control of the point guard position, he had to give up a little dominance to James Harden, obviously, but he did finish with 15 points and 10 assists, a lot of them to his best friend on the team, Chandler Parsons, who had something close to a perfect return to the courts with 29 points on 12-18 from the field, while James Harden scored 21 points, trying a bit too hard to make himself felt (7-19 from the field), as the Rockets clinched a 112-102 win over the Sacramento Kings.
It was great to have James and Chandler back. We knew we had to come in here and play hard. Sacramento has been playing well and they beat us last time. We had to come out tough right from the start.
The interesting thing about the McHale-Lin dynamics was not seeing Lin get benched in the crucial moments of the fourth quarter, happening a bit too often before Harden went on his little injury-vacation. Lin played 34 minutes and the pace he was setting seemed to work very well when the reins were in his hands, as the Rockets finished with 32 assists, although also made a lot of mistakes, lucky not to have the unstable Kings take advantage of their 19 turnovers, 5 of them by James Harden.
With the win, it’s a bit closer to the playoffs, hoping to somehow overtake the Golden State Warriors for the sixth spot in the West, giving them a bit of a fairer fight against someone who isn’t the Spurs or the Thunder, two teams that should be avoided at all costs, despite the overall strength of the West and the Rockets’ recent results against both teams.
Another player who is enjoying the recent games is Omer Asik, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds, as the Rockets in general had a great day in the paint with 58 points. Asik, having his first season as a starting center in the NBA, is averaging 18 points per game over the last three outings (all wins), and might be looking a bit more comfortable on offense, something he’s been struggling with all season.
Maybe the use of Greg Smith in the starting lineup and the hopeful emergence of Terrence Jones will help the Rockets take the load off their perimeter players, Lin and Harden, who’ll be too easy to target during the slower playoff games.