The signs keep showing everywhere, but the Houston Rockets and their shot callers ignore them. James Harden gets to run almost every possible possession, ignoring the fact that he has Jeremy Lin next to him and others who can make plays, resulting in another unnecessary loss, 80-83 to the Atlanta Hawks.
Credit to the Hawks goes for their defense, but it’s not that difficult with the way the Rockets have been playing this season. James Harden get to run the show for the 38 minutes he’s on the floor. He might end up with pretty numbers: 25 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, but it goes without saying that there’s more to it than just numbers.
Jeremy Lin finished with 11 points and 4 assists, but instead of getting to run the offense a bit more, he’s once again delegated to the times Harden is stuck with the ball for too long and is waiting for a way out, which usually leaves too few seconds on the clock for anyone to do anything with. Dwight Howard is getting the ball down low, but not nearly enough as he should in pick & rolls and in other situations, which would have made things a lot more beneficial and efficient for the Rockets.
This was the worst offensive performance by the Houston Rockets this season: a season-low 80 points, shooting 41.4% from the field, only 15 assists and turning the ball over 16 times. The Hawks did their homework in slowing the game down – The Rockets are now 20-7 when scoring 100 Pts or more, and 3-7 when they don’t. They’re 0-5 when scoring less than 93 points.
The Hawks might not be among the league’s elite, but they’re a smart team, who know where the ball should go. Jeff Teague wasn’t having the best of scoring nights, but he’s the team’s best decision maker, and runs the show without anyone having a problem with it. He creates for others instead for just himself, allowing a lot of open looks for Kyle Korver who might be having his best season after over a decade in the league, scoring 20 points. Paul Millsap had a big night as well while Pero Antic kept Dwight Howard busy, adding 20 points and 7 rebounds.
The Rockets now fall to 23-14; not a disaster considering the Thunder’s slips without Westbrook, the Spurs having nights off, the Clippers playing without Paul and the Blazers coming down to earth. Houston have problems of their own: No Omer Asik or a decent enough backup for Dwight Howard, and yet they should look much better, especially on offense.
But that’s the difference between a team with big-name players but not thinking behind it all on how to run the show and others who are less talented but have the right people running the ship. Jeremy Lin didn’t have the best of games, but it’s impossible for him, Dwight Howard and others to reach their full potential, which also means a better game for the Rockets, when everything is about Harden doing his thing – dribbling, penetrating, shooting, and passing when he’s in a jam.
Daryl Morey assembled a very talented team, with depth and superstars, filling both ends of the spectrum. The Asik situation has hurt them, but there’s no doubt that the coaching and support for James Harden to continue running the show like there’s no one else on the court is ruining what could have been a much better season up to this point.