Two things that will stand out from the Houston Rockets beating the Washington Wizards – James Harden hitting a game winning layup and Jeremy Lin taking over the timeout talk and drawing board from Kevin McHale, as the winning streak keeps going forward.
The Rockets enter the All-Star break as the hottest team in the NBA with 7 consecutive wins, even though the Wizards made it a lot more difficult than it should have been. The Wizards hit 16 three pointers, including Trevor Ariza going ballistic with 10-of-14 from beyond the arc. However, when it’s a firepower vs firepower kind of game, it’s very difficult to beat the Houston Rockets when they’re playing the right kind of basketball.
James Harden had a good night with 35 points, almost half of them (16-of-16) coming from the line. He shot well, moved well and actually took good shots for the most part. Jeremy Lin playing in the lineup and spending 37 minutes on the floor has something, or more than just one thing, to do with it, as the Rockets played quick, wild basketball that did cause them to turn the ball over 24 times, but the unselfishness does tend to rub over on teammates, making the Rockets simply better than they were while Lin was ignored or misused.
Harden helped the Rockets not just with his last second shot, but also by fouling out Trevor Ariza. How? Well, another bad part of Harden’s game: The flop, but it worked for the Rockets, so he’ll probably live with the fine he’ll get if the NBA actually follows through on that one.
Dwight Howard had another double double with 24 points and 16 rebounds, but he also turned the ball over 7 times. There wasn’t a single player on the Rockets without at least one turnover, including five by Lin and four by Harden. Chandler Parsons scored 18 points with 12 rebounds and 6 assists while Lin, getting more minutes than usual next to Harden and as the on-court coordinator, had 16 points with 5 assists, as the stats once again didn’t tell the whole story of his influence on the game.
The Rockets come away with the 113-112 win as they send two players into the All-Star game, hoping this kind of momentum carries over next week as well. A lot of it has to do with Kevin McHale picking up the bread crumbs of tips and hints given to him through the last few games on how he actually should be playing, and who or not he should be using.
Patrick Beverley didn’t play which gave Lin the lineup spot, but that’s the absurd point of this season – Lin needs a Beverley injury to get the minutes he deserves, when he’s clearly the player whose influence on the team’s offense is greater than anyone else’s. He doesn’t score as much as Harden and he can’t, but there are things he does better, and for a team looking to win a championship or at least contend for one, giving Harden a Carte Blanche to do what he wants offensively isn’t going to end well.
Defense continues to be an issue, although the 3-point barrage from Ariza wasn’t going to be stopped no matter who was guarding him. Some nights that just goes in. But that idea has a lot to do with the Rockets’ way of thinking this season – Harden will have big nights, obviously, but that’s not something reliable, because shooting on your own and ignoring the rest isn’t getting this team anywhere – only nice stats for Harden.
As the last few games have shown, putting the ball in Lin’s hands might not create incredible numbers, but they get the W, which should be what this is all about, not some personal glorification of a superstar.