For once, it wasn’t about the two big names for the Houston Rockets this season. James Harden and Jeremy Lin took a step back, or simply had a very rough night, while Greg Smith and Toney Douglas got their moment in the spotlight as the next teams that sends the Los Angeles Lakers project of megalomania spiraling down into an abyss.
How bad was it for the Rockets’ notorious backcourt duo? Lin and Harden combined for 5-27 from the field, 0-5 from beyond the arc. Lin played only 20 minutes, finishing with only 4 points. He also had a -18 during his time on the floor. James Harden finished with 15 points but an sore-in-the-eye 3-19 from the field. While the Rockets’ bench has been pretty quiet all season up to this point, it was time for it to step up, which teaches us that this team, even on nights with 37.6% from the field, has more than two obvious tools to win. The 9-8 record isn’t that much of a surprise.
Greg Smith was a beast during his time on the floor; he played only 24 minutes, but finished with 21 points and 9 rebounds, 7-8 from the field and from the line. He averages only 7.1 points per game on the ordinary days. Toney Douglas, once he realizes he’s not a point guard, is a great guy to come up and give you 20-25 minutes a night. He averages only 6.7 points per game this season, but he led the Rockets with 22 points, including the three pointer that finally gave them the lead in the fourth, coming back from a 13 point deficit entering the final period.
Everything was finally working for the Lakers, even without Pau Gasol, or maybe because of him sitting this one out due to tendinitis in both knees, Antawn Jamison getting the start instead. Simple stat to let everyone know how improbable the Rockets’ comeback was: the Lakers were 597-9 in games they led by 10 or more points in the final 8:00 of the 4th quarter since Kobe Bryant’s rookie season. They had roughly a 1.5 percent chance of winning. But those numbers were about different teams, not this Lakers bunch.
While the Rockets started making their push back, a big key in their comeback was Dwight Howard and his free throw shooting, 8-16 on the day. Another was Kobe Bryant once again going ballistic from the field, erasing the probability of anyone getting into some kind of roll during the game. He took 31 shots from the field, making 14 of them. He tried to win the game with a hand in his face, forcing a very uncomfortable shot, but that’s Bryant. Who is going to say anything? The Lakers blamed their defense, which was partially it, for the loss.
The Rockets come out strong from this one, winning five of their last six, improving to 7-3 at home. Even when Harden, Lin and even Patrick Patterson are on off days, there are people to be counted upon. Chandler Parsons (13 points) had his 10th consecutive double-figure night. Omer Asik continues to be a very hard-to-handle presence in the paint. Carlos Delfino, a man who never saw shot he didn’t like, can light it up from the bench. James Harden and Jeremy Lin are the main reasons the Rockets are interesting on a national scale this season; Harden the main reason they’re much better than before. It’s good to know that they’re not alone in this.