Houston Rockets – James Harden at His Best Without Jeremy Lin

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the Houston Rockets played some of their best short-period basketball this season during a third quarter surge as James Harden was leading the way with some great basketball while Jeremy Lin was getting stitches in the locker room.

Really, that third quarter is about as good as we can play. We locked down on the defensive end, we pushed it up, we got shots and made shots . Then we started blowing some of their plays up just by being aggressive. I was really proud of the guys.

The Rockets were down by 11 at half time, but then erupted for a 30-14 third quarter and 38-29 in the fourth to come up with the 115-101 win, mostly thanks to a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter. It began with three consecutive shots from beyond the arc, one by Patrick Patterson and then two by James Harden. Harden finished with 29 points, 7 assists and 4 steals, shooting 11-18 from the field and 2-4 from beyond the arc. It was his 11th consecutive game scoring 25 points or more. He’s averaging 29.3 points during the streak, and the Rockets have gone 8-3 during it.

In terms of its place in history for the franchise, only two players have longer 25+ scoring streaks; a 13-gamer by Malone in 1981-82, and a 12-gamer by Elvin Hayes in 1968-69.

Jeremy Lin wasn’t really in on all the great basketball the Rockets were playing. He left the game early in the third quarter after colliding and getting bloodied with Larry Sanders, sending him to get some stitches in the locker room. Lin finished with 8 points and 7 assists, leaving some wondering whether the Rockets, who are clearly putting Harden in front as their ball handler, should change Lin’s position in the rotation a little bit. Maybe even come off the bench?

Without Lin, there was plenty of firepower from the bench. Carlos Delfino enjoyed the open looks he was getting against his former team, scoring 22 points and hitting 6-7 from beyond the arc. Toney Douglas had a big day off the bench with 18 points and so did Patrick Patterson, doing pretty well in his new role off the bench. As a team, the Rockets shot 54.2% from the field although taking 33 three pointers (hitting 13 of them) was probably a bit too much.

I just know that when I came back, our guys were flying around with high energy. We were getting stops, just the way we’re supposed to play, the way that we’ve played in the past in some spurts. And then we just tried to carry it over to the fourth quarter.

It’s probably one of the most enjoyable experiences this season watching Houston Rockets basketball, when they’re good. It does mostly have to do with James Harden lifting up his head and not going head first into the basket, but it usually comes when they actually manage some sort of defensive stand. Some run and gun teams just wait for the other team to score before they get on with it, hoping for misses. The better teams actually create those runs with turnovers, as the Bucks had 25. The Houston Rockets haven’t suddenly turned into a defensive juggernaut, but it seems this team is becoming more than just a fun backcourt of Harden and Lin.

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