Questions have a tendency to get a definitive answer if you wait long enough to find out what it is. Apparently great offense, like the Houston Rockets have going on with James Harden and Jeremy Lin, the highest scoring backcourt in the NBA, beats great defense. And can the two co-exist and thrive next to each other? Last couple of weeks suggest they can.
This was more than just Lin and Harden. This was a complete onslaught and destruction of a team that takes so much pride in their defense, but found itself losing at home for the 7th time this season, allowing the most points (120) and the best shooting percentage against them (56.1%) all season long. The Chicago Bulls need Derrick Rose, but it’s going to take a long time before he’s back to breathe some energy into this team.
The Bulls have no one to carry them when the going gets tough, and no one to run with other teams when the pace picks up. When their defense can’t get stops, it start looking pretty ugly. The fourth quarter somehow minimized the damage as Nate Robinson excelled in a prolonged period of garbage time, but this game was all about how James Harden led a team to run all over the Bulls.
Maybe Houston should play Eastern conference teams each night – they’re 11-2 against the East this season, averaging 108.5 points per game, allowing only 97.5 and outrebounding teams by an average of 5 per game. Against Western teams, they score only 103.6 points, allow 108.4 and get outrebounded on most night.
Lin and Harden broke away in the second quarter, as the Rockets ran away with a 14-2 run that put them 21 points ahead of the Bulls. James Harden scored 13 of his 26 points in the second, Jeremy Lin finished with 12 of his 20. It was a huge night for Omer Asik against his former team, becoming the first Rockets player with 20 pts/18 rebounds/3 blocks in game since Yao Ming in 2005. Chandler Parsons added 23, extremely enjoying the open spaces and the fast pace of the game. The Rockets scored 31 points on the fast break and 66 in the paint, something you just don’t see against the Bulls.
And in the last two games, Harden has taken it to very tough defenses – Bulls and Memphis. The Rockets simply play even faster than before, and attack the basket before defenses set up. Instead of trying to slow down games, the Chicago Bulls and others try to run with the Rockets and get back in the game too quickly, and right now, it looks like very few teams can keep up with that kind of pace.
Harden is simply a one man wrecking crew sometimes. He puts on just one mode, which is drive to the basket every time. Some guards in the NBA can handle his speed and strength, most can’t. Once the mess and the disorganization begin, Jeremy Lin has a lot more room to operate both as a catch & shoot player and as a point guard. He finished with 11 assists, this time not allowing himself to get carried away with the long range shooting, taking only one three point shot.
Games won’t be this easy all season. The Rockets cracked an opponent that simply didn’t come prepared or willing for a fight, and made the most of it. The Lin Harden combo, right now at a peak, is going to have its ups and downs as the season progresses. Once again though, they showed that when they’re both synced with each other, few teams play better offensive basketball or more enjoyable to watch.