Without both Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin, it’s not that surprising to see James Harden try and win a game all on his own for the Houston Rockets. Despite a big fourth quarter it wasn’t enough, because the players around him aren’t smart enough to make up for those injured and not playing, and a bad defense that continues to plague this team in every game.
Dwight Howard isn’t enough if the perimeter players don’t want to defend. Harden, for all of his merits and pluses, loves talking about defending better. He’s one of those who causes the problem of being too soft and lazy on defense, allowing the Utah Jazz to hit 54.4% of their shots, 58.8% of their three point attempts and that’s all without hardly having a a fast break game to create those easy shots.
On offense, a 109-103 loss suggests the Rockets didn’t struggle. James Harden scoring 37 points on 12-of-22 from the field suggests otherwise. He took nine three point attempts (hitting only three of them) and the Rockets were losing by 12 during his 43 minutes on the floor. Harden was the reason the Rockets stayed so close, but relying so much on him against a team in some sort of positive momentum and on the rise is a recipe for a loss.
Again, we go back to Lin and Parsons not playing. The Rockets, at their best, are a team that move the ball and keep looking for an open man on the perimeter, helped by an inside-outside passing game. It works at its best with Lin on the floor, but the win over the Spurs suggested that these principles are seeping through to other players as well, even James Harden. But when Chandler Parsons, someone who looks great when the Rockets play like a team and not like the ‘James Harden Productions Show’, isn’t playing, it’s hard to expect smart and intelligent basketball from a team that so easily stumbles back to the most basic of mistakes.
Without both of them, the Rockets are in trouble. Dwight Howard isn’t a player that in this system can carry a team on his back, especially because James Harden won’t let him be in that situation. Howard shot 7-of-12, scoring 15 points and adding 9 rebounds. He was once again disappointing from the line (1-of-4), but the eyes aren’t directed at him. It’s Harden, alone in the backcourt with the useless Patrick Beverley or the limited Francisco Garcia. He’s happy he has the opportunity to do whatever he wants on the floor, but he (should know) knows that the Rockets aren’t going anywhere like that.
James Harden – We just didn’t defend. We go through mental lapses where we don’t lock down on the defensive end. We gave up too many points to fight our way back.