Houston Rockets – James Harden on Fire, Jeremy Lin a Little Less

Jeremy Lin

There was never going to be a lot of defense as the Houston Rockets clashed with the Los Angeles Lakers, and no surprises whatsoever happened with the Rockets winning 145-130 with an excellent performance from both James Harden and Terrence Jones while Jeremy Lin was a bit more in the background, not taking advantage of not getting enough of a chance to put up the big numbers almost everyone seemed to do against the Lakers.

There really was no need for Harden, who has been playing around 40 minutes in every game recently, to do more than the 32 minutes he spent on the floor. The Lakers outscored the Rockets 40-30 in the final quarter and still lost by 15. As with most Lakers game against the better teams in the league, especially those who don’t mind simply running the floor just like Lakers try to do 100% of the time only with less talent, it turned out to be a blowout.

Harden scored 33 points, adding 12 assists while shooting 10-of-15 from the field, 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and once again going to the line quite a lot, hitting 10-of-11 free throws. It was a big night for Terrence Jones as well, scoring 33 points, his highest output since mid-January against the Milwaukee Bucks. He played 33 minutes and made 13-of-18 shots, and is so far averaging 15.8 points this month, tied for his average during January.

Omer Asik grabbed 15 rebounds, Chandler Parsons scored 19 points and Isaiah Canaan, the rookie point guard, who might become another player Kevin McHale tries to push ahead of Jeremy Lin in the rotation if the head coach decides that has a perceivable better defense than Jeremy Lin (who will get panned as a bad defender by the same voices no matter what he does), scored 15 points.

The Rockets made 57.7% of their field goal attempts and 42.3% from beyond the arc. They scored 29 points off fast breaks (the Lakers scored 38!), but the most impressive number was Houston scoring 80 points in the paint. The Lakers had Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre playing, but both of them provided no interior defense, and got no help from the perimeter, so the 30 points from Jodie Meeks and Nick Young scoring 32 points weren’t that impressive.

On to Lin, who finished with 9 points and 6 assists. In these kind of games, with no defense and a very fast pace going on, it’s the point guard who’ll decide which players get the big numbers. Lin, even though he has tried from time to time to force himself on the game with some selfish scoring, but that’s not him. So expecting him to blow up against the Lakers without Harden looking specifically for him isn’t knowing this team and the dynamics. Lin didn’t have a bad game, but it didn’t feel like he had too much to do with the end result, because he isn’t put in the role and position to have that kind of influence.

The defense from the Rockets continues to be embarrassing, although it was actually the entire team this time, and when you score 145 points you tend to neglect mistakes you made along the way. But with or without Dwight Howard, the Rockets have a huge problem on the perimeter, and it’s usually coming from Chandler Parsons and James Harden, who have an immunity from the coaching staff to make mistakes and take plays off.

This win over the Lakers is an indication of nothing. It was the highest scoring regular season game since¬†March 15, 2009 (Suns def. Warriors, 154-130). But you can learn things from everything, and we didn’t see anything new: This isn’t Lin’s team, and don’t be surprised if McHale starts reducing Lin’s minutes once more if he decides Canaan is a “better” defensive option, making it easier for Harden to dominate the ball handling, if there can even be more than he’s doing right now.

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