If missing three players from the starting lineup isn’t enough, the Houston Rockets continue to play the wrong kind of basketball for their situation, which means Jeremy Lin is being used in all the wrong ways on the floor, while James Harden has another awful performance when it comes to his defensive capabilities, and doing all that much on offense as well.
The Brooklyn Nets beat the Rockets 105-96 to clinch a second consecutive playoff spot, led by Joe Johnson with 32 points. Johnson had an easy time with the non-defending Harden, whether it was when posting up on him or simply taking advantage of all the times Harden falls asleep on defense, allowing either Johnson to hit open shots or cause the entire Rockets defense to shuffle and try to make up for the opened gap.
The Rockets do have some excuses to use: Dwight Howard isn’t playing, and Terrence Jones is out as well. Patrick Beverley might want to return before this season is over, but it’s questionable if he is going to be capable of playing before the Rockets get knocked out of the playoffs.
Harden led the way with 26 points on 4-of-10 from the field, including 2-of-6 from beyond the arc on too many tough and bad shots he just couldn’t help himself from taking, and as always got most of his bread and butter from the free throw line, where he was a very impressive 16-of-16. Despite pinning all those fouls on Nets players, the Rockets’ depth and almost stupidly run offense gave them no chance as the Nets started drifting away in the second half, and getting nothing out of the power forward position: Donatas Motiejunas scored 0 points in 8 minutes on the court, and the Rockets didn’t get much from either Omri Casspi or Jordan Hamilton.
Jeremy Lin scored 14 points on 6-of-14 from the field. He was a good 2-of-4 from beyond the arc and finished with only 2 assists. Like most games, he didn’t have the ball in his hands for most of the time, but the way the Rockets didn’t move and stagnated on offense put him in a situation in which he felt more comfortable to shoot instead of trying to force his comfortable style on others.
Teams with missing players and some sort of inferiority in terms of talent need to play smart, better basketball in order to win. One of the problem for the Rockets is the disparity in offensive intelligence between lineups. When Harden has Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones playing, the Rockets can afford playing with a selfish mode taking over. When these two aren’t and it’s a lot more up to Harden to make Parsons and Lin part of the decision making process, his style unfortunately takes over instead of seeing some smarter movement and passing from players.
These injuries might cause the Rockets to slip down the standings and maybe even lose home court advantage in the first round if things get really ugly. In the incredibly tough west, that might mean a first round exit for a very talented squad, that seems to be heading in the wrong direction due to the coaching and their election of on court leader.