After an awful shooting night from both of the stars in the backcourt, it’s hard to point one blaming finger as to why the Houston Rockets lost and fell to the 8th spot in the Western conference. But there’s a worrying pattern over the last few weeks, with James Harden getting too much credit as the ball handler, which simply wastes away the abilities of Jeremy Lin and makes the Rockets in general look worse than they should.
The only reason the Rockets hung on for so long against the Lakers, eventually losing in another overtime game (haven’t won a single one this season) was the Lakers being a short-handed, not really talented team. Yes, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are playing their asses off to make everyone forget about the missing mamba, but the Rockets simply blew the game away by playing selfish, unintelligent and very predictable basketball.
All you needed to learn about the Rockets’ bad stages of the season was there in the five minutes of overtime. Not a single play was called, leaving it mostly up to Harden to dribble down the clock, hope for someone to give him a screen and drive to the basket. It only worked once, as the Rockets made only one field goal in the final five minutes of the game, losing 99-95. Jeremy Lin hardly touched the ball, and nothing from that spread-passing offense that seems to be the best way to make the most of the entire roster was evident at the Staples Center.
Kevin McHale lamented the fact that he didn’t see the usual passing from his players, but that passing game has been missing since James Harden returned from a short injury (two wins without him), making only 39% of his field goal attempts since returning, with Houston losing four of their last six. Harden makes everyone commit to his brand of basketball, and when it doesn’t work, the Rockets aren’t that fun to see.
Chandler Parsons hitting that clutch three pointer and probably being the best player on the floor for the Rockets (23 points, 10-17 from the field) doesn’t change the fact that they played the wrong kind of basketball. Always taking a tough three, finishing with an awful 8-33 from beyond the arc, holding on to the ball too long during possessions. Lin finished with 8 assists, but had another bad shooting game (always does when he’s a spot up shooter) with 4-14 from the field.
Harden? He got his 30 points, mostly because of going 10-12 from the line. There are some things you can’t take away from him, but McHale has got to start doing his job, which is taking the individuality away from the way they play in order to have a shot against the Rockets. It doesn’t just mean giving Lin more of the ball, which usually means better ball movement and spacing. James Harden’s style is infectious, and causes laziness across the board, including in game planning. The problem is, habits are hard to kill once they’ve set themselves in comfort. The Rockets need to find a way to rewind the clock about two weeks, hoping Harden realizes he needs to do some changing as well.