Just when people began talking about the Houston Rockets as a championship contender came a game that once again exposed the bad coaching, terrible defense and the lie named James Harden, while Jeremy Lin continues to be marginalized and pushed aside in favor of the overrated defense of Patrick Beverley.
Losing to the Los Angeles Clippers 101-93 isn’t the end of the world. The Rockets have still won 8 of their last 10 and are very much in contention for a spot that will give them home court advantage for at least one round in the playoffs. However, it’s the road they’re on, and the basketball that they’re playing that’s worrying and should be of concern to Kevin McHale, who seems to be more worried about giving James Harden his touches and shots.
So after Harden went for a season-high 43 points, there was nothing surprising about seeing him putting on an awful shooting performance (6-of-16 from the field) and turning the ball over six times. Good defenses, or at least good defensive players, know how to handle a player who doesn’t have too much variety in his arsenal. What Harden does he does very well, but in repeat mode it gets easier to defend, as Matt Barnes and Darren Collison limited him to only 3-for-12 for 11 points while rotating on him.
Kevin McHale was messing around with lineups, but chose to drop Jeremy Lin even further down the rotation. This isn’t a case of a player going cold and due to that losing his spot in the lineup or his minutes. This is simply a head coach, out of nowhere, deciding he wants to downgrade a player who the more he plays consistent minutes for his team the better it does. However, Lin – McHale has always been an enigma, and nothing was different as Lin was taken out with seven minutes left in the game and brought back in with 30 seconds left, when all hope was gone.
It was a great game for Blake Griffin in the post, enjoying the confused look the Rockets had on defense, with players moving out of position and rushing out to protect the permiter without just cause, resulting in a lot of open looks down low. Griffin led the Clippers with 23 points, having a lot of fun with the Rockets’ 20 turnovers, which can be expected with a team that prefers to have two non-point guards running the show for it.
Chris Paul scored 13 points and had nine assists while Darren Collison enjoyed a great game off the bench scoring 19 points and adding 5 assists. The Clippers looked good defensively which made up for their offensive flow. The Rockets looked bad for most of the game on both ends, except for when Dwight Howard got the ball down low (scoring 23 points on 9-of-12 from the field) or when Jordan Hamilton was getting open looks, hitting four 3-pointers, while the rest of the Rockets shot 23.5% from beyond the arc.
Having a real point guard, like Lin (who had six points, three rebounds and three assists) might have meant going with the hot hands in Howard and Hamilton. Having James Harden get everything to go through him for 43 minutes means less than wise decisions on too many possessions.