The Houston Rockets are going through very good stretch at the moment thanks to a soft schedule. James Harden is playing some very good individual basketball, notching a career triple double, while Jeremy Lin got some extended minutes thanks to Patrick Beverley going down. But the story this time was something else, as their 120-98 win over the Philadelphia 76ers meant an NBA record of consecutive losses was tied, and will probably be broken over the weekend.
James Harden scored 26 points to go with 10 rebounds and 10 assists. There was simply nothing wrong the Rockets could have done in the game. The 76ers have some talent on their team – the few players they didn’t trade away before the deadline, but this team is set up to lose, and badly. The problem with tanking? It’s more than just numbers, and some players are affected by going through the humiliation of becoming a league-wide laughing stock.
Brett Brown is trying to talk about the small wins within games. About players not hanging their heads down. About players not feeling sorry for themselves, and still believing in their ability and that of their teammates. But these talks get old and repetitive. While players might understand what front office is doing by putting them out there like sacrificial lambs, waiting for the slaughter, creating a losing culture isn’t always easy to turn around. Just look at the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But the Rockets? They didn’t care about that. Playing the 76ers is a time to improve your stats, as James Harden did. Dwight Howard had 17 points on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, adding 13 rebounds and 3 blocks. Terrence Jones finished with 20 points, Chandler Parsons had 15 and Jeremy Lin was very good in extended form, “enjoying” the Patrick Beverley injury that kept him out of the game after the first half, allowing Lin to play 27 minutes, putting up 13 points and 7 assists in that time.
For once we won’t talk about how good the Rockets looked with Lin in comparison to Harden because it wasn’t true in this game. The ball moved around regardless of who was on the floor. The 76ers lack any form or shape when they’re playing defense, and falling behind at some point always makes it look worse. It’s hard to remember the Rockets taking a bad shot even though they shot only 48.9% from the field, which is almost abysmal against a team losing 26 consecutive game. Some open shots simply didn’t drop, but grabbing 17 offensive rebounds helped make it better.
The Lin angle of all this? Maybe a chance to return to the lineup. Losing Patrick Beverley, if his knee injury turns out to be more than just a one-game pain, is meaningful. The fact that we don’t think he should start or play more minutes than Lin doesn’t mean he isn’t an important player to the team. But on the individual side of things, it might give Lin a chance or two to start in the lineup and play 30 minutes or even more. That alone isn’t enough, and he needs to hope that all these numbers and accolades Harden has been picking up lately don’t inflate his head even more than usual.