The Houston Rockets seem to be learning something new about themselves every day. Their latest lesson? It’s possible for James Harden to play like a team player and do well individually at the same time, maybe taking a page or two from the Jeremy Lin book, which obviously benefited the team in a 100-92 win.
Some might consider the story of the game to be about Harden shooting only 2-of-9 from the field (he can’t let all of his bad habits disappear at once) but still finishing with 27 points, as he hit 22-of-25 free throws. But the way Jeremy Lin played along with Harden while Dwight Howard was on the bench due to a fifth personal foul, leading to a big 50-31 run that took the Rockets out of a double digit hole is the most important thing for McHale and his players to take from this game.
Harden realized that the best way for him to get on the scoreboard was driving to the paint, not seeing Marc Gasol in there to disturb him. It was a win over the excellent Memphis Grizzlies (they were a year ago) last season that in my opinion changed everything for Harden, and upped his selfish meter to an almost unbearable level at times. It’s hard to say he isn’t trying lately. He had plenty of kick outs to open players as the Rockets’ small ball lineup was too much for the Grizzlies to handle, with Harden making plenty of great decisions along the way, as his only field goals came in the first and fourth quarters, not doing too much shooting in between.
Lin himself finished with 18 points, hitting a huge three pointer to bring the game to within one during the Rockets’ run and later teamed up with Donatas Montiejunas for an excellent defensive play on Mike Conley, which led to a fast break led by Lin, finding Moniejunas for the dunk as the Rockets started drifting apart from the Grizzlies, who are unable to play with anyone when it becomes an open court game.
It was another terrific performance for Terrence Jones, stepping out without Dwight Howard on the floor (Howard played only 18 minutes because of his foul trouble), once again scoring 20 points.
Chandler Parsons might not have had a great day with his outside shooting (0-4 from three), but he did score 15 points, adding 11 rebounds and 5 assists, also enjoying the way Houston played with everyone moving well and the spacing looking as good as its been in a very long time. The Rockets shot only 5-of-24 from beyond the arc, but it was hard to ignore how well the ball moved during the second half and how much easier things seemed all of a sudden.
It’s a working process, turning this team from a marginal playoff one into a title contender. The last two games are an indication that maybe someone is getting the message. It was luck, in a way, that helped Jeremy Lin get his career to kick off in New York, and it’s a Patrick Beverley injury that brought him back to the starting lineup in Houston. This is still James Harden’s show, but maybe longer minutes next to Lin in the lineup are starting to rub off the right way on one of the most selfish players in the NBA.