One of the most interesting back-court combination in the NBA is that of Jeremy Lin and James Harden, leading the Houston Rockets to a surprising season while working out the differences and similarities between their roles as we move along.
James Harden led the Rockets to a 104-92 win over the New Orleans Hornets, the Rockets’ seventh win in nine games, finishing with 31 points and 7 assists. Harden has scored at least 25 points over the last 10 games, but the Rockets are at their best when he shares the ball instead of selfishly lowering his head every time he drives to the basket.
The surprising thing about the Rockets in this game, as opposed to all season, was attacking the paint non stop. On a usual night, Houston almost live and die on their ability to hit shots from beyond the arc. They’re attempting 27.2 three pointers a game, hitting 35.7% of them. Against the Hornets’ soft guards the Rockets kept shooting from long range (5-24), but eventually understood that getting points was a matter of being aggressive. They finished with 60 points in the paint.
Alongside Harden, leading the Rockets in scoring for 14 straight games he has played in, Omer Asik obviously had a big night with both Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez not really managing to contain anyone who made it past their guards. Asik grabbed 8 rebounds and finished with 21 points. Patrick Patterson, now somewhat of a sixth player, added 15 off the bench.
Jeremy Lin, turning more and more into a long-range shooter only, finished with only 3-10. He did score 9 points and added 9 assists, but sometimes you can sense he isn’t exactly happy with the way things are going for him individually. Point guards, regardless of their status in College and later in the pros, love to run the show. Lin is getting a reduced part time role in doing that. He’s a better passer than Harden, but can’t create shots for himself and for others the way Harden does so well. Once again, it becomes somewhat of a balancing act for both players between scoring on isolation, on the go and give or waiting for someone to find you while you’re open.
James Harden thought the “unusual” methods of getting a win just show this team is growing, developing into something more than a run and gun squad that needs space and open outside shots to come out with a W. I think that shows the maturity that we’re growing and that we’re getting better. Sometimes our offense isn’t on point, but we’re finding ways to score.
The problem for the Rockets is that against good defensive teams with the ability to run with them, at some point basing everything on Harden’s ability to create havoc while driving to the basket isn’t going to work. That’s where using Jeremy Lin more as a main ball handler comes in handy and quite useful. The question is if Kevin McHale, absolutely delight with what James Harden has brought to his team, is willing to share the ball between them a little more.