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Houston Rockets 100, Utah jazz 93 – Hot Starts are Helpful

The Houston Rockets flipped the script of their last few games, deciding to come out strong and surge to an early lead. Houston pushed the deficit to 22 points in the second quarter and held it steady through most of the game. Racking up a sizable lead turned out to be a solid strategy for the Rockets, as it allowed them to weather a storm of Jazz scoring in the fourth quarter. It may not have ended as the blowout the Rockets were aiming for, but Houston came away with a much needed win on the back of a solid outing from their starting backcourt.

Don’t look now, but Jeremy Lin’s been going just a little bit Linsane recently. He’s put together three straight games with 21 points or more, and he’s looking increasingly aggressive. He’s finding open lanes and drawing double teams, and now he’s punishing the opposition for it. Late in the game he kicked the ball out of a double team on the perimeter, finding a streaking Chandler Parsons. Even better, this dunk helped stop a nasty run that put the Jazz back in the game. Lin’s 24 points came on excellent 9-13 shooting. His 6 assists were nice, too, and more than made up for only 2 turnovers. And he did this all in only 30 minutes of play. This is the trend from him Houston’s been hoping for all season, and this is a good time to find it.

James Harden, of course, did more than his fair share. He had another one of his peculiar low-percentage nights, shooting only 5-14. While that might look bad, it resulted in 29 points due to his amazing 18 free throws, of which he missed only 1. Harden’s penchant to press the issue and get to the rack results in a pile of free throws for his team, but also leads to awkward misses and ugly turnovers. It’s a work in progress, but it’s also very successful. He capped it off with 3 assists, 2 steals, a block and 3 turnovers, which is a decent amount of turnovers for him.

Today, the rest of the team showed up, too. Chandler Parsons couldn’t hit a 3-points (0-4), but he managed 10 points on 50% shooting anyway. His 8 rebounds and 3 assists fit nicely into his stat line, giving him a quiet but helpful evening (apart from a fairly nice dunk). Donatas Motiejunas continues to look inconsistent, but at least he hit a three. He went 2-8 overall, scoring only 5 points, and pulling down a mediocre 5 boards, but he looked like he’s beginning to find his role to some degree. His individual defense isn’t bad, and in fact he played some good defense one on one against Millsap. Unfortunately, his help and team defense leaves room for improvement. He”ll continue to get a pass for being a rookie as long as he continues to at least marginally contribute.

Omer Asik went to work and grabbed a very Omer Asik stat line. 9 points, 12 rebounds and a block. There’s no player on the Rockets more consistent than Omer Asik. He plays the defense he has to, and tonight he had a very capable Al Jefferson to contend with. While Jefferson ended up 9-19, it could have been much worse without Asik’s capable post defense. The highlight of Asik’s night was a spinning move to escape his man under the basket, leading to a bizarre ballet-like reverse layup and-one. Asik points come in all sorts of packages.

The bench wasn’t bad, and in fact they were only present for about half of the near-disastrous late run by the Jazz. Carlos Delfino found his stroke, hitting 4-8 shots (but only 1-5 threes). He was working well coming off screens, and also hit a couple contested shots which were only good because he hit them. Beverly also finally started scoring again, including some fairly daring drives. He’s never lacked for bravado on offense, and 7 point, 3-6 line on the night isn’t a bad result. He’s also trying to fill Douglas’ shoes on defense, and definitely plays with energy on that end. He gets hit with fouls for it at times, but as a role player off the bench, that’s usually not a problem.

Greg Smith and Thomas Robinson each had a nice dunk on the evening, including a very pretty slam on the fast break for Robinson.  Other than that, their stat lines were very forgettable, Smigh going 1-2 (3 points) from the field with 3 boards, Robinson hitting 2-7 (4 points) with 6 rebounds.

In what had somehow become the most important game of the season so far, the Rockets were able to give themselves the cushion they needed to keep the Jazz and the Lakers in the rear view mirror. With the Golden State Warriors now only a game ahead of Houston, the Rockets have to keep winning the games they’re favored in. If the Rockets can begin to recapture that February groove and start blowing teams out, now would be a great time.

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  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Once Lin develops his left hand opposing defenses are in deep trouble. He was able to go left multiple times last night, but still finished with his right hand at the rim. Using his left to finish and his right arm for space will make him that much better. Further, opponents will have to play him straight up on the perimeter instead of shading him to the right.

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    Loved Lin's plays tonight, and really like how he was aggressive. Was a bit disappointed by Parsons' defense a few times throughout the game...even relative to his other games this season. Harden's def wasn't great either, but at least I wouldn't say his defense was regressing throughout the season haha.

    Lin's constant falls/landings do scare me though. I hope he learns how to land better so he doesn't get injured in the future.

  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: [video] James Harden after the Rockets' win over Utah
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Lin has been improving alot, he was knocking down shots with confidence and stayedaggressiveall night. D-Mo's defense has been improving, the whole team is making progress slowly but surely.

    Millsap was limping around so it was clear his knee hasn't recovered yet but he still made good things happen every time he touched the ball--flying out the gate with 8 points in the first quarter and finishing with 16 in 25 minutes.

  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago

    Lin clinched it for the good guys with key plays down the stretch. As I've been saying, this team is at its best when Lin is allowed to attack and not relegated to the role of Rafer Alston. Let's hope Kevin McHale is finally learning.

  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: Houston Rockets 100, Utah jazz 93 - Hot Starts are Helpful
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    True. Also, Millsap didn't look like a 12-14 mil a year guy tonight.

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    Great job by our backcourt again, Harden & Lin both hit 20+ for the third straight game.

    Decent defence too. Dallas lost, looks like GS will lose against Spurs, good day to be a rocket fan

    after the ugly loss against GS.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    It sucks. I wanted to watch at least the first hour of the Heat game. Now I wont' be able to watch it.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    On paper, the matchup appears to be a favorable one for Houston. The Jazz are
    the 27th ranked club in the NBA when defending against pick-and-roll
    ball-handlers according to Synergy Sports – a promising omen given the Rockets’
    standing as the league’s most efficient scoring team in such situations. Utah
    also concedes the highest percentage (44.8%) of made corner threes; a shot
    Houston takes and makes more than any other team in the NBA. Parsons is
    especially dangerous from that position; his 57 made corner threes rank him
    6th in that category and his 51.8 percent conversion rate is
    second-best only to Golden State’s Steph Curry among players who have attempted
    at least 50 shots from that area.

    On the other side of the ball, the Rockets’ frontline certainly figures to
    have its hands full dealing with Utah’s quartet of quality bigs. But it’s worth
    noting that the Jazz offense has fallen apart in recent weeks, posting an
    offensive rating of 100.0 over the team’s last 12 games – a number that would
    place them 24th for the season. On the road, Utah’s results have been
    even worse: the Jazz are scoring an anemic 94.1 points per 100 possessions
    during their last six games away from Salt Lake City and turning the ball over
    on nearly 18 percent of their possessions – a figure that would place them dead
    last in the league by a mile and one which would certainly serve to turbocharge
    the Rockets’ transition game if the same phenomenon manifests itself Wednesday

    -Jason Friedman

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Al Jeff and Millsap have been playing horribly since their injuries, but Millsap is a tough dude so watch out. He knows Morey is watching and knows Houston is a possible destination next year, expect him to be aggressive right out the gate.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    I think this game will tell us a lot about if Houston's going to make the playoffs. I know it's one game, but if the Rockets come out lackluster and flat for a game of this magnitude like they've been doing recently, I don't have much hope for the rest of the season.

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