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Houston Rockets 111, Oklahoma City Thunder 107: Fear the beard.

One month ago, Dwight Howard went up against an Oklahoma City frontcourt which had little more than rookie center Steven Adams as well as the too thin Serge Ibaka.  Yet despite the seemingly obvious advantages, he had a disastrous game, scoring just 9 points on 4-12 shooting.  Rahat was incredibly worried about the result of that game, as he argued that the inability of Howard to dominate players which he should seemingly dominate like Adams or DeAndre Jordan boded poorly for Houston’s chances of a title, both over the short and long term.

That may or may not be true.  But over the extremely short term like tonight?  With Howard continuing to rest his ankle?  James Harden did show up.  He did dominate.  He dropped 39 points, and showed up with crossover after tomahawk slam after 3 pointer after free throw and so on and so on.  Combine that with Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia hounding Durant like they did so much during the 2013 playoffs, and it was the Thunder player who was traded here that willed the Rockets to an absolutely crucial victory.  Just 24 hours ago, Houston was worried about losing their hard-fought home court advantage to the suddenly surging Portland Trailblazers.  Now?  With a win over the Thunder to make 50, a secured playoff spot, Portland losing to Phoenix tonight, and a upcoming creampuff schedule which has Houston facing only one playoff team ( although it is San Antonio) over the final 7 games?  Fortune is a fickle mistress, but as of this moment, it appears that she has chosen to favor the Rockets after all.

It should be noted that despite Harden’s incredible performance, he hardly won the game all by himself.  Indeed, Harden can show up on any night, against any team – but unfortunately, the same really cannot be said of Houston’s perimeter defense.  However against the Thunder tonight, Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia did their jobs in hounding Kevin Durant.  Parsons’s defensive effort in particular was great to see: for those who don’t remember, it was defending Kevin Durant when Chandler Parsons in his rookie year began to show that he was more than just a throwaway second round pick.  Those first games are where Parsons picked up his reputation as a solid defender, but as his offensive role grew larger over the years, his defense slipped.

Tonight however was a blast to the past.  It says something about how incredible Kevin Durant is that I can confidently declare that Parsons played solid defense on a night when Durant put up 28 points, his 40th straight game of 25 points or more, something which has been only accomplished by Oscar, Jordan, and Wilt.  But Parsons was farther up in Durant’s face than I have seen Parsons in quite some time, chasing him all over the court.  And when Parsons wasn’t, Garcia was there instead.  Durant in fact grew frustrated by this constant harassment in the third quarter, and there was a minor spat between himself and Garcia.  It didn’t knock Durant off or rattle his confidence, but it served as a reminder that even these Rockets can defend without having Asik and Howard do everything, which is just as big of a deal as Harden’s brilliant performance tonight.

But even with that perimeter defense, and with Terrence Jones coming back with a fury after missing two games with the flu and grabbing 16 points, 11 boards, and massively improving the interior defense?  This game was about Harden.  With LeBron and Durant doing their thing, and with Anthony Davis rising as Zach Lowe wrote about, it’s admittedly difficult to see the Beard winning a MVP in the next few seasons.  Yet if Harden submitted something like tonight on a routine basis, who knows?  Which players are the best, just like Houston’s playoff prospects, can change in the blink of an eye.

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About the author: Write for a living, though not in sports. Been following the Rockets my whole life, with Stockton’s shot being my first memory. Consequently traumatized.

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Total comments: 14
  • datruth says 6 months ago

    I might be wrong but this was our one and only win against okc this year
    So why not be happy that we won the game.
    With Howard and Beverly on the floor we was 0 for 3 against OKC.
    A big win is a big win. Go Rockets!

  • chantu says 6 months ago

    Nice to see Jones come back strong after his illness. But the PG play remains abysmal since Beverley's injury. Lin simply has not stepped up, which has to be disappointing to Rockets' management. That's why Morey is thinking about taking a flyer on Malcolm Delaney even at this late date.

    typical Lin hater. sign .... :( They won a great game, but let's get rid of Lin. Give my a break. So who do you insert, Canaan? And what was the result last time with Bev, starting? I realize this is not an apples to apples comparison without Westbrook, but a win over OKC is an accomplishment no matter how you look at it.

  • SadLakerFan says 6 months ago Critical win. Now, here's where McHale earns his salary. The Rox play a lot of games down the stretch, including two back to backs. They have six lottery teams and a Spurs team that will be resting most of their starters. They don't need to win all of those games - they need to win enough to maintain the 4th spot, while making sure that the key guys get enough rest. Then the fun begins.
  • thenit says 6 months ago Those two players would start in a lot of teams. Pretty good point guards.
  • Willk says 6 months ago

    A PER of 15 would be nice, at least then he would be average.

    All of the missed lay-ups were frustrating to watch. I would have thought Lin would have taken advantage of playing against back-ups (Jackson and Vasquez) the last couple of games.

  • Steven says 6 months ago

    I don get it. What special from Lin is been expected? He was not really that passive in this game. He did missed badly 3 times for layups tho. 3 last second bail out shots too. I think he was playing ok as a 3rd/4th option.

    A PER of 15 would be nice, at least then he would be average.
  • Cooper says 6 months ago The missed layups were a bit embarrassing but really he wasn't that bad without Dwight, Harden parsons and Lin are going to have to take some more shots and often they aren't all that good of looks which sort of explains their lower percentages the past few games.
  • BrentYen says 6 months ago

    I don get it. What special from Lin is been expected? He was not really that passive in this game. He did missed badly 3 times for layups tho. 3 last second bail out shots too. I think he was playing ok as a 3rd/4th option.

  • thenit says 6 months ago

    The only turnover Lin had was when Harden was elbowed by Parsons and just bend over when lin drove in the paint and kicked it out to an injured Harden. Beside that he shot poorly wasn't aggressive hence probably the zero turnovers. I can live with an aggressive Lin who attacks and give up a couple of extra turnovers than someone who is just passive. He played ok defensively but nothing special. Can't wait for Bev to come back.

  • thejohnnygold says 6 months ago

    Lin did not shoot the ball well, but his defense was very good. He took care of the ball and kept the offense moving.

    No, Kirk is right--our PG play is rough right now.

    Lin went 3-11 for 8 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and a turnover (he missed 2 other turnovers because OKC had butterfingers) in 38 minutes.

    Canaan went 2-5 for 6 points, 2 rebs, 1 assist, and 2 turnovers in 18 minutes.

    Combined that is 5-16 for 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers. No steals. No free throws even attempted. Not good production from the PG position. I am not inclined to give out any participation trophies here.

    Lin has got to learn to draw contact from defenders if he is going to be productive driving to the hoop.

  • rm90025 says 6 months ago

    Nice to see Jones come back strong after his illness. But the PG play remains abysmal since Beverley's injury. Lin simply has not stepped up, which has to be disappointing to Rockets' management. That's why Morey is thinking about taking a flyer on Malcolm Delaney even at this late date.

    Lin did not shoot the ball well, but his defense was very good. He took care of the ball and kept the offense moving.

  • feelingsupersonic says 6 months ago Hi Bigtkirk, last I heard from a Mark Stein tweet I believe was that the front office is not moving forward with bringing another PG in since Bev will not require surgery. I surmise had he needed surgery and missed the playoffs Morey would have brought in Delaney.

    To your comments on the playoffs NorEastern, imagine Memphis playing the Spurs in the first round. I think that would be the most brutal start to the playoffs for them but I guess we'll see who ends up 8. I like the Rockets versus Portland but it won't be easy.
  • Bigtkirk says 6 months ago

    Nice to see Jones come back strong after his illness. But the PG play remains abysmal since Beverley's injury. Lin simply has not stepped up, which has to be disappointing to Rockets' management. That's why Morey is thinking about taking a flyer on Malcolm Delaney even at this late date.

  • NorEastern says 6 months ago

    YES! Home court and a playoff schedule that could not have been planned better! Portland then the Spurs.

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