With 2:44 left in the game, the Rockets were leading 116 to 104. I blinked and the Rockets were winning by only 2, and the Mavs had the ball with 19 seconds left. Their best three point shooter, Jose Calderon, had a good look at a 3 and missed. He got his own rebound and took another 3 and missed as D Mo got the rebound and time expired. The Rockets were lucky it wasn’t Nowitzki or Carter with the last shot. Wow, no lead is safe with this team.
The inability to hold leads late continues to haunt the Rockets and seemingly will all year. Lin admitted it was a deep concern in the post game interview. Late in the game, they looked like deer caught in the headlights. With 22 seconds left and inbounding the ball, Parsons had to call the last time out. After the time out he passed in the ball to Brooks, but it was tipped which led to a turnover. Our youth and inexperience was very visible and nearly taken advantage of by the experienced and veteran Mavs team.
This makes the Rockets 7 and 2 with Harden on the bench, and was a really big win. Smith, Asik and Garcia were also out due to injury and the rotation has shrunk to a tight 8 players. It was an away game and the second half of a back to back against two good teams. Everyone stepped up tonight and played some passionate ball.
D Mo has been building his time in the rotation and had a breakthrough night. He earned a career best 13 boards in 26 minutes and played some great defense on Nowitzki. He’s getting so much more time due to the Rockets other injuries, that he’s starting to get comfortable on the court. McHale as well is getting more comfortable playing D Mo in crunch time.
The Mavs went to Hack-a-Howard with about 4:20 left in the game, and he shot 5 for 6 from the line in the next 30 seconds before they went away from that strategy. Howard shot 9 of 11 from the line tonight!
The Rockets shot an impressive 55% from the field and all the starters, plus D Mo and Brooks, ended up in double figures. Houston shot 42% from behind the arc. Brooks hit some big shots, Lin and Parsons played great games, T Jones continued his impressive offensive run and the Rockets played great team ball tonight.
Nowitzki scored an impressive 38 points, had 17 boards and got every close call at home. He was 11 for 11 from the line. Carter went for 22 and was called for a flagrant foul from an elbow to D Mo. I haven’t seen a game in a while where there was so much jawing about the calls. It was pretty rough, but the Rockets found a way to win a tough fight tonight. This is the Rockets maturing into a winning physical team. Even though they nearly lost a double digit lead late, they held on and got it done when it counted.
Without Harden in the lineup at the end of the game, the whole team is more active and they share the ball. That’s a formula that should be encouraged when Harden gets back. Without Harden, the Rockets look more balanced and Lin looks more confident. Hopefully the Rockets can integrate Harden into the style the Rockets played tonight. A balanced attack offensively gives the Rockets more ways to win than waiting on Harden to bail them out time after time. Of course with Harden in the lineup, and the Rockets clicking like they did tonight, they will win a lot of games.