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Houston Rockets 124, Utah Jazz 86: Rockets rebound

After a brutal stretch of games and their first three game losing streak, the Rockets fed on one of the worst teams in the NBA.  This was one of the first games in a long time that Harden and Parsons got significant rest.  This game was never close.  Houston won every quarter and ended up winning by 38.  Up by 8 after 1Q, 19 at the half, 23 at the end of 3, the Rockets end up winning by 38.  It was a rout and it obviously got under Utah’s skin.

Even with Howard out, the Rockets had no trouble in the middle.  Did you see Asik smile?  I saw Asik smile.  Omer got the start with Howard out due to an ankle strain.  It was Howard’s first game missed all year and he seems to be the biggest Asik fan on the bench.  Asik went on to notch his first double double since last April.  He scored 12 points and had 11 boards in 28 minutes.  He still looks like he can’t jump and missed multiple two footers, but he gets the job done.  Maybe if he had played like this earlier, he’d be starting somewhere else by now.  But, it’s obvious he’s the best backup center in the league and if he can get going, he will pay off big time in the playoffs.

The star of the game was undoubtedly Terrence Jones.  He was the best player on the court tonight.  He ended up with 30 points on 11 for 15 from the field and 3 for 4 from behind the arc.  He was dunking, driving, dribbling, hitting bombs and changing shots.  Remember all that talk at the beginning of the year about who would be out PF?  That’s all out the window and the upside for Jones looks insane.  After only playing in 19 games last year, Jones has solidified himself as one of the youngsters that could bring great glory to the Rockets in years to come.  The Rockets youth could still be troublesome in the playoffs but it sure does lend stability to their front office and future plans.

Everyone played tonight except Casspi (who had the flu) and Smith who is still out.  Garcia even got in the game in the last two minutes for a shoving match against the frustrated Jazz.  Maybe the Jazz thought the Rockets were pouring it on.  Even when the end of the bench came in for Houston, the lead kept going up and the Rockets didn’t slow down.  They kept making easy, fast break layups and shooting bombs.

Houston had a total of 12 blocks tonight with seven players getting their hands on shots.  The defense looked solid, holding the Jazz to 41% from the field and 22% from behind the arc.  Of course against a team as woeful as the Jazz, it doesn’t mean too much.

With the schedule finally tilting Houston’s way, we should be seeing some more of this.  With 15 games left in the season, there are only a few tough ones left.  Mainly one against the Spurs and one against the Clippers.  Hopefully, with this schedule, we can rest some in the 4th quarter, get the backups more time and solidify our playoff seeding.

This game will help with the confidence of the younger players.  Speaking of confidence, Lin shot 7 for 10 and ended up with 15 points in 29 minutes.  Canaan got to play 8 minutes and Hamilton shot 5 for 7 for 15 points.  The Rockets shot an amazing 58.2% from the field, all of this with Howard’s field goal percentage on the bench.

The Rockets have now won 45 games, the same as last season, and still have a month of basketball to go.  With the right playoff seeding, the stars could align for Houston.  Realistically, it looks like the Rockets should finish 4th in the West and have home court advantage against a slipping Trailblazers team.  Exiting that last stretch of games was tough, but tonight did a lot to put that in the rear view mirror.

 

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About the author: Eric Nielsen is the owner of Lotushouse Records, an English major from SDSU, a basketball player and life-long passionate Rockets fan. He’s been following the team since the days of Moses Malone, Rudy T. and Calvin Murphy.

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