At halftime, Houston’s home game against the Dallas Mavericks looked all too similar to the recent close games against Milwaukee, Washington and Orlando. Harden was sluggish, the defense was weak, and the opposing shooters were raining threes. After trailing 33-31 at the end of the first quarter, the Rockets buckled down and pulled ahead by three going into halftime. And then the floodgates broke. The Rockets team that blows teams out hit the floor and stunned the Mavs with as lopsided a quarter as we’ve seen all season. The Rockets won it 44-17, leading by thirty at the end of the quarter. Chandler Parsons contributed the game of his career in a signature performance against a team that looked serious about carving out a win.
If Parsons continues this level of play, he may end up with is own hashtag on twitter. He put together a mind-boggling performance against the Mavs, with his first and only miss of the night on his eleventh attempt. His 32 points on 12-13 shooting (5-6 from downtown!) was a huge part of what went well for Houston. with Harden looking a little slow due to his ankle and knee injuries, other players have to step up a bit. Players like Parsons and Lin have been willing to create and finish when defenses collapse on Harden, and tonight that plan came together nicely.
Lin got in on the fun with 21 points on 8-14 shooting, 9 assists and only 2 turnovers. lin was making circus shots at the lip and stopping to pop open midrange jumpers when Dallas gave those to him. While the question of how great Lin and Harden can be together is still on the table, it’s clear that when Harden slips, Lin can be right there to pick up the slack. His shot has been improving all year, and it’s only helped the team. He sat the entire fourth quarter yet again, but this time Harden and Asik joined him. It was already over.
For his part, Harden harden started slow but put it together in the third, ending up with 21 points on 10 shots. He began to get to the line more as the game progressed, and he ended up with 7 points on 9 free throws for his efforts. He also dished 7 assists while giving up 0 turnovers, showing that while his ability to finish as the rim is hindered at the moment, his playmaking abilities are in full force. He also sank a couple threes in the Mavs’ face during the huge third quarter to help break the backs of the opponents.
Omer Asik also had a hand in the 15-0 Houston run to start the third quarter, beginning the half with an open dunk off a Harden pass. Asik recorded yet another double double, getting 10 points and 10 rebounds exactly. Given that he sat the entire fourth quarter, it remains impressive how consistent Asik is. Against the Mavs, he added a new wrinkle to his game, picking up 5 steals on the night, including a couple brutal steals in which he simply got ahold of the ball and wrenched it free.
New starter Donatas Motiejunas continues to earn those minutes, putting up a decent 8 point, 8 rebound, 3 assist line in 30 minutes. Motiejunas may not yet has the polish of the second and third year power forwards Houston traded away (Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson, respectively), but his willingness to hustle for rebounds and put in the effort is amazing. After being seen as a poor rebounder and defender, Motiejunas seems intent on proving that a young dog can definitely learn new tricks, doing well in both arenas tonight (though he did flub a rotation or two). Given that he’s only started three games and he already looks like a passable starter, that bodes well for his and Houston’s long term prospects. The Rockets finally have a player for McHale to tutor in the post.
In fact, they may have more than one. Thomas Robinson showed off some nice spin moves against the Mavs. Though these weren’t very effective (fouls are a fine result, misses not so much), Robinson’s 10 point, 8 rebound, 3 steal night showed a lot of promise. In one sequence, he poked the ball loose to Beverley, took off down the court and managed to be in position to receive a sweet pass from Harden for a fastbreak dunk. If Robinson can continue to scrap on the boards and learn to expand his offensive game, he’ll be right at home in fast-paced Houston.
Patrick Beverley, who may soon be fighting with Aaron Brooks for minutes, acquitted himself well in his 23 minutes. He ran up 9 points on 5 shots and grabbed 7(!) rebounds, including 4 on offense. Many times, it was his hustle that kept a possession alive. Francisco Garcia and Tim Ohlbrecht both got their first minutes as Rockets. Garcia had a serviceable 8 points on 3-7 shooting, including a couple of big threes. Ohlbrecht only got a few minutes in garbage time, but avoided an empty line: 3 points on 2 shots, a steal and a rebound.
Delfino had a poor shooting night, 1-7 overall and a grim 0-5 from three. Parsons must have stolen his powers. James Anderson only played in garbage time, which wasn’t surprising with Garcia there to take some minutes, but Smith also failed to play in the first three quarters. For whatever reason, Smith’s minutes have been declining, and against the Mavs head coach Kevin McHale seemed to go with a bigs rotation of Asik, Motiejunas and Robinson (until it was time to empty benches.) McHale’s rotation choices are, as ever, his own, but one wonders if Smith’s defense has something to do with his recent stay in the doghouse.
The Mavs, for their part, made their lives worse by getting in foul trouble early and often. O.J. Mayo put the topping on that situation by fouling out with a minute and a half left… in the third. Dirk Nowitzki, victim of double teams all night long, had a couple of frustration fouls himself. One of those was a hit to Harden’s beard, after which Harden carefully rearranged his hairy halo before shooting a technical free throw. The Mavs, winners of the last 9 games against Houston, fell apart and looked frustrated as they did it. Houston has now pulled even with the Utah Jazz in the 7th seed, and are a mere half game behind 6th seed Golden State.