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Houston Rockets 93, Chicago Bulls 89

For once, the Rockets met just the team they needed to. After a disastrous three game slide including two blowouts, the Rockets needed someone to right their ship against. The Bulls, with their crushing defense and spotty offense, provided exactly the trial and opportunity this young Rockets team needed to settle down on both ends of the ball. It wasn’t always a pretty game, but it was a win for the team’s growth and their record.

The Bulls came to Houston on the heels of losses to the Blazers and the Clippers, and needed a win to avoid a three game slide. Unfortunately for them, the Rockets were ready, willing and able to cut a losing streak of their own. The Bulls, of course, continue to struggle while 2010-2011 MVP Derrick Rose struggles with the ACL he tore last season. Rose is the focal point of their offense, though they’ve been able to hold onto a 5-6 record so far. The Rockets were without veteran swingman Carlos Delfino and backup center Cole Aldrich.

The Rockets took advantage of the Bulls’ missing star, as well as the return of Houston’s own James Harden. Harden missed the entire second half of the last game due to a flu of some kind. He was visibly ill during that game, and clearly needed the rest. He came back strong against the Bulls, scoring and stealing at a wonderful pace despite being the target of continuous double teams. He returned to the kind of line Rockets fans want to see: 28 points on 8-14 shooting, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a massive 5 steals. His game-high 6 turnovers mar an otherwise fantastic line. He continues to rack up turnovers, in large part due to his high usage and constant double teams. Nonetheless, it would behoove him and the team to try to lower turnovers across the board, which remain a constant problem. The Rockets coughed it up 23 times tonight, a season high. That has to fall eventually.

Parsons also turned it up for this game, showing an unwillingness to let the sophomore slump claim him. While most of the Rockets have struggled lately, he’s been everywhere at once, and it’s invaluable to the team. He amassed 18 points on 7-13 shooting, and grabbed a career high 13 rebounds. His peripherals seem to go wherever they need to, and his shooting has settled into a highly efficient groove. He seems to increasingly shy from bad shots, and it’s great to see. If you’d told me two years ago that the Battier-Budinger rotation would be replaced by a player who combines the best of both players and was drafted in the second round, I’d have accused you of having irrational, unrealistic hopes. And then Chandler Parsons happened. He’s a player to hang onto.

Patterson also continues to make all his naysayers look foolish. Now that his bone spurs have been fully removed, he looks active and accurate this season. 20 points on 8-16 shooting, including a three pointer? And that comes with 8 rebounds? Those are great numbers, and defenses will eventually have to start paying him more attention.

Asik looked excited to play his old team, but they had his number as much as he had theirs. He only shot 2-8 (for only 4 points), but most of his shots were from below the rim, where the refs decided to let anything go. The real surprise was that he only grabbed 6 boards. The Bulls were on fire on the offensive glass, with Noah, Deng, Boozer and Robinson all grabbing at least 3. Whatever the Bulls knew, it let them take Asik’s boards from him. In response, he had 3 emphatic blocks, including a late one against Noah that sealed the game for Houston. Given how amazing he’s looked, he’s allowed to get quieted by a great coach and solid team who knows his game one night.

Toney Douglas was a surprise bright spot of the night. Whether he knows about the hate being piled against him, or he’s just settling into his game and forcing things less, he looked mediocre rather than horrible on offense (1-4 shooting, but it was a hugely important three late in the game), and had a few good defensive plays. He still looks like a puppy scrambling to do everything at once, but he seems to be getting a hold of what the team needs from him. Livingston would still probably be playing much better, but at least Douglas hit all his free throws and doesn’t seem to be actively hurting the team.

The dark lining to that is that Lin seems to be losing playing time. His line tonight was terrible. 4 points on 2-9 shooting. 5 turnovers to 3 assists. He notched a steal, but when you average three a game, that’s not enough. Lin eventually sat down during the Rockets’ amazing late game comeback. They completely shut the Bulls down for 4 minutes, and Lin wasn’t involved. He can still pass with the best of them, but his offensive game seems, if anything, to be degrading. Perhaps his confidence is increasingly shaken, but he’s on a bad path and needs to break out of it if this team wants a winning record this season or any season.

With Aldrich and Delfino out, the rest of the bench was only Morris and Smith, who both looked happy to be there. Morris was held scoreless in 14 minutes, but he played with so much energy and hustle (like an amazing catch-up play on defense to stifle a fast break) that it was hard to notice. He offers a similar all-around skill set to Parsons, and both have good intangibles. As long as one is on the floor at all times, the team is well-served. Smith looks like his foot has healed nicely, and looks ready to close the door in Cole Aldrich’s face. 4-7 shooting and 4 rebounds is fine for a backup, and he never looked lost on defense. He bobbled or missed on a couple passes, but he still came out efficient and is only improving. The Rockets bench looks like experience might grow it into a solid unit by the end of the year.

For the last few games, the Rockets have looked defeated before the second half even started. Somehow, this team suffers in high-scoring affairs and thrives when defense abounds. Hopefully the experience of holding a team scoreless over 4 minutes at the end of the game will do them good. This team has a lot of defensive potential, and that’s what will carry them to the majority of what wins they get. If they can just get the shooting and the turnovers in line, they just might have a shot at a winning record.

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Total comments: 7
  • Stephen says 1 YEAR ago Good win that will pay dividends down the road as the Rockets learned what it tales to win a close game.

    I cannot get too happy about our starting PF grabbing a whopping 8 rebounds in 38 minutes.
    Esp not in a game where the other team missed 57 field goal attempts and the Rockets missed 42 shots of their own.

    I agree Livingston would have been a large help to this team,as he could have played SG on the second unit,giving it someone who could set up Douglas,Delfino and Morris. Oh well. I can understand the financial reasons as keeping him would have ended up costing Les several million-both for Livingston's contract and the buyout of Cook or Aldrich-and the loss of several million in Cap Space this yr.
  • SamC says 1 YEAR ago Lin and Sampson are in a tough situation. Sampson is focused on winning now and he'll do whatever it takes to get that W, even if it's at the expense of building for the future. He doesn't care about developing Lin because he knows each win builds the case that he can be a head coach in the NBA. If a coach was secure in his job, he'd take risks and keep Lin in to let him learn from his mistakes and to gain confidence when he succeeds. Sampson is looking at the present while Lin keeps looking to the future. Someone needs to talk some sense into Lin and tell him that he doesn't have the luxury to take all season to work it out. Sampson isn't looking out for his best interest. Lin needs to throw caution to the wind and start playing like his job is at stake. Otherwise, his story line will mirror Douglas' story line last year, where a starting PG is relegated to the end of the bench with no PT.
  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago Great win last night! Parsons is proving wrong to some people in this forums, showing he can really put some good numbers, both in points and rebounds. Last season he had only 2 double-doubles, this season has 4 so far. He is showing he could well be our SF for the forseeable future.
    Asik had unimpressive numbers, that's right, and against a team that knows his weaknesses and strengths, but what stats don't show is that he disrupted a great amount of shots, which is just as important as shot-blocking, that's why probably PPat got 8 rebounds last night (I still can't believe Noah drained those near 3-land shots with that awful mechanic, lol). But, like Rahat mentioned, he got that amazing block against Noah in the final moments :D
    Douglas may not be a great offensive player, but he can shoot from downtown. I really didn't care that he only made 1 field goal, because that field goal put us ahead in the final moments, so he wasn't fazed by the pressure, also making all his free throws, 4 of them in the last minute, and that's what we need from our players. He also made important plays on defense, specially one that resulted in a turnover from Robinson who passed it to Deng from the baseline and he pressured Deng not letting him receive the ball, that was almost unperceptible but was really important, we need those little things to improve us a whole, we need to hustle (that's why we are all liking what Morris and Smith are bringing to the table right now, lots of hustle).
    They might lose more close games that what they may win, but we can't lose them for making silly mistakes, we have to make the opposite team earn that close wins and last night we were able to shut them down for a considerable amount of time.
  • Bigtkirk says 1 YEAR ago Regarding Lin, we have to remember that he is a relatively inexperienced NBA PG. Plus, learning to play efficiently with Hardin -- who needs the ball often in the half-court to be effective -- will take some time. Thus, variances in his performance level at this stage of the season are to be expected. My sense is that he will come around, probably when his confidence improves through better shooting.
  • Jeby says 1 YEAR ago I think Douglas is a good Derek Fisher to Harden's Kobe Bryant. He should not be allowed to run an offense under any circumstances, but he can provide solid defense and shooting off the ball. As much as I would hate to see Lin lose his starting gig for the sake of his confidence, I think he might fit best as the leader of the second unit with unfettered control over the offense.
    Also, it's great to see Patterson looking very, very good in the post against some very, very good defenders.
  • LMAOwais says 1 YEAR ago the recurrent theme of pulling Lin out especially at important times in the game might do more to shake his confidence than repair it. It does nothing more than signal we don't believe in either your ability to defend or provide offense in late game situations so without further adieux ladies and gentleman ... Toney Douglas.
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago The Rockets needed this win badly.

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