Houston Rockets 96, San Antonio Spurs 95: James Harden hits a game winner.

Courtesy of SB Nation’s Mike Prada, that’s all there is to talk about this game.

Okay, not really.  A general summary of the game after the jump, and discussions about the real player of the game, who despite the aforementioned video, was not actually James Harden.

Yes, that’s right.  Harden put up 29 points on 16 shots, 6 assists, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals, hit the game-winner, had only 1 turnover…and he’s not my player of the game.  While Harden definitely played inspired, tough, smart basketball, and managed to get to the line, he was slow to get going during the first half.  While the Rockets consequently suffered problems on offense, their defense kept the Spurs close, thanks to arguably Omer Asik’s best game as a Houston Rocket.

Asik’s effort certainly didn’t show in his line at the box score as he finished with 5 points on 10 shots, but another statistic shows the amazing impact he had.  The San Antonio Spurs had 2 points in the paint at the end of the first quarter.  10 at the end of the first half.  Tim Duncan finished with 17 points on 18 shots and was twice utterly stuffed by Asik in the post.  Even at the very end, when San Antonio had 4.5 seconds to hit their own game winner, Asik played out on Tim Duncan and forced him into a difficult fadeaway which clanged off the rim.  It may not have showed in his points, or his rebounds, but Asik’s defense tonight was probably better than it had ever been at any point this season – and it has always been great.

The two of them were not alone in excellent games.  After heavily struggling offensively over the past several games, Patrick Beverley had his best game in a long, long time.  Even ignoring his 11 points and 3 assists, he had arguably the most important play of the game, where late in the fourth quarter, he raced down the court after a Manu Ginobilli steal, blocked an easy layup by Danny Green which would have put the Spurs up by 6 with 90 seconds left, which then turned into a Chandler Parsons 3 to pull the Rockets within 93-92 instead.  Donatas Motiejunas suffered from foul trouble throughout the game with 5 fouls in 16 minutes, but he scored and played well enough, while Greg Smith had an impressive poster over Tiago Splitter.

Yet despite the efforts of the Rockets, it was still an incredibly close-run affair throughout most of the game against a more talented team.  While Houston managed to shut down the Spurs for stretches and grabbed a 27-20 lead in the 2nd quarter and a 87-79 lead in the 4th quarter, in both cases the offense simply shut down and let the Spurs right back in this lead.  Duncan ( my current nominee for DPOY) did play well defensively, and Houston just had moments where they could not drive into the paint and relied too much on the whims of the officials.  Tony Parker, a MVP candidate in a universe where Lebron James tore his ACL in November, completely took over the game at the halfway point of the 4th quarter, scoring the last 12 points for San Antonio and forcing Jeremy Lin to the bench as the well-playing Beverley took his place.  Houston also was mediocre from the 3 point line tonight, as bad Delfino showed up and missed both of the 3 pointers he attempted.

Yet all of these deficiencies show what this team can accomplish.  In some ways, whether it was James Harden’s inspired performance and free throw shooting, or Asik’s defense, or Beverley playing like not just a backup, this team showed what its full potential could be, while in other ways such as 3 point shooting, they visibly struggled.  Yet all of this was enough to defeat San Antonio and offer a small glimpse of the bright future that Houston has going for it.

  • A slight note about Mr. Lin, who it should be noted was benched late in the 4th quarter for Mr. Beverley.  While his box score totals were generally unimpressive for the night as he finished with 6 points on 8 shots and 4 turnovers, Lin didn’t exactly play terrible tonight.  He did rely on his still shaky jumper a little more than he should have, but the Spurs better than practically than any other team in the league know how to handle mere slashers, which limited his options.  However, as Parker scored 6 of his final 12 points on Lin in only a little more than 60 seconds, Coach McHale opted to use a combination of Beverley and then Chandler Parsons to slow Parker down.  While Parker did score an additional 6 points, it was over the course of the remaining 4 minutes left in the game, and helped to bolster the Rockets defense.  When one combined that with Beverley’s excellent performance from the offensive end, I believe that it was the right course to take.
  • Thomas Robinson played 11 minutes tonight, and attempted 2 jumpers early in the shot clock for a reason I simply cannot comprehend.  Evidently McHale could not either, as Robinson did not play at all in the second half.  Similarly, Asik actually had 2 attempts outside the paint, though both of them were late in the shot clock.

 

 

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Total comments: 29
  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    EDIT: X-post with PT. Good timing :P

    Great minds.

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago Sure, and it could have been Finch's idea as well. Sometimes I kind of attribute coaching decisions to the staff since from our vantage point none of us really know which coach is coming up with said play or adjustment. McHale may have the final say but I would guess Sampson and Finch get considerable input as I am sure they are on the same page philosophically.
  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    If players in the huddle were calling for Harden to get the ball well that is expected as he is the best player and well liked. That Lin post game comment wouldn't really be a news flash would it? What I think we saw was some solid coaching and outstanding play by a couple players that have been in or around big game situations. Despite the Rockets inexperience Asik and Harden have each appeared in 21 and 43 playoff games respectively. The Rockets will need Asik and Harden to provide consistency at both ends of the court through this final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs so that the other players can provide big games here and there.

    I hadn't meant that it was a newsflash. Was partially poking fun at the notion that maybe all McHale said was, get the ball in Harden's hands! as the players all of course are saying/thinking something along those lines. Does that mean the high screen/subsequent play was not drawn up by McHale? No, it probably was and it was well done, but I was just sort of being tongue in cheek.

  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago If players in the huddle were calling for Harden to get the ball well that is expected as he is the best player and well liked. That Lin post game comment wouldn't really be a news flash would it? What I think we saw was some solid coaching and outstanding play by a couple players that have been in or around big game situations. Despite the Rockets inexperience Asik and Harden have each appeared in 21 and 43 playoff games respectively. The Rockets will need Asik and Harden to provide consistency at both ends of the court through this final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs so that the other players can provide big games here and there.
  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    Even though TD sagged off Harden's shot because of a rolling Asik, Omer was still able to get Timmy boxed out in case Harden missed, with 4+ seconds to go, it was a beautifully executed play with about 4 or 5 chances to score. It was a collective team effort more than heroics from one guy.

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    RBF & Phaketrash--you're both right. I'm not going overboard by any means and I'd be glad to hear any critiques you've got on McHale (as long as they aren't from your super-stealth inside source :P ). I know he's far from perfect and with my rose-colored glasses it's good to hear other perspectives.

    Not too much to complain about in the SAS game that I saw. I think keeping DMo in with those fouls was the right move, the rotations at the end of the game were great, defense was pretty crisp, subbing in Bev instead of Lin in the 4th made sense...in fact, every sub of Bev I expected in the game since Lin really was struggling (and got a fair shot that game to get out of it, imo), his benching of TRob was expected and I agreed w/ it -- can't have that kid take 2 midrange jumpers in the 2nd just cuz he had a good first quarter...sit that guy down for the rest of the game! lol this ain't SAC, we punish bad decision making :P

    As a whole though, again, I want to see if he's Linconsistent or not :P

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    super stealth inside source? :lol:ok I promise to keep him out of it :lol:

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    RBF & Phaketrash--you're both right. I'm not going overboard by any means and I'd be glad to hear any critiques you've got on McHale (as long as they aren't from your super-stealth inside source :P ). I know he's far from perfect and with my rose-colored glasses it's good to hear other perspectives.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    as long as we keep to this game dicussion.....I saw a motivated team ready for battle, smart substitution andgood defensive game plan. that was a good sign. something I have been waiting to see. depending how we respond will tell me if we have learnedanything. even the bobcats look good once or twice a year :lol:

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    Got to be a little careful - yeah this game went very well, but just as people take exception to anti-McHale posts on the back of one bad game, they shouldn't just jump to the opposite conclusion after one good game. The key will be whether the improvements we saw in this game can be sustained over the next few games and more importantly once the team hits the road. But yes, it's nice when everything goes so well :).

    ST

    EDIT: X-post with PT. Good timing :P

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    Just as a few rotation mistakes should not damn McHale, a few good moves shouldn't entirely change anyone's opinion of him either haha. Waiting to see if he's going to be Linconsistent or not lol.

    Either way, I don't see much of a reason to switch him out for anyone else before his contract expires.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    We're just trotting right now, but you gotta admit he has answered every complaint you had--motivation, defense, end of game play calling, developing the young'uns...now they just have to keep it up and build on it.

    just for you JG I will give him a little love right here :lol: YES there has been improvement. i'm not going to nitpick areas because that may get us at odds again :lol:

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    We're just trotting right now, but you gotta admit he has answered every complaint you had--motivation, defense, end of game play calling, developing the young'uns...now they just have to keep it up and build on it.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Well, I think he may have exaggerated his movement on that shot trying to also draw a foul...who knows.

    I think we are starting to see McHale's overall effect on this team. He's a bad dude....he doesn't walk with a pimp-limp for nuthin B)

    slow down there don't get the horses in a full gallop yet :lol:

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    On the broadcast the announcing crew actually predicted the play well ahead of time (surprisingly insightful of them! Maybe I should revise my rather low opinion of them up slightly). As soon as they saw Harden with the ball in his hands one of them (maybe Drexler?) said he was expecting the pass to Asik with the handoff/screen action to get Harden free from his defender, and lo-and-behold that's exactly what happened! I'd imagine if the guys in the booth could call it, then Popovich must have known what was coming too - Asik's roll to the hoop generated just enough indecision from Duncan to make it work despite that.

    ST

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Well, I think he may have exaggerated his movement on that shot trying to also draw a foul...who knows.

    I think we are starting to see McHale's overall effect on this team. He's a bad dude....he doesn't walk with a pimp-limp for nuthin B)

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    I mean, I think Asik's going to roll to the basket from that position no matter what, just because there isn't much sense in doing anything else w/ 9 sec left on the clock. But of course, that is because he is IN that position in the first place, which I thought was a great place to be in. I could totally see that being a drawn up play, and indeed that high screen and subsequent options were beautifully done.

    lol iunno if that shot was as easy as a FT for Harden :P That off balance shot looked uuuuuggggllyyy. I was very surprised (but elated!) that it went in.

  • Sandman says 1 YEAR ago

    I think it was definitely drawn up. Asik had a purpose after the handoff - also he would have gotten that board if Harden would have missed. Watching the replay - that was a damn tough shot he made - off balance and was pushed in the back.

    BTW Jeff Van Gundy on 610 am this afternoon was giving big props to McHale working with this fluid roster.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    From what I can tell it was more than a Harden ISO (I wasn't able to watch the game live). Having Asik roll towards the basket after the high screen gave Harden an option and forced the defense to make a decision (it also pulled Duncan out of optimal position to defend). Harden could have dropped the ball off to Asik for a dunk had Duncan contested his shot and not dropped back. Instead, he basically had an uncontested free throw which he is pretty good at making.

    I have no doubt about Lin's quote, but that play looked like it was drawn up--good job coaches....and good job Harden.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I still don't like him, but mchale is displaying some growth as a coach. that was the best defensive game of the year hands down. that's the 1st time we tryed something other than trying to outscore the opposition. now lets see if it was a fluke or the real deal.

  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago

    It was a good play, but in Jeremy Lin's post-game interview, he also said how in the huddle they were essentially saying, "Give the ball to Harden! Let him work his magic." lol

    Hope that was not the extent of McHale's coaching as well :P Although it worked out for the best, I don't think I'd like Harden taking a shot like that again if I had the choice lol.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Dare we say McHale drew up a winning play?

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Yeah, if Duncan closed out on that shot completely then that's an easy bucket for Asik cutting to the basket. If Ginobili sagged in too much to help on Asik then that's a wide open shot for Parsons.

  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    Asik handled TD with brilliance on Harden's last shot.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Very nice view, sir.

  • Sandman says 1 YEAR ago

    My view of the shot. TC was rocking. Great win for the young'uns.

    photo_zps4abbc1c2.jpg

  • Steven says 1 YEAR ago The Beard never disappears.
  • bboley24 says 1 YEAR ago

    Was anyone else afraid that we might see him disappear down the stretch?

  • bboley24 says 1 YEAR ago

    James Harden is good.