The main story of the game was that Harden played, even though he was questionable, but he just wasn’t himself. Maybe the bruise on his left foot is worse than he’s sharing. Harden played 37 minutes, but shot only 4 of 14 from the field. Without Harden pushing it to the hole or hitting from outside, the Rockets went deep into the shot clock and had to throw up a lot of late prayers. Redick came out hot against Harden (again) and lit the scoreboard up for 22. Beverley had a career high 4 steals, 19 points and played great defense on Chris Paul, but it wasn’t enough to make up for Harden’s “absence”.
The twin towers started the game poorly again, and the Rockets were down 18 to 10 when Asik came out. The start of the second half was much better for the duo and the Rockets nearly held their halftime advantage. At 3:30 left in the third, up 71 to 63, Asik came out of the game. Then the Clippers outscored the Rockets 44 to 23 to finish the game. The Rockets didn’t score for almost six minutes at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth. They had seven turnovers in the third quarter and finished with 18.
The problem with the twin towers is that there are only three shooters on the court for the Rockets. If one of them is off their game, like Harden was tonight, that leaves Beverly and Parsons to score from the outside. Even though they both had great games, it wasn’t enough. Howard and Asik both can’t even hit the midrange jumper. Morey needs to find another shooter without trading Asik. We need his defensive presence when Howard leaves the game.
DeAndre Jordan played great and outrebounded Asik and Howard combined. Jordan had 12 points on six of eight shooting and had 18 rebounds compared to the combined 15 that Howard and Asik had. Howard was super dominant in the first half, scoring 16 on six of nine shooting and then disappeared in the second half, scoring only five points. The Rockets scored 34 points in the paint in the first half. Harden was dishing well to Howard, but that all disappeared as the Rockets went cold in the second half.
The Rockets rotation has seemingly settled on eight players. Tonight Casspi, Lin and Garcia shot five for 18 from the field (27%) and one of seven from behind the arc (14%). Even though the Rockets are young, they play at a relentless pace, and they’re going to have to expand the rotation. Lin seemed to be in overdrive most of the game, Parsons is running more than anyone else in the league and Harden is averaging over 39 minutes per game. The Rockets just ran out of gas tonight. It’s still early in the season and McHale should be experimenting with more player combinations. When the Rockets are shooting so poorly from behind the three point line, we need to see if we can get Aaron Brooks going. Is it already time to trade some of our younger assets for someone else who can hit the three?