Against a Philadelphia 76ers team known for its defense, the Houston Rockets had one of their highest scoring affairs of the season, and did so in a spectacularly efficient manner. Only two players, Chandler Parsons and Carlos Delfino, shot less than 50% from the field, and Houston’s starting backcourt of Harden and Lin had a viciously efficient night of beardsanity. Tonight, maybe it’s efficiensanity.

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In Greg Smith, Rockets Find Another Hidden Gem

Greg Smith, a previously unheralded and undrafted second-year player out of Fresno State, entered the realm of NBA relevance with a crucial role in Houston’s 107-105 win over the Lakers on December 4th. In 24 minutes of action that included much of a tight fourth quarter, Smith took over Asik’s role as the roll man in the Rockets’ pick-and-roll attack, racking up a career-high 21 points on 7-8 shooting and 7-8 from the line. Since then, despite not necessarily garnering a larger role (Smith is playing slightly more than his season average of 14 minutes in recent games), Smith has been sneakily efficient: he is in the top 20 in PER at 22.3, tied with likely NBA All-Stars Chris Bosh and Anderson Varejao. While he is unlikely to maintain that level of efficiency throughout an entire season, Rockets fans should be excited that their team has a young big man who can contribute on both ends of the floor- a relatively rare commodity in today’s NBA.

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Preview: Sixers @ Rockets

Fresh off a high profile game that will have them a much needed confidence boost, the Rockets head home to take on a struggling 76ers team. Like Houston’s previous opponents, Philadelphia have been missing their two best players: Jrue Holiday (sprained right foot) and of course Andrew Bynum (bowling ball to knee). The 76ers are currently saddled with a 4 game losing streak, the most recent of which was last night against Dallas. Bearing in mind the injury situation and the schedule, it’s a pretty good time to be hosting this particular matchup. The Rockets need to capitalise on home games while they have them because their home-heavy early schedule is running out – between Christmas Day and the end of January they will play 15 of their 22 games on the road.

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in game coverage

Before anything is discussed, it should be remembered that Carmelo Anthony sat out tonight with an injured left ankle.  To earn a win, even a blowout win which was over by the nine-minute mark, against a team who started Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, Chris Copeland (whom I had never heard of before tonight, but was absolutely fantastic both during the game and garbage time with 29 points ), and Tyson Chandler is hardly a tremendous accomplishment.

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Should the Rockets trade Jeremy Lin?

Less than six months ago, before he played a single minute, Jeremy Lin was the most popular basketball player Houston had since Yao Ming retired. He was set to be the Rockets “franchise” player—at least for the 2012-13 season—without any real elite skill or All-Star caliber ability.

In this new role, with new responsibilities hanging heavy over his head, Lin would suddenly transform into the nightly focus for opposing defenses, an answer to “who should take the last shot?,” and, most significantly, someone charismatic enough to convince casual fans who can afford it that season tickets might actually be a pretty good idea.

But as Grantland’s Zach Lowe pointed out earlier this week, even before Daryl Morey and Sam Presti blindsided the basketball universe by exchanging some stuff for James Harden and some other stuff, the Rockets didn’t expect to get Lin from the Knicks. They wanted him—and they obviously prepared for what might happen should they get him—but anything other than “delivering an offer sheet will give New York’s front office a major headache!” didn’t qualify as a probable conclusion for Morey or his staff.

Of course the Knicks would match their offer! Right?

A little more than a quarter of the way through this season, after watching Lin struggle and Harden thrive as best he can beside a struggling point guard, we’re now forced to ask ourselves an increasingly pivotal question: is this really Houston’s backcourt of the future?

Being that Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are the only players in the league who’ve scored more points than Harden this season, that question basically translates to “Should the Rockets trade Jeremy Lin?”

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