James Harden’s ascension up the ranks of NBA buzzdom seems less shocking than preordained after the Beard was sent down south a couple of days before the season began. After spending a couple of years being regarded as the Thunder’s “secret weapon” or “trump card” or a host of other euphemisms for “really amazing player that gets far too few minutes/shots”, Harden’s place on the NBA’s leading scorer board and general prominence among the league this year probably makes as much sense as any other possible outcome to his trade to the Rockets. The most logical culmination, if that word can accurately be applied to describe an event that occurs in the middle of a player’s first season on a new team, to the trade now would be Harden’s ultimate coronation at this February’s All-Star Game, somehow once again hosted in the H. Yes, he’ll likely come off of the bench, but Harden’s spot is almost guaranteed on the roster, on which he’ll likely only back up luminaries like Kobe Bryant and… Jeremy Lin? [read more…]
So the Jazz were in town and Houston were looking to avenge the drubbing they received at the end of their long road trip a couple of weeks back. Though there have been issues on the road, four straight wins at home and an opponent on the second night of a back-to-back meant that there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic for tonight’s game. Parsons and Delfino return to uniforms, drastically altering the team’s landscape at the wing for the better.
The back and forth Rockets host a rematch against the visiting Utah Jazz on Saturday, hoping to not only get payback for one of their worst blowouts on the season, but to climb to .500 yet again. The Rockets have been beaten soundly three games so far, but none so early and unexpectedly as the blowout they suffered in Utah on November 19th.
After being dismantled in a perfect storm against the Thunder, the Rockets will be ready and willing to bounce back against the Jazz, one of their primary competitors for a playoff spot in a brutal Western Conference. The Jazz are almost the flip side of the Rockets coin, and Houston badly needs to find purchase Saturday if they intend to come out of December with a winning record. Unfortunately, that is likely to be a difficult battle against a team who has been a difficult matchup for the last few seasons.
The Rockets have plenty of reasons for getting blown out by the Thunder. Unfortunately, none of that changes the fact that they’ve fallen below .500 once more and have a 1-7 record against the west. They managed to come within striking distance a couple times, but the better team won, and it wasn’t close.
The big narrative of the night, James Harden’s revenge against his old team, took a turn that was probably unexpected by most. The pessimists in the Rockets fanbase, however, won’t be surprised to hear that Harden’s ex-teammates were ready for him, blocking a mind-blowing 7 of his shots on the evening. Ibaka and Westbrook began the block party early, and Harden didn’t knock down a field goal until the third quarter. James put together a miserable 3-16 line by the end of the game, but somehow still managed to have more points (17) than shots. He had what will hopefully be his worst line all year. Or at least until the Thunder come into town in December.
My apologies for the poor audio at the start – Lowry’s voice was barely audible. His demeanor wasn’t anything too unordinary – he was always prickly with media and especially affected by tough losses. This wasn’t just because it was his former team.