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.
Friday night’s game was undoubtedly the best of Chandler Parsons’ young career. The previously unheralded second-round pick of last year’s draft impressed himself on the Knicks’ (and indeed, the league’s) conscience with a phenomenal performance: 31 points on 13-17 shooting, 4 three’s, 5 boards, 4 assists, and 4 steals. Some might consider this a coming-out party, part of a broader second-year improvement and a sign of his future potential. The reality, however, is that Parsons was already a very solid player as a rookie, and has built upon that foundation to become an improved (although not drastically improved) player this season.
According to Basketball-Reference, Parsons’ per 36 minute statistics have shown a slight improvement compared with last season—he’s averaging 3 more points, 1 more rebound, and one more assist every 36 minutes. Despite these seemingly minor upticks, Parsons’ PER has increased by a full three points from 13 last season to an above-average 16, equivalent to the difference between the performances of Jeff Teague and Michael Beasley last season.
As Rahat graciously provided a live account of tonight’s game, I do not believe that a general recap will suffice. The Rockets executed, made wide-open 3 pointers, and took advantage of Toronto’s woes on the offensive and especially the defensive end. While the boxscore shows that Toronto’s rebounding and turnover numbers were similar to ours, context, as with any statistic, must be noted. Houston utterly demolished Toronto on the offensive glass and on the passing lanes, which was punctuated by a play late in the 3rd quarter where Parsons swooped into 3 Toronto players and grabbed the ball from them. While that offensive rebound only culminated in a missed Harden 3, it showed the nature of the game as the Rockets completely outhustled and outworked the Raptors up to a 96-69 lead with exactly 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
At that point, Houston decided to take the night off and shoot jumpers. Toronto promptly ended the game on a 10-0 run which ended with a Cook 3, and at that point Toronto was the team hustling while Houston fell back into bad habits of lazy passes and relatively little effort. The fourth quarter was filled with a slight tension for the fan, but Houston finally cut down any hopes of a Toronto rally late in the game with a Lin steal and dunk.
6:48 PM: Kyle Lowry wants to kill the Rockets tonight. I think he will. By the way, I just saw a recognizable media personality a while back on the television seriously pushing forth the assertion that the Rockets somehow chose Jeremy Lin over Kyle Lowry (and that the results from each player thus far were proving the folly of their decision.) Do people not realize that there would be no James Harden without the Kyle Lowry trade? Lowry-Lin isn’t even a subject of contention. Goran Dragic is the guy whom the Rockets chose to let go to sign Jeremy Lin. But there is absolutely no hole in their thinking on the Lowry trade. This shouldn’t even be a topic for debate. Up to this point, I didn’t even realize it was.
7:13 PM: As DeRozan hits the open jumper, I remember that he’s actually making, or slated to be making, $10million/year. I still can’t get over this. That’s your definition of a cap killer.
7:14 PM: As Bargnani scores on the reverse layin, I pray to myself that Motiejunas is somehow put into this game to face him, if even for a minute. For us. Just to see. Please? Just for fun?
7:15 PM: Bargnani pump fakes Patterson out on the 3 point line, draws him off his feet and draws the foul. This is what the Rockets hope Motiejunas will bring to their team when his time comes.