Recap: Houston Rockets 101, Boston Celtics 89

Tonight, the Rockets toughed out a second quarter run from a perennial playoff team and held on to win by double digits. Despite exceeding the Celtics’ turnovers by 5 (17 vs 12), and extracting lackluster performances from Lin and Patterson, the Rockets played some of their best defense of the season to date and pulled back to .500 yet again.

Perhaps the C’s were thinking ahead to their game against the Spurs tomorrow, perhaps it’s the continuation of a season long trend of killing eastern conference teams, or perhaps the Rockets just always seem to hang tough against the Celtics. But the young Rockets put together a win over the veteran Celtics and looked like a decent basketball team in the process. Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo did what they could, but the rim and the defense were not friendly to the Celtics tonight, who went home with an underwhelming 40% from the field.

James Harden got off to an early start, and he was aggressive all night. The tough Celtics defense forced him into a poor 35% from the field (6/17 shooting), but he still led all scorers with 21 points. His 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals rounded out a line with only one turnover. In a night of many clanked shots, the 25% man was king.

The biggest pleasant surprise of the night was Greg Smith, who continues to improve his game. He his 8 of his 9 attempts to notch 20 points off the bench in only 22 minutes. His rebounds were merely adequate (6), but his offensive and defensive game seem to improve with every night During a seemingly endless 2nd quarter devoid of scoring, he provided some of the few bright spots in the Houston offense.

And then the third quarter came, and all was put right. Despite blowing an 8 point lead in the 2nd, the Rockets came back strong in the second half. They gave up only 44 points in that half, and went on a strong run in the fourth to put the game away. Toney Douglas continued to close out games, largely due to his willingness to take any and every shot he’s given. He buried a huge two to force a timeout, then followed it with a floater to seal the game. It seems increasingly like Douglas is an effective backup shooting guard, with Harden moving to the point late in games. Douglas didn’t notch a single assists, while Lin had 7.

Parsons was another bright spot, racking up a well rounded line of 15 points on 5-7 shooting, 9 rebounds and 8(!) assists. He’s able to do just about anything out there, except maybe guard Kevin Garnett. He was put on the veteran big man a few times, and did as good a job as was possible, despite not really having the size necessary to prevent Garnett’s deadly midrange shot. All in all, Parsons continues a solid push for Most Improved Player consideration.

The rest of the Rockets did their jobs, but hardly stood out on the offense. Asik got a respectable 9 and 10. Patterson played good defense, but only played for 25 minutes. 9 points on 50% shooting is good, but 3 rebounds is merely decent. Morris was barely present offensively (1-9 in 16 minutes) and good on the boards (7). Delfino bounced back a bit in his shooting, hitting half his shots for 9 points. Delfino tried to do a bit too much offensively, though, making risky passes and trying to create. This bravado led to 5 turnovers.

Despite Rondo’s ball hawking (4 steals) and a solid shot from Garnett, the Rockets outlasted, leading to the Celtics effectively throwing in the towel in the last few minutes. This young team saw an opportunity, and they struck to get their 11th win on the season, propelling them back to the 8th seed. Despite being in the nadir of a rebuild, the Rockets looks like they aren’t willing to accept a losing season. More impressively, they seem to improve each week. Despite some missteps and growing pains, this is a team that can make good when they’re finally given a game on ESPN.

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Total comments: 17
  • Chichos says 3 YEARs ago I didn't realize Smith's hands were THAT big. I guess you can still shoot free throws with massive hands though. Mid 70's is a decent average for a center.
  • NVP says 3 YEARs ago Reasons why Greg Smith wasn't drafted:

    His numbers was mediocre in a non-major conference for a school that had a mediocre record, averaging only 11 and 8, and that's after he average 11 and 5 freshman year with Paul George on the same team. He was often inconsistent at Fresno State. Odds of being drafted are usually stacked against non-major players if they don't turn in a impressive performance. He wasn't even invited to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, where a lot of productive 2nd round players/undrafted player are scouted(for example, Chuck Hayes, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, Carl Landry), so he was essentially un-scouted. He also measured out shorter than expected at 6-8 without shoes despite giant hands.

    He came out a year after a lot of teams has drafted their center projects and unlikely to add another raw frontcourt project the year immediately follow. Udoh, Brackins, Sanders, Orton, Aldrich, Pittman, Whiteside, Soloman Alabi, Kévin Séraphin all were drafted the previous year. Not to mention the same year, Jeremy Tyler and Keith Benson were the popular center projects because both has impressive physical measurement.

    Basically, he was barely on scouts' radar, he didn't have the numbers to be found via statistical methods, and raw centers were a bit out of style
  • Mario Peña says 3 YEARs ago

    Johnny Rocket, on 16 December 2012 - 05:38 AM said:

    One other interesting fact about Smith (before I go off and start the Greg Smith fan club): he's shooting 78 percent from the line. Last year and in college, he shot free throws at around 50 percent--obviously not good. Now he's shooting at a 78 percent clip, which is very good for a big man. That's such a huge improvement I wonder if it is a statistical abberation (he's only had 41 attempts this year), but even if he falls to the 70-65 percent range, that's still acceptable. Such a dramatic improvement is pretty rare--or is it more common than I realize?

    From the little I have read about Smith I would have to guess he is improving from the line through practice and hard work and if that is so that is great because you can't really teach desire and work ethic.You should totally start the Greg Smith Fan Club, I can sense your excitement in your posts about him.
  • Johnny Rocket says 3 YEARs ago One other interesting fact about Smith (before I go off and start the Greg Smith fan club): he's shooting 78 percent from the line. Last year and in college, he shot free throws at around 50 percent--obviously not good. Now he's shooting at a 78 percent clip, which is very good for a big man. That's such a huge improvement I wonder if it is a statistical abberation (he's only had 41 attempts this year), but even if he falls to the 70-65 percent range, that's still acceptable. Such a dramatic improvement is pretty rare--or is it more common than I realize?
  • Sir Thursday says 3 YEARs ago I remember reading a few things about Smith that said if he had stayed another year in school he would definitely have been drafted. They reckoned with the extra year of refinement he would have been more appealing to NBA teams. Which is an interesting dilemma because of how strongly correlated draft position is with age. If Bradley Beal was 22, he would not have been taken with the 3rd overall pick, and if Chandler Parsons had been 19 he would have gone near the top of the class. And based on that, you would have thought that the younger the better as far as the NBA was concerned. Obviously Smith was banking on that but the rest of the league disagreed. If teams were wanting him to stay, they must have expected that he would be gaining something from another year of college ball, but it seems that the D-League has provided a similar function for him. Now he's getting minutes in the first team, which should aid his development a lot more.

    Hopefully he can keep it up! We've been seeing unfortunate regression from Morris recently, so let's hope that Smith doesn't follow the same trajectory. Obviously we can expect some inconsistency from these young guys, but it would be nice not to have overly prolonged slumps...

  • emilio says 3 YEARs ago seeing Garnett and McHale embrace like that was powerful. one of the most genuine moments in sports i've ever seen.
  • Forrest Walker says 3 YEARs ago Also, here's an anecdote which illustrates something we Rockets/NBA diehards may from time to time. As the game was getting ready to start, the tender of the bar I was at (I don't have ESPN. Chilling, I know.) noted that he was a Celtics fan. Then he looked over and with a start asked me, "The Rockets have Harden now?" I said yes, a smile in my heart. Another moment of reflection on the game, and he saw Lin in the lineup. "They have that guy from New York, too?" He asked, shocked, "Go Rockets!"

    It was a strange and enjoyable moment. While we can debate the marginal utility and skill of Lin, Harden, etc until we die of exhaustion (and we will), the average watcher of nationally televised games is more excited now about the Rockets than in years. Lin and Harden bring relevance and excitement, and I think it's easy to forget that those are good and useful traits to have. I for one welcome our bandwagoners. They'll soon learn to love Parsons and Asik and Patterson, too.
  • Mario Peña says 3 YEARs ago I read something or saw video of him awhile back that during his second year at Fresno he really matured as an individual. Since that time he has dedicated his life to physical training and basketball with his ultimate goal to become an NBA player in the mold of Tim Duncan (not going to happen) and Amare Stoudemire (probably not going to happen but more likely without the mid range shot and better defense). I think Smith could fill a role similar to the one Taj Gibson fills in Chicago. Perhaps in a couple years Smith could be a formidable back up and part of a high energy athletic platoon of bigs (with the exception of Asik of course) for the Rockets.
  • bob schmidt says 3 YEARs ago This article may explain why he was not as highly regarded as he should have been, . Basically, it says that he was inconsistent in his 2nd year at Fresno. However, it also displays a lot of moxie in Greg's attitude that he should be believed when he says that he has changed... Personally, I really like his attitude and determination to succeed.
  • Rahat Huq says 3 YEARs ago I'm going to write something extensive on Smith pretty soon.

    But...does anyone know how this guy went undrafted? Bigs who are just as raw and even much rawer, with lesser phsyical attributes routinely get picked in the top 10 on potential alone (Jordan Hill anyone?). How in the world did this guy not even get a look at the bottom of the round? At that size? Was there an attitude issue or something?
  • bob schmidt says 3 YEARs ago An interesting note on Greg Smith, he has enormous hands that are one foot wide... No, I am not exaggerating. This quote is from DX, draft express:

    [left>May 21, 2011
    We made a note in our recent west coast workout report about just how big Greg Smith's hands are. Upon further review at the combine, his hands are one-foot wide, easily the top mark we've seen since the combine began measuring hands. This quantifies the way Smith (6-8 without shoes, 7-2 wingspan, 252 pounds) can routinely snatch the ball out of mid-air and palm it away from his body.
    [Read Full Article>

    In addition, beyond his barefoot measurement of 6' 8.5", his standing height with arms raised is only one inch short of 9'. In other words, he is a very big man...
  • NorEastern says 3 YEARs ago Parsons was by far and away the best player on the court. 15/9/8 is an all star line if I have ever seen one. And it came against a very good Celtics defense. Parsons added a serious fake then drive to the basket move this summer, and as teams have to scheme for him the offense will open up for other players. Including Harden.
  • goRockets says 3 YEARs ago JLin did his job, first half his stats were similar to Rondo's, each had 7 assists. Lin for the game had only 3 TOs, Rondo had 7 TOs, Lin also blocked Rondo's shots. Yes he didn't score a lot of points, but he didn't even play the 4th quarter. Rondo thought he'd put up another triple double on him? I don't think so.
  • Johnny Rocket says 3 YEARs ago I couldn't agree more with Sir Thursday. Smith's emergence is one of the most important developments for the Rockets this season; essentially, he's the rookie we've all been waiting for. As his game becomes more refined, Smith has the opportunity to become a truely skilled big man, which is a very rare commodity. And his story shows the virtues of patience in player development--allowing guys to come around with practice and hard work ( Smith hardly played last year) is absolutely a viable strategy.
  • Sir Thursday says 3 YEARs ago Greg Smith is continuing to play excellently, which is very good news. His post defence has looked solid, and he is doing a great job of exploiting the lack of attention other teams are paying him on offence. At some point, teams are going to realise that if you over help on penetration by Lin/Harden he's going to make you pay, but until then he can continue to pick his spot on the baseline and wait for the uncontested route to the basket that inevitably opens up for him. His great hands make it a lot easier for the ball handler in these situations because they don't have to be as precise on the pass. And if teams do get wise to this then it should make things easier for drivers to get to the rim, which is a nice bonus.

    He also showed glimpses of something beyond the dunks/layups/tip-ins he's been getting his points off so far. There was a nice hook shot in the post and even an outside jumper with the shot clock running down that went in! Remains to be seen if he'll be able to develop those into something reliable, but by all accounts he's a hard worker so I don't see why not. Looking forward to watching him continue to develop.

  • Bigtkirk says 3 YEARs ago Inasmuch as Delfino and Cook are providing well below-replacement level performance at the backup wing positions, I'm wondering when Morey is going to make a deal to bring in some wing help?
  • Red94 says 3 YEARs ago New post: [video] Kevin Garnett and Kevin McHale embrace post-game, Friday
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