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.
Jeremy Lin came out of the gate hot, attacking the rim often and shooting with confidence. By the end of the night, another blurry image of Linsanity came through the box score: 18 points on 8-12 shooting, 2 rebounds, 6 assists and only one turnover. Since his breakout game against the Spurs, he’s begun to look more like a player deserving of $8m a year. What portion of this is due to confidence, opposing defense, work on his shot or simply a coaching fix is unclear. What is clear is that Lin is starting to look like the player the Rockets need him to be.
Harden then proceeded to upstage Lin’s effort in a grand fashion. He racked up a tremendous 33 points on 7-12 shooting, including a mind-blowing 18 shots from the stripe. He dished out 7 dimes to go with that, and only dropped the ball twice. Sixers head coach Doug Collins was understandably upset with Harden’s 17 points from free throws, but Harden continued to dive into the teeth of the Sixers defense the entire game. He capped his evening off with a thunderous dunk on a fast break with about 3 minutes left in the game, enjoying a well-deserved ovation.
Asik recorded another double double, this time with 17 points and 15 rebounds. He’s settling into a very respectable routine of racking up double doubles, and he seems to be getting increasingly comfortable scoring around the rim.
Greg Smith stole the show, midway through the game, hitting four buckets in a row, including a dunk off an amazing assist by Harden that flew between Spencer Hawes’ legs. Smith has shown himself to be a very capable finisher around the basket, and his hook shot and post up moves are also showing progress. He had 13 points on perfect 5-5 shooting in only 13 minutes, though his 4 rebounds are less impressive. He’d picked up two fouls early on, letting Hawes chew up the inside against the Rockets’ bench. But in the second and henceforth, Smith showed his value for a struggling Houston second unit. He’s liable to shove Aldrich completely out of the rotation if he keeps up this level of play.
Parsons had solid peripherals (5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals), but shot poorly (4-13) from the field and abysmally (1-7) from the arc. He seemed to have lost his outside stroke, and thankfully began to look for more inside opportunities. One of these came after one of his own clanged threes, which he immediately ran down and stuffed. The fact that this was a poor game for him is a good sign for Houston.
Delfino also couldn’t hit from three (0-2), and he missed his only two pointer as well. His 17 minutes were somewhat low for him, but seemed all too long for a player who seems to be right in the gutter of a slump right now.
Toney Douglas, however, shone in his 25 minutes, knocking down 5 of his 8 threes. He had 17 points overall and dished out a respectable 4 assists. The Rockets tried a new approach with Douglas: shooting guard. One of either Lin or Harden was on the floor with him for almost the whole night, and for late stretches, both were on the floor with him. Douglas provides high energy (if not always effective) defense, and has shown himself to be a deadly spot-up shooter. Using him as a scorer and secondary distributor seemed to pay dividends for the Rockets, with overall turnovers plummeting and team efficiency skyrocketing (a red-hot 56% from the floor). McHale seems to be figuring out the riddle of Harden and Lin, and Douglas is also reaping the rewards.
Marcus Morris started yet again for Patrick Patterson, and he did a good job. He didn’t shoot well initially, but ended up 5-8, with 2 threes in the mix for 14 points. He grabbed 5 boards and sent out 5 assists, giving him a very respectable line for the night. It’s good to see that the Rockets have players on the bench ready to step up.
Donatas Motiejunas played a few minutes, and looked nervous but serviceable. He shot 2-4 in 8 minutes. He seemed to have reasonable shot selection and should eventually see more minutes.
Without a starting point guard in Jrue Holiday, and the as-yet healthy Andrew Bynum, the Sixers were already short-handed against Houston. This was compounded when Evan Turner went down with a twisted ankle and didn’t return. Hopefully it’s minor, but that surely didn’t help the Sixers when they fell away late in the game.
The Rockets took it to the rim against a decent defensive team and led wire to wire against Philly. Perhaps it was because it was Rockets coach Kevin McHale’s birthday, but Houston put up a very solid effort, and kept the turnovers down (10) while doing it. Happy birthday to you and to all of us, Coach.