Recap: San Antonio Spurs 134, Houston Rockets 126.

Tonight, a Houston team missing key players went up against a wily, clever team that has been contending since seemingly forever and proceeded to get utterly blown out in the process.  And the Rockets also played basketball.

I do want to take a moment to talk about the football game, because Houston has always, cares about its football.  I’ll openly admit that I am pretty casual about the sport (certainly like it more than baseball which I personally rank somewhere between Jersey Shore and getting my fingernails removed), which I like to attribute to growing up following Hakeem’s legend, Franchise’s flashiness, and utterly no Houston football at all (thanks, Bud Adams).  Still, to watch the Texans doing well while the Rockets continue on their long road back to contention does make me happy, even if as I write this article, New England is utterly destroying Houston thanks to annoying penalties and Tom Brady being Tom Brady.

Now, as for the game which was actually exciting tonight?  The important thing to note beforehand is the absence of James Harden, who clearly struggled in the second half Saturday against the Mavericks thanks to a sprained ankle he got in the second quarter.  Delfino took his place in the starting lineup, though we did see plenty of minutes for Toney Douglas and Lin playing together as well as (unfortunately) Daequan Cook.  To top it off, Mr. Parsons walked into the locker room approximately 30 seconds into the game with a stinger in his right arm.  This had all the makings of a complete and utter blowout that would be nearly as bad as tonight’s other Houston game.

Well, it wasn’t.  Because for the first time in this season, Jeremy Lin showed why Mr. Morey threw 25 million dollars at him.

Lin’s jumper was on tonight and he hit several jumpers during the first half, but he remained generally passive.  Nevertheless, Houston managed to stay in the game at that point due to incredibly hot 3 point shooting, sloppy play by the Spurs, Toney Douglas playing like he actually deserves to be in this league, and Asik drawing foul after foul and actually making his free throws.  Still, the Spurs led by one by at the half, and given that seemingly everything had gone right for Houston up to that point, I had little confidence.  San Antonio took the beginning of the third quarter to prove my concerns right, as they used the usual Spurs style to extend the lead to 84-78 with 3:40 to go in the quarter.

At that point, Jeremy Lin promptly scored 12 out of the remaining 15 points in the quarter to put the Rockets back on by top.  The fourth quarter had more Lin heroics.  He did everything that he had done for the Knicks.  He drove, hit jumpers passed the ball to his open teammates.  While his last attempted isolated gamewinner was a dismal failure thanks to stout defense from Danny Green and he was visibly tired throughout the overtime period, Lin finished by tying his career high of 38 points on 21 shots and had a good passing game of 7 assists with only 2 turnovers.  Mr. Asik was also incredibly active tonight.  While Duncan humiliated Asik into his worst game of the season on Friday, tonight Asik limited Duncan, put up a typical Asik defense, and even hit the game tying banker at 120-120 from outside the paint.

While it is incredibly frustrating to see Houston lose in overtime AGAIN, this was definitely a positive step up as the fans know that the magic of Linsanity has not vanished.  Now it becomes all the more important that Lin and Harden work together as a first step to the Rockets making the first leap to a playoff team.

  • Someone who is far more intelligent about basketball than I am needs to explain our defense, because at this point I have no idea what’s going on.  Douglas, Lin, Parsons, Asik, and Patterson.  All five are guys who have at least good reputation at defense, and no one on the squad has a reputation of being a particularly bad or a Kevin Martin level defender.  Yet the team defense has been bad throughout the season and was particularly miserable tonight as the Spurs finished with a FG% of over 52 and numerous free throws.  It always seems that every night, there is one wing, whether it is Batum or Mayo or Neal, who just goes completely bonkers from the mid-range or three.  How is it to be fixed?  I honestly think – hope – that simple time together, cohesion, and an improvement on rotations will help out a lot as the minutes slowly start to become more coherent.  Hopefully, it was be sooner rather than later.
  • Aside from my praise for Lin and Asik tonight, I also believe that Daequan Cook and Carlos Delfino particularly deserve mention tonight – for stinking it up tonight.  A mere look at the box score, where Delfino shot 2 for 12 for 5 points and Cook was 0 for 2, would confirm their lack of shooting, but there was a lot worse to it than that.  Delfino had quite a few moments during the overtime period where he seemed to be conspiring to hinder the offense, whether it was pulling up and slowing down when Houston had the numerical advantage or watching the ball bounce off his leg after being hounded by Danny Green.  Cook, on the other hand, seems to believe that the proper way for him to enter the rotation is to shoot the ball, regardless of circumstance or the type of shot.  With no real clue on when Harden will return, and the Marcus Morris at SF project seemingly a dismal failure, Houston will need to shore up its wing rotation as soon as reasonably possible if Morey and McHale do not possess the intention to run our All-Star wing into the ground, Stoudamire style.
  • I want to take a moment to make a point which I think needs to be clear with Rockets fans.  The process of Lin and Harden working together cohesively will be difficult and likely wrong, just like it was for Miami as Wade and Lebron figured responsibilities for their team.  But regardless of what you think about it, Lin is staying a Rocket for a long time.  He will not go to LA, or Miami, or back to New York where he can shine under the glaring media lights.  I am confident that in time, Lin and Harden will be fine, and the fans need to have patience if they wish to see it.

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Total comments: 10
  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago Our troubles in defense might have to do with time to know each other, but obviously, being the team with the highest rate of turnovers has everything to do with that. We usually get killed in fastbrake score and that's probably because Asik is not fast enough to get to defense if we are turning the ball THAT much....first thing to do to improve the defense? KEEP THE TURNOVERS DOWN!
  • Johnny Rocket says 1 YEAR ago "Someone who is far more intelligent about basketball than I am needs to explain our defense, because at this point I have no idea what’s going on. Douglas, Lin, Parsons, Asik, and Patterson. All five are guys who have at least good reputation at defense, and no one on the squad has a reputation of being a particularly bad or a Kevin Martin level defender."

    I totally agree with Paul's sentiments and I hope Rahat and the rest of the staff at Red94 will follow up. I'm shocked how good our offense is, and equally shocked how bad our defense is. Perhaps its the lack of time together as a team--good individual defenders not working together is problematic. I also think we are too passive on defensive--we need to more aggressively trap and double-team to get teams out of their comfort zone.
  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago It seems I'm in the minority, but I didn't think Delfino had an awful game last night, at least not for the first three quarters. From where I was sitting, he was one of the main reasons the Spurs bigs were stymied offensively - whenever Duncan or Splitter was setting up in the post Delfino would be there with the hard double team - I remember him disrupting quite a few plays that way. Early on he was also able to deflect quite a few passes - he tends to be pretty good at that. I don't recall seeing him out of position because he gambled for the steal, which is what happens with bad gamblers. If it was possible to count the number of Spurs turnovers he was responsible for causing, I suspect it would be reasonably high. Obviously his shot wasn't falling, and I would agree that he made a couple of dubious decisions in transition down the stretch (in general, the Rockets seemed unusually reticent to push the transition game), but I don't think that completely erases his good work in the early going.

    One thing that I've noticed is that Chandler Parsons is getting into a lot of trouble playing off his man on the perimeter. Especially when matched up with quicker guys he gives them a lot of room in order to cut off the drive, but in the last couple of games that has just let his assignment hit a three pointer in his face (see Mayo, OJ and Neal, Gary). Perhaps his shoulder is making him reticent about bodying up his man quite so much? Hopefully the coaching staff will point this out to him and get him to run players off the three point line a bit more. It certainly would have been preferable last night for him to have been forcing Neal to beat him off the dribble. We like to think of him as our stopper, but it's worth mentioning that he's still not quite there yet.

    I did like that he was a lot more assertive behind the three point line tonight. Despite his shot not falling in the early going he stuck with it and eventually they started dropping - I don't recall anywhere near the number of open shots being passed up that there have been in previous games, so that's good.

    Also great to see Asik back providing a bit of offence again. When the coaches can't trust Asik to provide a modicum of competency when he's passed the ball, the team's offence really struggles. Tonight he was putting up points from his touches (whether via the free throw line, putbacks, or that jaw dropping bank shot late in regulation) and the whole team flowed better as a result. Would like to see Patterson get back into the groove again - we could really use a bit more from him if Harden is going to be out for any length of time.

    ST

    EDIT: said majority when I meant minority. Doh!
  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago Delfino is pretty bad I'd assume he is only get playing time so they could potentially flip him at the deadline. We don't have much wing depth but they could find a dleague guy as good or better than him at this point.
  • CHOPE says 1 YEAR ago http://jeremylintelligence.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/minus-harden-lin-has-his-most-important-game-of-the-season-against-a-great-team/
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago I should have read the other comments first. Totally agree that Morris needs more playing time and Delfino made me think there was another point shaving scandal in the NBA--horrible play last night.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago Thanks for the recap. Agree with most, but I think Marcus Morris is improving lots. His box scores more often than not show efficiency. This is impressive given his limited touches--he has a similar quality that Harden displayed in OKC coming off the bench for instant offense. He also showed the ability to score out of an iso--something the Rockets need while they decide if they are a pick
  • Jeby says 1 YEAR ago I think Lin and Harden need to both be ready to be option A on any given night, depending on the matchup. Right now Lin always defers to Harden because he's the better player. Lin, Harden and the coaches need to do a better job of recognizing when Lin should take control. This might also get easier when the Beard gets tired of playing 40 minutes per night.
  • Rahat Huq says 1 YEAR ago I didn't watch this game. (I actually have an exam in about 2 hours.) But I think this puts to bed the notion that Linsanity was a fluke and that the guy is a scrub. You just simply cannot have this many dominant performances by chance.

    It just reaffirms the notion that perhaps Lin and Harden aren't the best fit together (hence the premise by myself before that Dragic would've been the better fit next to Harden.)

    Both players are clearly legit. It's up to the coaching staff now to somehow make it happen and get these guys to thrive together. And after last night, I now think that's what this year should be about: getting through that growing pain. No more benching Lin in 4th quarters for Douglas for the sake of short term gains. That does us nothing going forward. They have to figure it out, even if it means more losses.
  • Bigtkirk says 1 YEAR ago This was a highly entertaining game and a good example of why this Rockets team is the most fun to watch in years.

    You're correct that with the coaching staff apparently unwilling to continue giving Morris time to develop as a wing, this team is woefully thin at that position. Although I think you're point is correct about Parsons, Asik, and Patterson being reasonably good defenders, Lin and Douglas are only average defenders and Delfino is considerably below-average as a wing defender. Delfino's ineffectiveness in playing over 38 minutes was a major factor in the Rockets losing this game.

    Finally, my sense is that Lin and Harden will eventually be fine together. These things take time -- they still have had less than 20 games together. Lin seems like the type of PG who will figure out a way to make the combo work. Plus, Lin's jumper falling like it was last night has a way of expediting any tandem's effectiveness.