Okay ladies and gentleman, first things first. The best player on the Orlando Magic might be Evan Fournier. His nickname, rightfully so, is “Never Google.” Please do not google his name. He scored a bunch of points during this game, and there might even be highlights. Imagine that it’s 1995, wait for Sportscenter, call your cousin in Tampa, whatever. But, Dear Reader, please leave his name thoroughly un-googled.
Alright. With that out of the way, this game happened. It was never in jeopardy or even all of that competitive. The Rockets played solid defense and put up 130 points on the 8th rated defense in the league. Harden hit stepbacks galore on his way to 54 points, including a few from the logo and one particularly nasty one over Jonathan Issac’s outstretched go-go-gadget arms. He also played solid defense, snatching two steals and three blocks for good measure.
Capela and PJ Tucker both earned double doubles, Macklemore shot exclusively from beyond the arc, hitting six of his seven attempts, and even Gary Clark got meaningful minutes (14! 14 non-garbage time minutes!). Westbrook played decisively, driving to the rim with authority, and hitting 40 percent of his three point attempts.
Like all of the Rockets’ games that aren’t against contenders since time immemorial, the fans are treated to one of two outcomes—The Rockets either take it seriously and usually win handily, or they play down to and below the level of their competition, only to realize that they care quite a bit about the outcome of the game mere moments after the point of no return (see Rockets’ Twitter for evidence of this). Tonight, the Rockets took the game seriously, and victory was never in question.
The Eye Test
From an X’s and O’s standpoint, the most interesting moments of the game were definitely when PJ Tucker and Gary Clark played in the front court together. Gary isn’t yet a knockdown shooter, but he is good enough to run a proper five-out offense. The lineup they played in was a bench unit with Westbrook at the helm, and his aggressiveness on the offensive end helped smooth over any problems caused by PJ’s limited skillset and Clark’s mechanical nature.
But on defense there were flashes of greatness. It’s easy to forget that Tucker is not a center by nature and can guard on the perimeter just as well as he can in the paint. Clark is less undersized than Tucker at the five spot and uses his length and knack for the ball to rebound and threaten shots from the weakside. I wouldn’t say it’s a good combination, not yet, but the potential upside there is certainly beyond Hartenstein, Tyson Chandler, and maybe even, in the playoffs at least, Clint Capela. Don’t @ me.