It’s one thing to lose to the Washington Wizards. They are a team who have been extremely well since the return of John Wall well since the return of John Wall, having defeated the Clippers, Knicks, and Nuggets recently before tonight’s game. The Rockets were on the second part of a back-to-back, were still shorthanded thanks to the fact that the Robinson trade still isn’t officially completed as the Kings delay with the physicals of Patterson and company for whatever reason, and lost Greg Smith for the fourth quarter with a knee injury that appeared quite serious when it happened as he had to be helped off the court (though according to Jonathon Feign, it appears to be fine and Smith will not miss any games).
It’s another thing to lose to Trevor Ariza.
The former Rocket was the difference tonight as he played like someone completely different from the person who signed that contract almost four years ago. His drives were successful, his 3 pointers went in, and he did a good job guarding Harden. Ariza still recklessly gambled for steals a few times, but he scored 11 points in the 3rd quarter and helped to turn the game from what appeared to be a potential Houston blowout at the end of the first half into a close game. From there, the Wizards took advantage of the Okafor-Nene combo against a seriously depleted Houston frontcourt to secure a huge come from behind win.
Initially, it really did appear to be a blowout. The Rockets fired plenty of 3’s and they went in to take the first quarter lead of 32-22. While the Wizards responded with a strong run to cut the lead to two as they scored 9 points in the first two and a half minutes, they were then held scoreless for the next four minutes as Houston built a 17 point lead and finished the quarter leading 57-46. Chandler Parsons scored 22 of his 24 points in the first half, as the Rockets came one short of tying their earlier record of most 3’s made in a single half against Golden State. Exhaustion from the previous game meant that the 3 pointers began to fail, and Washington began to hit their own as they made 4 of their 7 3 pointers in the 3rd quarter. However, despite the 3 pointers and Ariza’s heroics, the Rockets still walked into the last period with a 6 point lead.
Unfortunately, the lack of big men finally served to hinder the Rockets at the very end. Lacking any effective big men outside of Asik and Motiejunas due to the Greg Smith injury, McHale was forced to rest Asik halfway throughout the fourth quarter and sent a frontcourt of Delfino and Motiejunas against Emeka Okafor and Nene. It ended as badly as could be expected. Washington went on a 7-0 run to completely erase Houston’s lead, and from there the game turned into a tight, contested affair. At the very end with the score tied at 103, the Rockets fouled Okafor, and he hit the free throw which would end the game.
- I’m hearing that apparently Lin played with a cold tonight, and that would certainly explain things, because I’m not sure whether the game at Toronto or tonight was his worst performance of the season. Lin’s jumpers were off, he had difficulty driving to the lane against the Washington frontcourt, and while his defense has been good for most of this season, John Wall largely drove past Lin whenever he wanted and passed to the open man when the defense collapsed on him. The Rockets did run Patrick Beverley instead for large parts of the game, and the backup guard rebounded from his poor game against Brooklyn with 15 points on 9 shots. What was particularly noteworthy of Beverley’s play was his rebounding as he jumped in at the last moment to grab 2 offensive boards in a manner which reminded me of Kyle Lowry.
- Motiejunas was more effective tonight than he was against Brooklyn and consequently received more minutes. Surprisingly enough, he managed six rebounds in 23 minutes and was considerably more aggressive, though he repeatedly was completely stymied whenever he tried to back down Nene in the post. He also hit 2 3’s late in the game to keep the Rockets in the game and finished with 11 points. The defense still needs considerable work, especially on the pick and roll where he almost seems to ignore the roll man, but it’s something I believe he can gain over time.
- Even if Lin played horribly tonight, there was one thing which amused me as someone who attended tonight’s game. I have not lived in Houston for nearly 4 and a half years, but have taken care to attend the games where they come into town. For the past two years, the general reaction by bystanders on seeing a Rockets hat was to ask why I was a Rockets fan. Tonight, with a large amount of people wearing Lin or Harden jerseys or T-shirts mentioning Lin in some form, there was no point in asking that question. The Rockets are a team to be talked about again.
I stated at the beginning of the month that I thought 6 wins would make a successful month and 7 an excellent one. Even after the Washington defeat, we still are at 6 wins and will have one more game against an inferior Milwaukee team. Hopefully Sacramento will have completed their physical by then and Robison will have played in a few practices by that point.