It was not the Rockets best performance by any stretch, but they got the job done against an inferior Pistons squad, taking down the visitors by a score of 96-82. After struggling with his shot for the first half, James Harden appeared to break out of his slump with an excellent second half, adding in 20 points and 5 rebounds. Lin, the other member of the Rockets' exciting young back court, had a solid performance with 7, 8, and 4 in relatively curtailed minutes.
On top of Harden's nice play, the Rockets' center duo of Omer Asik and Greg Smith played well with Smith back from injury. Cole Aldrich, inexplicably playing limited minutes, was predictably awful.
In the end, however, it was the Pistons terribleness that won the Rockets the game. They are simply not a good basketball team. Whether it was Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum chucking (and missing) contested threes, Kyle Singler laying down bricks, or Brandon Knight giving the ball up five times, the Pistons were exposed as a young, mistake-prone team, one not too dissimilar to the Rockets before the Harden trade.
1) Center Play
As I noted earlier, the centers played tremendously tonight, with Asik scoring 14 and grabbing 8 boards and Smith showing great defensive and passing chops on a night where he had 4 rebounds and 4 assists in just 12 minutes. With that duo showing promise, the Rockets appear to have found the future in the most difficult position to fill on the court. That's as good news as anything in the early part of the season.
Cole Aldrich? You'll hear about him later.
2) The Bench
In the early parts of the season, it has been the starters that have spotted the Rockets early leads that the bench often coughed up. Tonight, the case was quite the opposite. In both the early part of the second quarter and the latter half of the third, the bench wrestled control of the game away with big runs, led mostly by improbable contributor Marcus Morris.
Morris, he of horrific rookie year fame, put on a show tonight, putting together a nice 12 and 8 night, scoring with ease against the mediocre front line of the Pistons. He put his offensive game on display, scoring with a variety of one-on-one isolation moves, a huge key if he's going to establish himself as a big time bench scorer in this league.
3) Signs of Life from the Rookies
The Rockets' rookies saw their first run of the season tonight, with Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas getting some minutes in the first half and late in the game in garbage time. Though Jones was lost the whole game and didn't get anything going, it was still good to see him get off the bench after a tremendous pre-season.
Motiejunas, the mystery man who did not see much pre-season time at all, scored his first field goal and got to the line for a solid debut in just five minutes.
I'd suspect it will be a while before we see the other rookies, as Machado and White will likely pile into White's van and ride down to the RGV when the season gets going.
1) McHale's Family Emergency
Kevin McHale had to leave the team this afternoon to deal with a family emergency, the nature of which was not immediately clear. It was great to get a win for McHale, but please keep him in your thoughts as he goes through a tough time.
2) Non-NBA Players Playing
Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich are not NBA players, especially not Douglas. I understand that he's a vet and can defend, but he is an awful player, regardless of what his relatively respectable stat line says. Let's hope the Vipers can coach Machado up quick, because he appears to be the best option moving forward.
Aldrich, who managed to pump fake his way into a turnover on a fast break play where he was out front by ten yards, was, as I wrote earlier, unabashedly awful.
3) Patrick Patterson
Patterson appears to be headed into the doghouse with yet another disappointing performance. After Morris came in behind Patterson to give him his scheduled rest, Jones took Patterson's minutes for the rest of the half. In the 2nd half, Patterson's play was brief and poor.
If he's dealing with an injury, it might explain the rotations, but I think it's more likely that his playing is getting ceded to players who are outperforming him.