Toney Douglas - He played well! He did! - Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE
This is what a young team plays like. For half a game they look unbeatable, then they nearly blow a 22 point lead en route to a win that was much closer than it should have been.
A game of two halves.
Inconsistency is the hallmark of a young team.
Why can't they play like that for a whole game?
Pick a cliché, it'll fit. After dropping a Heroball contest to LeBron James and Miami on Monday the Rockets nearly did the same thing again, with James Harden taking on the surprisingly effective New Orleans bench. Without a couple of clutch makes down the stretch from Chandler Parsons the Rockets could have lost another Beard versus World series of useless isolation plays to close out a very winnable game. Fortunately New Orleans isn't Miami, and doesn't have LeBron James, or Chris Bosh, so that didn't quite happen.
Of course it never should have come to that, as the Rockets were simply trouncing New Orleans after yet another shaky, flat looking start in the first quarter. During the second quarter the Rockets bench actually came to life and they, plus the starters, eventually built a lead to 22 by the early 3rd quarter. Building that lead was simply a breathtaking display of what the Rockets can be, what they will be.
But that hopeful glimpse into the future was the peak.The Rockets spent most of the third quarter and all of the fourth attempting to plumb the depths of the valley, and let New Orleans come back from way down. This game was within reach for New Orleans with two minutes left, but Chandler Parsons, object of your affection, apple of your eye, made three clutch buckets down the stretch to seal the win.
Now we'll move on to Bullet Points, The Lazy Man's Friend(tm)
James Harden - despite some silly hero plays in the 4th, Harden came right and didn't just run down the clock and jack a 3. He moved, he passed, he took on the D, and he largely succeeded on his 1 on 3 drives. The Beardo ended up with 30pts on 10-20 shoot, and 4 assists. He's so good on the drive that its shocking, and he's a great passer. With Omer Asik now learning to dive to the basket when Harden drives there are even more possibilities.
Omer Asik - Glad Kelvin Sampson decided that rebounding and defense were worthwhile in the closing minutes of a tight game, rather than being afraid of FT shooting, or perhaps simply loving smallball a bit too much. Asik is getting better at finishing, and is possibly coming to see the value of the dunk. 15pts on 6-10 shooting, 12 rebounds, and 3-4 FTs. Asik is stunningly good defender and rebounder. Adding 12-15pts a night and good FT shooting makes him a borderline All Star. His contract is looking cheap.
Marcus Morris - We've been seeing flashes of not just an NBA player, but a good NBA player the past few games. Morris has played committed defense, rebounded the ball and absolutely drained critical 3 pt shots. Morris logged 13pts on 5-9 shooting in 25 minutes, blocking an amazing 3 shots in that time.
Surprised and Delighted Honorable Mention - Toney Douglas 12pts in 17 minutes, 4-6 shooting. Intense defense, no moments of stunning ineptitude and even a big shot down the stretch. Please let this be the REAL Toney Toni Tony.
Jeremy Lin - Lin played a good game overall, but he's not finishing anything at the rim. Getting to the hoop on drives is what opens up so much of what is best about his half-court offensive game. He's not a 3pt shooter, or he's not yet. He remains a very effective rebounder for a PG, and continues to defend his position well, and get steals at an incredible pace, earning 3 tonight. There's not quite a fit yet with Harden, but I think that will come. Eventually they'll get it and offer defenses no respite from being sliced up by drives and dishes off drives.
4th Quarter Opponent 3pt Shooting - There apparently isn't an unlikely contested rainbow that won't drop when an opponent wants to make a late comeback. Despite it not being his forte, you can at least accept it when King James splashes an unlikely number of 3s. When the (underrated) Greivis Vasquez tastes the rainbow again and again, it becomes tedious. Still, a great game for Vasquez, who just couldn't miss in the 2nd half.
The Rockets 3pt Shooting - I had hopes that the Rockets hot 3pt shooting streak was the team moving to the mean, finding a percentage we can all live with. But no. The mean is, apparently, a team that jacks a lot of threes and misses 75% of them.
The Rocktets now head west, and maybe we can get some revenge on Portland, beat the Jazz and generally make people on the Left Coast (or near an inland body of salt water) miserable.