The Rockets continue their winning streak with a sound victory over the Toronto Raptors tonight in Houston.
Three of the five Rockets starters earned a double double in the box score and all five Rockets starters had ten or more points in tonight's 16 point win at the Toyota Center. In summation, the Rockets starting unit looked like a quality ensemble. James Harden lead all scorers with 24 points and 12 assists. Harden was really a spectacular playmaker for the Rockets tonight and didn't force any offense or hero ball that wasn't necessary. The Raptors actually shot the ball at a higher percentage (on fewer shots) throughout most of the game, and during the first half, Houston's inability to defend kept the score close. Following halftime, the Rockets played up their offensive advantage, specifically behind the arc and on the offensive boards, and blew the lead wide open.
Jeremy Lin had his best game of the season. Lin's 16 points were super efficient and his ten dimes and three steals exemplified the kind of playmaking and defensive excellence we've come to expect from the recovering sensation. If Kyle Lowry has taught us anything, it would be that jump shots can be mended. When Lin's shot falls, he's exactly the kind of point guard the Rockets need.
The Rockets had a pretty lackluster first half. There were some thrills (Asik running the break, Lin hitting jumpers, Harden making plays), some chills (letting Bargnani score from anywhere, defensive effort) and some laughs (Asik laying it in his own basket).
Houston turned up the volume in the second half and took advantage of the missed opportunity to spike their lead that had been available all game long. A few stops and good perimeter ball movement lead to quite a few open looks that kept the lead around 20 during most of the third quarter. The third quarter belonged to Patrick Patterson - more on that below.
The Rockets out-rebounded the Raptors and turned the ball over fewer times. Kyle Lowry had an unfortunate game, although he did rebound the ball well. Toronto youngsters Ed Davis and Terrence Ross both looked like promising leads in Toronto's franchise-long struggle to field a contender. Lottery pick Jonas Valanciunas had a pretty good game but he was easily outworked by Omer Asik.
1) Patrick Patterson
I've been back and forth on PatPat all season. At one point this year it looked as though he might being playing at his ceiling but tonight's game gave me reason to hope. Patterson did a bit of everything: he drew fouls, converted post moves, hit his three point shots and threw down one of his far and few between monster throw downs. At 22 points, Patterson was largely responsible for the run that sent Houston over the top early on in the second half and he was just two points shy of his career high.
2) With a young team, the confidence is going to come just as quickly as it seems to disappear. Tonight, the Rockets looked sure of themselves doing just about everything. The Rockets shot 13-26 from behind the arc, 53% from the field, and the majority of the 14 turn overs came in the second half when the Rockets had relaxed and held a 20 point lead. The starting backcourt finished with 22 assists. Omer Asik, a model of consistency, regulated the boards and finished with his seventh double double of the season. Houston just looked poised and proficient. There was never any visible panic from the Rockets.
3) The three point shooting was huge. Morris, Lin, Harden, Parsons, Cook, and even Patterson shot the three ball at 50% or above. The Raptors gave Houston a lot of space at the perimeter and Houston took advantage. Chandler Parsons' three point percentage is now at 41.3%. Morris, as well, appears to be a consistant threat from deep at 38.1% for the young season.
1) As far as negatives go, the defense was the clear winner. The Raptors stayed around a hell of a lot longer than they should have early on despite their tendency to turn the ball over. The Rockets let the Raptors shoot 52%+ for the first three quarters of the game. The man defense was passable but as a cohesive unit the Rockets failed to make the kinds of stops that could have ended this game even earlier than the third quarter.
2) Aside from a hot start from Marcus Morris, the bench did not play up to snuff. Toney Douglas, Greg Smith, and Daequan Cook struggled to keep the peace while Kelvin Sampson attempted to rest his starters prior to a back-to-back game against a new rival. Greg Smith in particular looked like he had no place on an NBA court. I think the return of Carlos Delfino is going to go a long way for the Rockets, whenever that happens.
3) Is Lowry having a terrible game a bad thing? Well, for me it was. I was hoping to see some of the Lowry that started the season. That tempo pushing, tenaciously defensive guard that I was so reluctant to move on from. Lowry had 7 points on 3-10 shooting and did not make much of an impression during his first game back in the Toyota Center.
The Rockets have a big game tomorrow in Oklahoma City and hopefully this winning streak will give them the inertia required to pull out a win.
Tonight the Houston Rockets each wore a green patches on their left shoulders to honor Sasha McHale who passed away last Saturday. This game was for you, Sasha.
For more, check out the coverage over at Raptors HQ.