The Houston Rockets will jump to five in a row at home following tonight's 124 to 116 win over the Utah Jazz. The Rockets refused to play a lick of defense until late in the fourth quarter where Asik's presence (on the offensive end as well) facilitated the scoring run that sealed the game. Folks, this shouldn't be a surprise to many of you but the Rockets are looking like a better every single time they play.
Jeremy Lin had another fantastic game and finished with 19 points and 8 assists. With a Linsane reputation, basketball fans have been quick to criticize Jeremy Lin's slow start to the season but as Lin has become more comfortable with his new situation he has started to look more and more like the stud all around guard the Rockets have paid him to be. Even temporary Rockets head coach Kelvin Sampson commented that Lin's "decision making tonight was outstanding". Patrick Patterson, who finished with his third straight 20+ point game, continues to impress as a stretch four a legitimate offensive threat. Patterson is now shooting 37% from deep on the season. James Harden's 19 points and 7 assists were anything but modest. Harden's first half dunk on Gordan Hayward and game ending dish to Chandler Parsons were essential ingredients in the Rockets' win. Parsons drained a three to put a nail in the coffin and didn't let his sore right shoulder deter his scoring instincts throughout the game.
Immediately following the opening tip, the Rockets played the kind of basketball that lead me to believe it was going to be a long night. In the first few minutes of the first quarter the Rockets had 7 messy turnovers and very little motivation to play defense. While Houston's inability to defend haunted them for the duration of the match, the Rockets were able to cut down significantly on the turnovers.
Omer Asik and Enes Kanter, the last two Turkish centers in the NBA following the retirement of Mehmet Okur, really made an entertaining spectacle out of their pairing whenever the rotations allowed. The Rockets mirrored their poor first half start in the third quarter and allowed the Jazz to take off on a 13 to 4 run. Asik (14 points and 12 rebounds) took a blow to the nose that kept him in the locker room a bit longer than Kelvin Sampson would have liked. Fortunately, Asik's timely return in the fourth inspired a defensive stand by Houston's front line that won the game.
The Jazz matched buckets regularly with the Rockets through the first three and half quarters thanks to some big games from Al Jefferson and Randy Foye (4-6 from deep). Both teams were embarrassingly bad at getting stops and both teams shot above 50% from the field for the game.
1) Omer Asik
The Bulls really passed up on a diamond in the rough with Omer Asik. Asik can be frustrating with his offensive habits at the rim but he's a game changing defender, consistent, and competent enough offensively to keep himself on the floor at all times. Asik is also an underrated passer and he sets debilitating screens. He's a walking double double.
2) The Rockets bench was a huge plus tonight and it's really nice to have Carlos Delfino back in the rotation. 17 of the first 19 4th quarter points came from Houston's bench. Greg Smith scored 13 points including a gravity defying dunk and one play fed from Carlos Delfino. Toney Douglas was another welcomed bench contributor (8 points, 2 steals).
3) With opposing defenses game-planning almost exclusively for James Harden, Houston's role players have seized an opportunity to score. Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik have all made convincing arguments for most improved player awards (on second thought, Lin isn't likely to win that particular award unless the NBA opens up voting to international fans).
1) The fast paced, new look Houston Rockets are fun to watch but the lack of defensive effort that I've started to notice is concerning. I've always been a believer in the "defense wins championships" mantra. With a starting line up composed of all above average man defenders I hope the Rockets can eventually learn how to get a stop when the other team is on a run. One of the places the Rockets are failing defensively is at the perimeter. The Jazz hit 11 of 20 from the three point line and if they had a few more shooters on their team the outcome of tonight's game could have easily been a loss.
2) Jeremy Lin has got to start at least trying to finish with his left hand. The reverse layup move Lin likes to perform in situations that are built for a left handed finish make Lin's attempts overcomplicated and predictable. At this point in his career, I'd almost rather see a missed left handed attempt than a difficult right handed reverse that barely rolls in.
3) Marcus Morris appears to have hit a slump. In his last five games Morris has scored 0, 4, 11, 7, and 0 points and has looked like a non factor. I'm hope this isn't Morris cooling off from an "I told you I was good" early 2012-2013 campaign and this is just a bad stretch of games. We shall see.
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