USA TODAY Sports
James Harden paced the Rockets with 33 points and 7 assists as the Rockets routed the 76ers at the Toyota Center.
It wasn't pretty, but on a night where the Philadelphia 76ers were missing Jrue Holiday, the Rockets, led by James Harden and Jeremy Lin, dominated the fourth quarter on their way to a 125-103 win. Going into the fourth, the Rockets led by just 10 points, but with Toney Douglas and James Harden hitting on all cylinders down the stretch, they coasted to the rout of the 76ers.
If you want a pretty telling stat about the state of the 76ers, the bench played 23 more minutes than the starters and outscored the starters 65-38. In a word, the starters were awful. Kwame Brown played his requisite four minutes before sitting down, never to be seen again, and Evan Turner had one of his worst games of the season.
On the other hand, the Rockets starters all looked pretty strong. Asik, Lin, and Harden all had some of their best games of the season, dominating a pretty talent-deprived roster without Holiday. And, just after many harped on the bench in the first three quarters, Toney Douglas came off the bench for 17 points in the fourth quarter. That has to be worth a first round pick! Right? Right? *sends Toney Douglas mix to every front office in league*
Anyway, when it was all said and done, the Rockets had themselves one of the more convincing victories of the season, though it didn't seem like it was headed that way until the last ten minutes. Let's go three up and three down!
1) The Backcourt Gets Going Again
Two nights after a tremendous performance against the Knicks at MSG, Jeremy Lin and James Harden were back to work on Wednesday night, with Lin going 8-12 on his way to a 18 point and 6 assist night, and Harden had a working man's 33 and 7.
As I wrote on Tuesday afternoon, the highest ceiling back court the Rockets have is Lin and Harden. Tonight, they worked in perfect harmony, with Harden and Lin attacking and moving off the ball. They both were aggressive, and it didn't hurt that both were stroking their shot from outside.
Let's hope to see more of that in the future.
2) Omer Asik Gets His Mojo Back
In recent weeks, Asik has been dealing with a combination of fatigue and the flu, and it was good to see him step up with a great performance tonight. Namely, he hit the boards and seemed like the only person interested in grabbing any rebounds on the floor.
However, it wasn't the rebounds that were so encouraging to see, Asik had been rebounding well in recent weeks, but rather it was the 17 points that were much needed. Tonight, Asik looked far more comfortable in the paint, taking advantage of an overmatched 76ers front line.
3) Limiting Turnovers
The Rockets are last in the league in turnovers, giving the ball up some 16.5 times per game. Tonight, however, they had just 10 turnovers, with Asik, Lin, and Harden all controlling the ball well.
Those three, who have struggled with turnovers all year, had just three turnovers between the three of them, protecting the ball and allowing the Rockets to score consistently throughout the game. If the Rockets can limit their turnovers moving forward, it's going to go a long way towards helping them make a playoff push.
1) Would Anybody Like to Grab a Rebound?
Aside from Omer Asik, who carried the Rockets with 15 rebounds, the Rockets got absolutely worked in offensive rebounds by the 76ers. Overall, the Rockets beat the 76ers on the boards by a figure of 41-39, but the 76ers grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, giving themselves numerous extra shots.
It wasn't necessarily a problem of guys leaking out on the break; most times the Rockets were in position for the boards but simply got out-hustled by the 76ers. Rather, it was a problem of Rockets standing around and allowing Philadelphia players to duck in and grab the rebound.
It didn't end up being a major problem, but this game would have been out of reach midway through the third quarter without these lapses.
2) Defending Dorell Wright
If the NBA learned one thing from Dorell Wright's time in Golden State it was that he can score at will if you don't defend him well. The Rockets apparently did not get this message.
On a night where Jrue Holiday sat on the bench with a foot injury, Wright played point guard for the 76ers, putting up a pretty astonishing 20 point, 6 assist, and 6 rebound stat line, dominating the Rockets wings on offense. Many thought that Evan Turner would be the one to step up with Holiday's absence, but who would've thought Wright would come off the bench in a performance like that?
3) Parsons' Shooting Slump Continues
After not making more than one three pointer in his last three games, Chandler Parsons' slump continued, as he made just 1 of 7 three point attempts, most of them wide open shots. Parsons, as he always does, contributed in every other category, grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists, but the slump is definitely troubling in a season where he has shown off significant shooting improvement.
It's likely that this slump has something to do with fatigue, as Parsons is playing nearly 10 more minutes per game as he did last year, but he needs to break out of it if he wants to continue his breakout campaign. Otherwise, teams could start sagging off of him and containing his dribble penetration.