When the Rockets came out for warmups tonight, they could not hit anything. There were free throws airballed, three pointers banking in, and guys tripping over their shoelaces. Usually, that means nothing, but tonight, the Rockets played like they a group that had stayed out a little too late the last few nights, sleepwalking through a somewhat lackluster performance.
At one point, Greg Smith got a three second violation for taking too long to tie his shoe while standing in the paint. Omer Asik missed a number of shots from the lip of the cup ("DUNK THAT, YOUNG FELLA"). Marcus Morris took a wide open three that missed by three feet. It was not a good night at all, but with tremendous play from James Harden, the Rockets found just enough to eek out the victory.
From the start, things did not look good. In the first, Robin Lopez backed down Omer Asik and got to his spot before hitting an easy hook shot possession after possession. When he didn't get the ball, it seemed like another Hornet would shoot and miss directly to Lopez who would grab the rebound over Asik's outstretched arms before the Hornets would inevitably hit a put-back.
As the game wore on, the rebounding became less of a problem but the lack of offense grew more troublesome. By hitting the offensive glass so hard early on in the game, the Hornets were able to limit the Rockets transition offense. Because of this, the Rockets scored just 15 points on the break and were forced to operate more out of their half court sets. As they've done all season, the Rockets struggled to generate consistent buckets out of those sets.
Though the Hornets had the game tied up as late as the six minute mark of the fourth quarter, the win never seemed in doubt. The Rockets simply were so much more talented than the Hornets, and the twelve point lead the Rockets built in the last six minutes made that clear. For God's sake, Lance Thomas started for the Hornets tonight. Look it up, he's a real person.
On a side note, I had a chance to see my first Rockets game of the season and had an excellent experience. Big thanks to Hiren Joshi (@htown747) for a great time chatting about basketball and thanks to Comcast Sportsnet Houston for the free tickets! In all seriousness, sign the IWantCSNHouston petition and you could get free tickets like I did.
Also, thanks to Howard Chen (@ho_chenCSN) for reading The Dream Shake's tweet during the game. Contrary to what Clutchfans might say, his job is not only reading tweets, but we now know that he does do that well.