The Houston Rockets snapped their seven-game losing streak with a 100-94 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. I want you to take a moment to soak this in. The Rockets played today against the worst defense in the NBA and it was this tough to watch. During the Rockets losing streak that have averaged 17 points per 1st quarter. On a day where we celebrate the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. and the birth of one of the greatest basketball players of all time (If you don't know who I'm referencing you need to get off this site) are celebrated, the Rockets finally delivered a win.
The game started almost exactly as you would expect with two young teams. It was pretty sloppy and relatively frustrating. Early on the Rockets were aggressive but the Bobcats came out shooting hot and playing Houston's style of basketball. It feels awkward to watch a Rockets game where it took almost five minutes for either team to break double digits. The Rockets were playing some surprisingly tough interior defense for how sad the game was watch from the opening tip. Omer Asik was active, discouraged shots, and locked down the paint. Unfortunately Asik wasn't guarding the mid range game as the rest of the Rockets seemed uninterested in guarding the area between the paint and the arc. You could tell the frustration was mounting when Marcus Morris gets whistled for a technical foul (6:08 in the first quarter). The game thread pointed something interesting out and something that has been a major problem for the Rockets this year. Turnovers in the paint have haunted the Rockets all season. What makes this worse is that the guards are consistently getting penetration and making very dumb passes (Generally bounce passes) to Omer Asik rather than finishing a drive or making the smart pass. You know your team is slumping when you're playing in Charlotte and the crowd is doing anything other than trying to drink away the fact that they're at a Charlotte Bobcats game. Patrick Beverly seemed to be the only Rocket on the court who understood how to play basketball. The Rockets close out the first quarter trailing 22-30 with 6 turnovers.
The second quarter showed some promise with the way Patrick Beverly runs the offense and the effort on the glass but the Bobcats decided to showcase some defense and run. The Rockets managed to find the three point shot and began closing the gap slowly. The difference between the start of the second quarter and the finish comes down to discipline, plain and simple. The Rockets kept the Bobcats within 5 points and didn't turn the ball over for about 6 to 8 minutes in the second quarter. Mental lapses began marring the game and the Rockets broke down. That breakdown allowed the Bobcats to stretch the lead to 10. Bismack Biyombo put on a block party in the first half. He recorded 4 blocks and crammed the ball back down the throats of anyone in red when they entered the lane. The half closes with Houston trailing 45-56 with 9 turnovers. They scored 45 points on 11 assists (In a best case scenario that accounts for 33 points, worst case 22, truth is somewhere in between that). The shooting percentage tells the entire story of the game with the Rockets shooting 34% from the field, 31% from three, and 88% from the line (16 free throws). The Bobcats enter the half shooting 51% from the field.
The third quarter began with what seemed like a much more deliberate pace by the Rockets that didn't do them any major favors, ultimately. McHale started Marcus Morris in place of Patrick Patterson and kept the rest of the starters that we usually see out there. The Bobcats came out not shooting as hot as they did in the first half and the Rockets jumped on their opportunities but ultimately the game comes down to execution and composure when a team is playing as well as Charlotte was today. As frustrating as the Rockets have been there are times when you see certain guys hitting shots that have low conversion rates and you have to acknowledge that the game is going to be a tough one. As the quarter pushed on, thankfully, the law of averages began to rear its ugly head and the Rockets closed the gap. Kemba Walker decided that he didn't like close games and went on a hot streak to close out the third quarter with some painful three pointers. The Bobcats lead the Rockets 74-81 heading into the fourth quarter.
I want to start my note on the fourth quarter with the fact that I'm a Patrick Beverly believer after just a few games. The kid plays hard, plays fast, and makes a decision then sticks to it. The Rockets desperately need a guy like that because lord knows no one else is giving it all like he is. I don't think there was a single Rockets fan out there who wasn't taking some hope with the early run in the fourth quarter. James Harden checked in at the 8:52 mark in the fourth quarter and the Rockets immediately started to claw that Bobcats lead back down. To repeat myself from earlier in this recap, that key difference is turnovers. The Rockets had 9 in the first half. They had three turnovers total after 20 minutes in the fourth quarter. Consequently the lead was brought down to 2 points. Harden's highlight reel dunk that put the Rockets ahead 84-83 had me seeing shades of Andrew Bogut's injury dunk but thankfully when you land on a beard that magnificent he merely did a push up and got back to being awesome. Bismack Biyombo's blocking ability decided to make a special appearance as the Rockets began picking up momentum and I have to say, I love the guy's defensive tenacity. At the very least the Rockets gave us a nail biter to close it out. Thankfully, the nightmare is over because of the birth of a dream.
Rockets win 100-94.
Time for awards because that's my thing now.
The "I have a Dream" Award: James Harden. 29 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds going 19-21 from the line. When the game felt like it was slipping away because of overly-cautious play by the Rockets James took over, like all franchise players should and he delivered us from a land of oppression in the W-L column to snap a 7 game losing streak.
The Nightmare Award: Following up on themes here, Bismack Biyombo takes this award. Biyombo's stat line wasn't too impressive as far as points and rebounds go (2/9) but his 7 blocked shots brought back some interior defense that made you remember Hakeem Olajuwon and they all came at times when you really thought the Rockets were going to string together something special.
The Non Violent Resistance Award: This award goes to a guy who came out on the floor and by sacrificing himself provided everything we needed and a rallying point for the team. Good on you, Patrick Beverly. 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and play that was so energized and passionate that for a moment, I'd swear you're proud to put on that uniform.
The Setting Your Cause Back Award: My equivalent of three down, this one goes to Patrick Patterson. 0 points, 4 rebounds. Omer Asik is the only guy allowed to lay a goose-egg in the points column because if he does that he tends to pull down 12 rebounds. Patrick, you do not tend to pull down 12 rebounds. Stop that.