The Rockets started the game on a 10 - 0 run leading to a Pacers timeout and never looked back as they led coast to coast for an impressive (or as impressive as a preseason game can be) win over the Pacers.
Starting the game, the main headline was a change in the starting lineup by coach McHale. Gone were Jeremy Lin and D-Mo. Inserted were T. Jones and Patrick Beverley. While this move is probably going to cause a huge uproar on certain message boards, McHale mentioned that they would be fluid with the starting PG/PF positions. Initially, with the Rockets jumping out to an early lead it was hard to argue the new lineup. Anchored by Dwight, the Rockets players seem a lot more comfortable on defense They have faith that Dwight can help them down low and were aggressive in forcing turnovers. The Pacers were one of the worst teams at keeping turnovers down last year and the Rockets easily jumped out to a quick lead. In both games, the opposing team simply has not been able to keep up with the Rockets starters.
Lin and D-Mo both entered the game after 9 minutes had passed. Both had some defensive lapses. Lin seemed a little too gamble happy early and left CJ Watson open for a few shots. The Pacers being a good team had a run that was quickly quieted by superstar James Harden getting to the line. The Rockets really might break all free throw records this season between Harden and Dwight.
With Dwight on the bench for the second quarter, the Houston defense regressed quite predictably. In a lineup where Donatas Motiejunas is your sole rim protector things aren't going to go well (despite D-Mo being taller than Dwight). Offensively, Lin and Brooks were getting to the rim at will and we saw a lot of familiar up tempo basketball from last year. A scary moment was D-Mo falling on his wrist after a dunk. However, he returned after halftime and seemed fine. Halftime came with the Rockets up 61 - 55.
In true preseason fashion, the shot clock/game clock broke right before halftime in Manilla (there was a storm preventing a lot of fans from reaching the game which is awful considering their passion for basketball). There were apparently stop watches being used.
The second half was more of the same. The Pacers offense struggled to get into much of a flow with the Rockets defense playing well. David West and Paul George showed their offensive talents in getting some tough buckets to go in. However, whenever the Pacers would close the gap, the Rockets responded with a run of easy buckets to get a gap. The fourth quarter garbage time was as expected. Lin was by far the best player on the court as he mostly ran with the bench units in this game. There was a Hilton Armstrong sighting which reminded me of 2010. With all the roster turnover over the past 4 years, I'm guessing this is going to be a common occurrence. Counting our blessings for where we are now.
Individual Player Thoughts
Dwight Howard - Dwight used his speed and quickness edge over Hibbert. And defensively, other teams are just scared of him. There is a "oh shit that’s Dwight Howard" factor that goes beyond what you see with other big men. Howard looked good moving around. There are a good amount of simple post ups for Dwight to keep him happy. He is making quick moves which prevents the defense from stagnating. Dwight made two nice passes out of the post which were wonderful as well. In the end, Hibbert’s just raw size is tough for Dwight but he did a decent job keeping him busy. Dwight’s presence also prevents Hibbert from helping.
Jeremy Lin - Lin’s gambling didn't look good. Didn’t play great defense when he was on the court. Really lost his man all over the place. Had a couple of overly risky passes. However, Lin’s attacking was nice. Got to the basket. Obviously had to fall down while making his layups but still. LIN DROVE LEFT AND FINISHED IN TRAFFIC WITH LEFT HAND!
Jeremy Lin as sixth man - This was our first real look as Jeremy Lin as the sixth man for the Rockets. And it did show some potential. Lin seemed extremely comfortable with the ball in his hands. He continuously broke down the defense and made mostly the right plays. He got to the rim at will and had some nice dishes to D-Mo. The Manu role for Lin does have a certain appeal.
D-Mo - D-Mo’s post moves look absolutely beautiful when they work but look so helter skelter when they don’t. It’s easy to get annoyed by the bad and fall in love with the good. He’s active defensively but sometimes slightly out of position. I’m not sure if he quite has the strength yet. He came back after his fall and looked quite strong. He displays some beautiful touch on his shots.
James Harden - Harden hasn’t forced anything in the entire preseason. Just looks like a comfortable superstar getting into his rhythm. Defense has been solid. Couldn’t really slow down Paul George but didn’t give up any easy buckets which is all we need from him. Paul George did show that he can shut down Harden ISOs but our offense didn't require Harden ISOs.
Patrick Beverly - Solid Bev game. Hit both of his threes. Played decent defense. It really seems like you know what you're getting from him. He will come to play and he will make plays. He's not going to blow you away and take over a quarter on offense but he will give off effort.
Aaron Brooks - Brooks made a couple of nice plays on offense. A ton of touch fouls though. He seemed comfortable getting to the rim. The speed between Lin and Brooks kept the Pacers defense of balance.
Chandler Parsons - Parsons just seamlessly fits himself on the team. I don’t think I saw him make any mistakes on the court. Just puts himself in the right position to compliment the players around him. Parsons had a GORGEOUS eurostep that turned Roy Hibbert around.
Terrence Jones - T. Jones made some nice plays. His hands aren’t quite there yet as he missed some opportunities near the basket that could have been finished. However, he did do a good job getting into the right positions. Defensively, he seemed solid when Dwight was out there.
Omri Casspi - Casspi can make shots. He tries to get in position defensively and for rebounding as well. 17 points. 21 minutes. 10 boards. Not gun shy at all. Showed a nice pump fake + drive + and 1.
Ronnie Brewer - Hard to judge Brewer's defense without an anchor and anyone for him to shut down. However, we can judge his free throw style. It is awful.