The Houston rockets won 109 to 106 tonight in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks entered the game having lost 3 straight in the Garden. Jeremy Lin returned to the sixth man role with Harden returning to the lineup. Terrence Jones got his second start of the season.
Jones started the game defending Carmelo Anthony as a defensive assignment and he showed great instincts working with Dwight early. The Rockets were in top form early turning the ball over on two of their first four possessions. Sadly, this team averages roughly 20 turnovers a game. Andrea Bargnani on Dwight Howard is simply not fair for the Knicks in the post. Andrea Bargnani can be both the key to the Rockets winning or losing. He pulls Dwight out of the lane but he also can't stop Dwight in the post. Houston hits the first TV timeout (5:30 left) 0-6 from the three-point line. If our sample size indicates anything it's that Houston will continue to shoot rather than go inside to Dwight. In stark juxtaposition to the Clippers game, once the Knicks started running the Rockets kept pace. The Harden/Lin/Parsons/Casspi/Howard lineup showcased all the positives from last season with the flexibility that we obtained with the Howard signing. New rule for all television broadcasts: No showing Asik on screen when he's on the bench, it's heartbreaking. The quarter ends with Francisco Garcia nailing a 3. If we're playing hockey credit Harden and Lin with the assists.
The Rockets lead 28-23 at the end of 1. They have only turned the ball over three times and have assisted 4 times on 8 made shots. Their lone three-pointer was Francisco Garcia's closing note (1-9 from 3, 11%). Houston is 8 for 19 from the field (42%) compared to New York's 8-17 (47%). If the law of everages bears out Houston could be in for a long night. Then again, New York is only 0-2 from the three-point line and that could spell disaster going forward.
Patrick Beverley giveth and Patrick Beverley taketh. He botched a pass for a turnover early then picked Raymond Felton clean for two. Houston used hot shooting (capped with a Beverley 3) to extend the lead to 35-25 forcing Mike Woodson to call time at the 9:46 mark. Francisco Garcia opted to show up tonight and sparked the Rockets three-point shooting and playing strong defense to help keep the Rockets strong. Ronnie Brewer saw the floor to guard Anthony and Terrence Jones quickly tacks a foul onto Anthony on a screen. The Rockets seemed to embrace this idea of active hands and team defense while chasing the Knicks three-point shooters off the line. With any luck, this won't be an anomaly. Iman Shumpert played James Harden very tight and it visibly frustrated him. The Rockets made a great deal of progress then Kenyon Martin decided to put Chandler Parsons down like he caught him chatting up his girl. Flagrant 1 foul with 5:17 left to play. That shot to the head must have knocked something loose in Chandler Parsons though because his offense lit right up. Dat jam... Sploosh. 2:57 left with the Rockets up 51-39, Carmelo Anthony hits the deck and in a fit of what can only be described as "toddler rage" spikes the ball and sulks over to his sideline. The Knicks went on a tear coming out of Anthony's rage to drag the game back to 51-47 with a timeout called by Mchale with 1:43 left to go. The knicks three point shooting began heating up to close out the first half.
Houston leads 53-52 with the Knicks on a 13-2 run. For your disgusting stat of the half: Dwight Howard has 2 points and 4 rebounds heading into halftime. The Knicks are 3-7 from deep (43%) and the Rockets continue to bomb away despite shooting 24% from beyond the arc (4-17). The key difference between the two teams is simply this: The Rockets won't stop shooting 3's with an elite post option because they don't want to acknowledge him. The Knicks are selective about their threes. The one positive for the Rockets, though is that they are 17-18 from the line. Let's not act like we're blindsided by Rockets collapses. The signs show pretty consistently and early. Abandoning elite options on offense, turnovers, and a general failure of discipline. These are issues you can point at McHale and I won't challenge you about them.
The first half comment of the game:
"Sweet Jesus this game is a snooze." - TONYBO1O8
The Rockets looked to establish Dwight again early in the half but unfortunately the Knicks hot shooting kept up. The Rockets seemed completely uninterested in protecting the ball or running an offense. The Knicks, unfortunately, were happy to capitalize on this awful play. In some bizzaro-world version of previous games, the Rockets picked up the pace and went right back to attacking the Knicks "defense", ignoring Dwight Howard in a different way and it worked for a while. Andrea Bargnani had a special game. He was highly productive offensively and mastered the flop in guarding Dwight Howard. The story of the Rockets third quarter was simply bail out. The team refused to play to its strengths and instead had to rely on hoping their three-point shooting would come back to them. The season has strongly indicated that won't happen.
The Rockets lead 75-72 heading into the fourth quarter. Panic time for this writer, honestly. Houston is 26% from three yet they feel no need to cut back on the shot. The Rockets out-number New York's turnovers 2:1 and are being outshot by 2% and 11 more shot attempts. The only positive to this point is that Houston has a +6 rebound differential, which generally bodes well for teams.
The fourth quarter started with quite the rumble. JR Smith opened with a three-point play and Omri Casspi responded with a three pointer of his own. Remember my earlier comment about bailing out? Right now Jeremy Lin is doing it for the Rockets capping an 8-0 run with an emphatic dunk. Woodson calls timeout with 10:03 left and the Rockets are up 83-75. James Harden hits the deck and the Rockets cling to an 85-80 lead after a Tim Hardaway Jr. layup. Potential concussion given James took several shots to the head. Coming out of the time out from the injury Jones makes an amazing pass to Parsons that he flushes down with power. Harden checks back in with 6:32 left to play along with Dwight Howard. Looks like Harden is OK and Houston acknowledges how desperate they are for the fear of Harden on the court. The Rockets promptly jumped in to an 11-2 run to extend their lead. Adding Howard and Harden helped to ratchet up the defense and resulted in some critical stops for Houston. Hack-a-Howard begins with 3:24 left in the game. McHale promptly subbed Patrick Beverley in for Dwight Howard. As the pace picked up towards the end of this one the Rockets and the Knicks devolved to ridiculously sloppy and urgent play. Amidst that play, however, Carmelo Anthony fouled Dwight Howard with less than two minutes left. This results in the Rockets selecting their shooter AND getting the ball back. Despite the furor of the fans, James Harden fouled Carmelo Anthony on the floor before the amazing fall-down three-point shot. McHale placed his trust in the foul while you're ahead, a pleasant change of pace.
Derp comment of the game:
"Dwight is the Most-Overrated player in the League....... And the 2nd-best center on the Rockets. - tkrieger
Observations from the game:
Prepare for a rocky season if Houston can't act with any discipline on the year. They have the best center in basketball, arguably the two best in basketball, yet they refuse to go to Howard when they need the game to slow down. Their three point percentage has been dreadful this season yet they'll wantonly fling three point shots left and right. There's a distinct lack of discipline that allows a team to continually disregard their strengths for no reason other than sheer ignorance. If you're going to critique McHale this is the best ground to do so, honestly.
Jeremy Lin is doing a fantastic job of bailing this Rockets team out with his improved play. Jeremy had holes in his game last year that he has shored up this season. It's great to see, particularly because he was presumed to fall to #4 in the pecking order if Chandler Parsons continued his progression. Parsons has managed to out-produce his point and rebounding totals from last season but he's doing so at a less-efficient rate and with a much devolved three-point shot. Jeremy's performance the last few games have been the only things keeping Houston alive.
Patrick Beverley is a maddeningly inconsistent starter. This is evident even during a quick succession sequences in a game. On one play he'll botch a pass or commit a very poor turnover and somehow he'll get the ball back as though to say "nailed it!" It's odd because it works out but you don't feel like you should get rewarded for things turning out alright. Speaking of turnovers...
18. The Rockets turned the ball over 18 times tonight. They assisted on 14 shots. That means that our assist to turnover ratio is a 14:18. Usually this number needs to be 2:1 or 3:1.5 or so. You want to convert on assists far more frequently than you cough the ball up. If Houston can't get that number closer to 10 don't expect this team to get that far. You don't win in the playoffs being that charitable and, as this season has shown so far, you can barely win in the regular season doing it.
BONUS! Because I hate you guys all so very... very much...
TDS Nachos (Eat like a man, impress your woman, and achieve true nirvana).
1 can pinto beans (Don't get cute with me, one, regular sized can for normal people. Not a can for midgets or a can for land whales, one regular can)
1/3 pound of bleu cheese (Don't scrimp, use the good stuff or I'll find you and slap the hell out of you)
1/4 pound cheddar cheese (At the most, go light on this, it's an accent, the glory is in the bleu cheese)
1/2 pound of pulled pork (I used leftover pork from the slow cooker BECAUSE I ROCK)
Half a can of salsa (Use that delicious garlic stuff or the mild, it gets better)
One block of parmesan cheese (You're not using it all, tubs)
Tortilla chips (I used scoops, big whoop, wanna fight about it?)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees of PURE FLAVOR. Dump out enough tortilla chips to create one layer on a backing sheet. If you're not a slob you'll put down some tin foil or some parchment paper if you want that non-stick fancy-ness.
In a separate bowl combine your 1 can of normal person pinto beans with half a jar of that delicious salsa. Mix it good. Don't half-ass it. Pour this combination over the chips, try to get a little bit of goodness on each chip. It's healthy or something. Crumble the cheddar cheese over top of the bean and salsa mixture.
Here's where the magic happens. Place that incredible pulled pork over top of the bean/salsa/cheese trio. Can you feel it? Your taste buds experiencing full awareness? Well hold on to your ass because it's about to get blown off. I want you to crumble that blue cheese over top of the pulled pork, it better be smooth and creamy and tangy. Now take your microplane (DON'T ACT LIKE YOU DON'T HAVE ONE FOR CHEESE, NUTMEG, AND CINNAMON, YOU HEATHEN!) and grate some parmesan cheese over top of it all. A light sheet as though it has been kissed by the first snow of winter. Winter of flavor. You're almost there. Drizzle Sriracha over top of this like it's a Starbucks drink (Or you're a master chef making a dessert, it's your fantasy, not mine).
Bake for 15 minutes until the pork toasts up a little bit. Crack open an IPA and munch away. I expect personal thank-you notes from all of your significant others.