The Houston Rockets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 103 - 100 behind a fourth quarter performance that erased three quarters of matador defense and stagnant offense in a "highly regulated" game (62 fouls!).
Here's tonight's game in two .gifs.
First Three Quarters:
The Rockets always felt like they were going to win this game. For better or worse, they did.
The Rockets found a way to close a double digit lead in the third quarter by stringing together a series of defensive stops and transition points. Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas both stepped up when Dwight Howard landed himself in foul trouble and James Harden was cold and disinterested.
On a night where the Rockets were not the powerhouse point scoring three point shooting Internet sensation the Rockets stayed within striking distance of the Pelicans, picked their moment and pounced. The final three minutes of the game were the best end-of-game play we've seen in a few weeks -- Remember they failed to even get a shot off against the Hawks and vomited a lead to the Wizards during this road trip.
They knew they were going to win this game and kept a calm confidence from start to finish. This level of composure is held by the best teams in the NBA.
The Rockets put very little effort into this game in the first three quarters of this game. They didn't take the Pelicans seriously after played the Wizards and Celtics and showed up in New Orleans expecting to blow the team out of the building.
When the Pelicans went big with two seven footers our offense came to a grinding halt. Our guards seemed afraid to go to the basket and settled for an abnormal number of mid-range jumpers when our threes were not falling. We went away from Dwight Howard after he went 3 - 3 early due a seeming inability to put in an entry pass.
The Rockets were able to recover in the fourth quarter on talent. When they decided the game was within their grasp and they started playing defense the Pelicans were not able to keep up. The Rockets found their game and got to the foul line to repeatedly make the Pelicans pay.
The Rockets can't continue to under perform against inferior teams and expect to ride out wins on their talent alone. Also defense, that's half of the game.
On a team with James Harden, Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin, should you ever have to say the phrase "everyone be more like Terrence Jones."
Well. We're there. A few nights after setting a career high in rebounds Jones went for a career high 25 points and 6 blocks. Most impressive is the number of ways he scored: He cleaned up misses under the basket, he showed off some dribble penetration moves and he got to the free throw line 10 times (granted he only made half of these).
This game goes to Terrence Jones. He wasn't the player that closed out the game in the fourth quarter -- He's the player that rescued the game in the third quarter when he posted 12 points.
- The refs really regulated big men tonight. Charges, blocks and loose ball fouls were so common that five players accumulated five or more fouls: Dwight Howard, Donatas Motiejunas, Jason Smith, Greg Stiemsma and Alexis Ajinca.
- Eric Gordon reached "potential level" tonight. That's the place everyone says a player should be -- See: Darius Miles and Lamar Odom. I still don't think we've got a handle on what Gordon is or can be in the NBA. He dropped 33 points in the first three quarters while the Rockets payed matador defense and served wide open jumpers. But when the Rockets began pressuring the Pelicans under a sudden sense of urgency Gordon disappeared entirely. He scored two points in the fourth quarter on one shot.
- Dwight Howard was 3 - 3 in the first three minutes of the game. In his next 27 minutes of play he went 1 - 2. Entry passes were non-existent and Howard put himself in foul trouble. The Rockets squandered opportunities to torch inferior defenders like Alexis Ajinca, who has inexplicably been in the NBA for five years now.
- The Rockets started the fourth quarter with the following lineup: Canaan - Garcia - Parsons - Motiejunas - Howard. Not the most effective group in team history.
- James Harden gets his points. Each game, just mark him down for 20 mandatory points. In the first half Harden barely scored and seemed slowed by the afore-gif'd knee to the groin. Harden then found his way to the line and made his shots count. He recorded only two field goals in the first half but found a way to end the game with 26 points and broke Austin Rivers' ankles. Gross. Just gross.
- Aaron Brooks was a scratch tonight. We got o see nine minutes of Isaiah Canaan. He was timid and generally ineffective. I was watching the battle down low more than the perimeter on the defensive end so I'll give him a second look there. But he didn't do anything to plant a flag on the roster. A healthy Brooks and Beverley will likely send him back to the D-League.
- Donatas Motiejunas playing time. The Pelicans went really big with a combo of Davis, Smith, Stiemsa and Ajinca. McHale waited a bit before unleashing the Lithuanian. It was the right call. We were getting killed on the boards before D-Mo came in. He's not the strongest rebounder, but the pure size was an absolute necessity.
- Omer Asik was needed. A healthy Asik would have changed this game. Howard was being out muscled down low and got frustrated by the lack of rebounding opportunities. Meanwhile Terrrence Jones was too small to be effective. Asik would have been such a fresh breath of air to this game. I still think we trade him ASAP, I'm just saying. It would have made a huge difference tonight.
- Donatas Motiejunas defense. He's improving -- A lot. He didn't look terrible when guarding Anthony Davis and he's making the rotations he failed terribly at in the past. He's still a step slow to rotate off a pick and roll, but it appears he finally gets it. He tries to draw charges -- Stop that -- You pick up two defensive fouls for each charge you draw. Just stop it and be a seven foot tall dude that's blocking the way.
- Donatas Motiejunas needs to stop shooting threes. Sorry, bro. Those are not game ready. You airballed one today and I think you're 2 - 21 on the season (I didn't look). Show us that sweet hook shot a few more times and give me that up-and-under Luis Scola layup again. It's like every Ke$ha song, I just want it to happen again.
- The Rockets went 3 - 14 from the three point line tonight. I don't have an explanation for the lack of outside shooting. The Pelicans had the lane jammed most of the game and were in serious foul trouble, which the Rockets took serious advantage of by getting to the free throw line, but we needed to see some three point shooting.
- Jeremy Lin's defense still leaves something to be desired, but damn if he didn't score a few important baskets when he needed too. I'm sold on him as the sixth man. He can turn on an offensive switch instantaneously.
- Francisco Garcia is the same guy that was a defensive hero in the playoffs against OKC last year, right? That dude was not in the building tonight.
- Stiesma. Can we just accept that Bill Simmons irrational love of the Celtics goes too far. This guy is not game ready.
- Casspi should never be in the same room as Anthony Davis. Oh, he guarded Anthony Davis for a small portion of the game? How'd that work out. Oh, bad. Right.