On a night where the Rockets were set to take on the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs without James Harden, hopes were not high for a win. With the Texans tripping over their shoelaces against the Patriots, Jeremy Lin and the Rockets were hoping to vindicate the city of Houston with a thrilling win, yet came up just short in a 134-126 overtime game.
Lin shined as he was thrust into the spotlight, with 38 points, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Unfortunately, the Spurs were simply better, with Gary Neal and Tony Parker respectively adding 29 and 27 points.
As has been the case all season, the Rockets struggled to close out the Spurs, despite holding a nine-point lead inside of 8 minutes in the game. Per Clutchfans, this was the second nine point lead the Rockets had surrendered in the fourth quarter of the last two games, a frustrating stat that unfortunately seems to recur with young teams like this one.
Despite taking the loss, there was a lot to be happy about in this one. Read on to see what the Rockets did right and wrong.
1) Omer Asik
After a tremendous stretch of five double-doubles in six games, Omer Asik has struggled immensely in recent days. His free throw shooting completely tanked (8 for his last 21 FT's before tonight). Tonight, however, Asik rebounded (pun intended) in a big way, hitting 11 out of 14 free throws on way to a 21 point and 10 rebound night.
On top of this, after not committing fewer than 3 turnovers and averaging nearly four over the last ten contests, Asik had just 2 turnovers, a huge part of why he stayed on the floor.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Asik had been dealing with flu-like symptoms over the last few days. Let's hope that his poor play was simply indicative of his sickness and tonight represents the first signs of him breaking out of his funk.
2) Reserves Step Up
In a game where James Harden was missing, the Rockets desperately needed strong play out of the bench. In short, they delivered. Marcus Morris, who has been dealing with a nasty slump of his own, seemed to be more comfortable creating for himself on his way to 13 points, playing well with Greg Smith and Toney Douglas, who kept up their strong performances as of late.
Smith, the team's leader in PER, had just 4 points and 6 rebounds, but added tremendous defense that included 3 blocks. Going into the season, it appeared that he and Cole Aldrich would fight for the backup center minutes, but Smith has thoroughly outplayed Aldrich thus far, giving the undrafted second year player consistent minutes.
Douglas, everyone's favorite whipping boy, put in yet another solid game, catching fire from behind the arc in the first half on the way to a 17 point night off the bench.
With this trio playing well along with Carlos Delfino, who will return to the bench when James Harden comes back from injury, the Rockets seem to have built a solid core off the pine. Let's hope Harden can hurry back, because I'm not sure how many more Daequan Cook post-ups Rockets fans can handle.
3) Jeremy Lin Takes Charge
For a number of reasons, this game was an obvious opportunity for Jeremy Lin to take control of this team and make some plays. In 42 minutes, the Rockets caught a glimpse of the Jeremy Lin of old, with Lin looking aggressive and scoring with ease, matching his career high of 38 points.
Just as Omer Asik kept his turnovers down, Lin did an excellent job taking care of the ball, with just 2 turnovers in 30 offensive possessions used.
If he can just take care of the ball and keep improving his scoring incrementally, Lin's solid passing and defensive awareness will make him a very valuable player. Let's hope he can translate this success when James Harden returns to the lineup.
1) Would Anybody Like to Defend?
The Houston sports teams apparently had a pow-wow to discuss defensive strategy tonight, as the Texans have somehow made the Rockets performance look adequate. Still, the Rockets defense let Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter get open looks far too often.
Ginobili and Parker are always going to get their's, but to let Neal, Splitter, and DeJuan Blair consistently get open under the basket and on the perimeter was a huge problem tonight, the major cause of giving up 134 to the Spurs.
It's difficult to point the finger on just one person, but the usually consistent Chandler Parsons did not play well defensively and Carlos Delfino had, well, a bit of a Carlos Delfino night.
2) Daequan Cook
In the first quarter, Daequan Cook got the ball in a post-up against Manu Ginobili. It did not end well. Let's hope to never see that ever again.
James Harden was able to play and play quite well through an ankle injury against Dallas on Saturday night, but he was unable to participate in today's shootaround and missed tonight's contest. By all accounts this is a minor injury, but ankle injuries are always a concern and for Harden to have a setback is a bad sign.
Let's hope he can put all these fears to bed by coming back Wednesday against Washington, but until he gets back to the court, Rockets fans have to be concerned.
|Final - 12.10.2012||1||2||3||4||OT 1||Total|
|San Antonio Spurs||23||41||27||29||14||134|
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