When the clock starts ticking down with the score close, great scorers elevate their game. With the Rockets down 86-85 in the fourth quarter, James Harden was 2-13 from the field. A few minutes later, Harden had just scored nine points on three shots, and the Rockets had pushed a deficit to an eight point lead. When all was said and done, Harden had notched 29 points, finishing with his 12th straight game of 25 points or more despite a disastrous four point first half. More importantly, the Rockets left the Quicken Loans Arena with a 112-104 victory.
It wasn't pretty, but with contributions from Harden, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Patterson, and Greg Smith, the Rockets managed to claw out a victory. As the first quarter got started, it seemed as though the Rockets had skipped warmups altogether in order to watch the Texans game (a move, if true, that I would've fully endorsed). Nothing was falling for the first unit, and the ball tended to stagnate on the perimeter.
However, with the starters going to the bench for the start of the second quarter, the Rockets turned the tides on the Cavaliers, snatching the lead away behind a strong performance by the bench bigs. Patterson continued to make his case to rejoin the starting lineup with a 15 and 6 night, and Greg Smith had his engine running on all cylinders for the 26 minutes he was on the floor.
After a relatively mediocre seven game stretch that saw him fail to eclipse double figures in scoring or rebounding, Smith managed his first double-double of his young career, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. On a night where Omer Asik never had his mojo, Smith's play was key.
After the teams came out at the end of halftime, the Rockets' starters picked up their bad habits from the first quarter. Missed free throws and contested jumpers were in fashion, and the Cavaliers were able to take advantage of the offensive inadequacies.
As we mentioned earlier, the fourth quarter belonged to James Harden. It was a chess match for most of the quarter, until James Harden exploded and this happened:
After that, all the Rockets had to do was make their free throws and play smart. They did, and they took the game.
Despite the victory, all was not so peachy. Chandler Parsons continued his recent slump, going 2-9 from the field on a night where he was pretty much invisible. Omer Asik played poorly as well, struggling to get anything going offensively and essentially getting benched for the more productive Greg Smith.
On Tuesday, the Rockets host the Lakers in a matchup that will surely draw a crowd. Be there, be loud, and BEAT LA!