The Houston Rockets came out tonight looking downright lethargic. To let you know how bad the game started, the Rockets recorded 0 rebounds through the first 7 minutes of the game. Happily enough though, Jeremy Lin recorded a steal early and made it 14 games in a row with a steal. The Lakers took advantage of the second chance opportunities that the Rockets were more than willing to give up. The ball movement was sloppy and the play was less than inspired by intelligence. The Lakers came out playing like a team that knew they were undermanned on the interior. They attacked the Rockets defense and made them run. Houston began to push the tempo a little over halfway through the first quarter but the defensive woes continued. The first attempt at adjusting to the Lakers lineup began with the insertion of Greg Smith and Patrick Patterson into the lineup hoping Patterson and Smith had enough strength and mobility to hang with the Lakers while still putting points on the board. The biggest shock to the first quarter was the sheer lack of attack on the part of the Rockets. The lanes clogged up with cutters who tried to dump off really bad shuffle passes in traffic and this resulted in 5 turnovers. The Rockets head into the second quarter trailing 28-34.
Toney Douglas and Carlos Delfino did a gantastic job keeping the Rockets in this game. That can't be overstated. Something remains to be said about the coaching in the second quarter. Namely that either the coaches made adjustments or the Lakers youngsters started losing some composure. The Lakers were showing inexperience by making some poor choices resulting in turnovers and the Rockets collective youth showing up a bit. This resulted in a pretty unentertaining start to the quarter but it allowed the Rockets to draw things closer. The theme to the second quarter became physicality. Thankfully James Harden responded to this physicality with aggressive Euro-Step drives and forcing the issue with Kobe Bryant defending him. The Rockets took their first lead with 4:45 to go in the second quarter off Carlos Delfino's third three of the game with ample space to shoot. I can't wait for Clutchfans to post the highlight but at the 4:02 mark, Omer Asik's block on Kobe Bryant was beautiful. James Harden's drive on Kobe about midway through the second quarter seems to have ignited a Lakers run. Steven Nash played a major role in that as well with his passing and carving up the defense. Chandler Parsons looks like resolved to not let this game slip too far away from the Rockets, though, as he continued to attack the basket. Houston rolls into the half trailing 62-59.
The Rockets came out in the third quarter making the same stupid mistakes they made in the first half. The Lakers are absent Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard yet the Rockets still refuse to drive to the hoop and attempt a shot. I get it, you like to share the ball. That should not come at the expense of getting the already depleted Laker front line into foul trouble. The Rockets turn the ball over on their first few possessions for attempting crappy dump off passes in traffic when they were already in the air on the way to the basket. About midway through the third quarter the Rockets began to get aggressive and attack the basket again the game knotted up at 69 a piece with 6:18 to go in the third quarter because of it. The pace of the game picked up nearing the end of the third and it began to clearly favor the Houston Rockets. The Rockets lead the NBA in pace, by the way. Fortunately the Rockets also got the benefit of the Lakers missing shots that were going down earlier in the night. Housotn went up 87-80 on a 14-2 run with 2:37 left in the third quarter thanks in no small part to their aggressive driving opening up their three point shooters. It's amazing what can happen when you decide to be aggressive against a team that can't block your shot. Rockets fans should know considering we played that way for two years. With 1:09 in the third quarter James Harden joins Moses Malone for most consecutive games with 25 or more points (13 straight). The quarter ended on perhaps the polar opposite from its beginning. The Lakers cooled off, the Rockets began attacking, the chemistry began to shine through for the boys in white. The quarter ends on a 23-10 run and the Rockets go up 96-88.
Patrick Patterson kicked off the fourth quarter by showing how badly he wants his starting spot back. He skies over Sacre for the rebound and gets the and-one put back. Chandler Parsons went down at the 9:23 clutching his stomach after taking a knee to the gut. The team's dreaminess factor immediately declined by 80% and he took his 20 points with him. For a guy who has battled illness you hate to see him go down like that. Fortunately Chandler did check back in after the TV timeout. Jeremy Lin impressed me in the second half and it began to really stand out here in the fourth quarter where he showed a great deal of aggression. I really liked Jeremy's drive where he hits the ground screaming for joy and the first guy over to him was an exuberant Chandler Parsons helping him up and celebrating. This is what the Houston Rockets have become and I could not be happier with that scene. Clyde and Bill, as much as I hate listening to them, brought up the simple fact that the Rockets are at their best when Lin attacks the basket and pushes the tempo. Anyone else remember when people were wondering whether or not Lin and Harden could work together?
All in all this game had everything you really want to see in Rockets basketball when it's all said and done. There was the usual ugly 18 turnovers and frustrating play but you know what? So long as the #LakeShowIsCanceled I really don't care. Let's toss out the game awards:
Game Ball - James Harden: 31 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds. 13 consecutive games over 25 points and the dude is just ice cold. I love it.
Spark Plug - Jeremy Lin: 19 points, 5 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals. I'm looking the other way on the 7 turnovers because after the schooling he got from Steve Nash he took the final exam in the fourth quarter and aced it.
Jeremy Lin Kick to the Groin - Omer Asik: 2 points, 5 rebounds. You're better than this.
Triage Award - Carlos Delfino: 19 points, 6 rebounds. His threes clawed the Rockets back into this game and did some major work for Houston tonight. I don't think that without Delfino keeping us alive the Rockets don't win this game.
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