With James Harden and Chandler Parsons sitting on the bench for the Rockets, a win over the Magic seemed to be anything but a sure thing. Halway into the game, however, victory seemed all but in hand. Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik paced Houston for the first three quarters, and the Rockets' reserves made just enough shots down the stretch to keep the Magic at bay as the Rockets took home a 111-103 victory.
Let's dig into this game a bit, looking at a couple of interesting phenomena in it.
Asik and Lin Catch Fire
With two of their four core starters on the bench with maladies, the Rockets had a reasonably tall task to take on the Magic tonight. Lin and Asik were up to the challenge, and they did not disappoint in their time on the floor.
From the start, Asik controlled the boards and was effective down low, aggressively scoring on the pick and roll and on cuts to the rim. Against a formidable foe in Nikola Vucevic, Asik excelled, showing the young center how much he still had to learn.
Lin, on the other hand, took a little bit of time to warm up, but once he did he kept the Rockets' offense humming at a high rate. He attacked the rim at ease, and hit his jumper more consistently as the night wore on.
In the end, both finished with double-doubles, and Asik likely would have challenged for a 20-20 night had McHale not rested him in the fourth quarter. With Harden and Parsons coming back in the near future, let's hope both can keep that going.
McHale Opts to Rest the Starters
In a minor meltdown, the reserves let a sixteen point fourth quarter lead diminish to just five points. McHale trusted the young bench players, letting them stay out and protect the lead, and they rewarded him, skating by with an 8 point victory.
As the season wears on, the long minutes Lin, Harden, Parsons, and Asik have sometimes had to play will wear on them more and more. With that in mind, it seems like McHale is making a conscious effort to get all of them more rest. It began with the Memphis game on Friday night, but has continued in recent days. Harden has been held out precautionarily the last two games, Parsons did not risk going tonight after his food poisoning, and Lin and Asik stayed glued to the bench even as the lead started to vanish.
If the Rockets had blown this game, McHale would be criticized heavily for not putting his starters in. However, a coach knows his team best, and the Rockets made enough plays when they had to to get by. With a huge road trip coming up, that strategy will pay dividends.