That was a largely pretty game by the Rockets. Every starter scored at least 12, and Dwight Howard went off for 32 against a Boston team that appeared well coached and well and truly outclassed.
Tonight saw a return to action for Chandler Parsons and it was immediately evident how much smoother the Rockets flow with him, both on offense and defense. His stats are good, but his overall contribution is crucial. The knock on effect of Parson's return is that Rockets bench players spend more time against other bench players, and that told as well with Omri Casspi chipping in 12pts, 6rbs and 3ast in 23 minutes. Casspi only had two questionable drives, and its really not his fault he's basically powerless against Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger.
But if Casspi was outweighed at PF the Celtics were simply dominated in the paint. Dwight Howard, even without Boston's donation of some HackAHoward points was heading for (I'd say) about a 26/11 night. Terrence Jones continues to show certain problems with defending and rebounding close to the rim. He also continues to show why he's possibly one of the most promising young power forwards in the NBA, adding 12pts, 12rbs, 2ast and 3blk.
James Harden looks like his old self, at last. He's moving freely, shooting well, and in the last two games, simply toying with most defenders. He chipped in a mere 16pts, 7reb, 3ast and 3(!)blk.
Also welcome was a real return to form from Jeremy Lin. He played good D, he drove the basket when the drive was there, and appeared to have a plan to shoot or pass pretty much every time. This is the best he's looked in quite some time and its a great thing to see him return to his strengths. He nearly recorded a double-double with 16pts, 9ast, 1rb, 3st and only one turnover.
Basically all the Rocket starters were a pleasure to watch, and the bench appeared to resume its role of being useful.
The Celtics looked like a team that is both well coached and locked-in for losing. They have all sorts of draft picks, cap room and other goodies to rebuild with. Rajon Rondo is looking to return, and that will add another non-scoring, good defending guard, which is clearly exactly what Boston needs. (I kid, he passes a little, too,)
Some Rockets fans will complain that the Rockets nearly blew a 20pt lead. I never felt like that was happening. The lead peaked at 20ish, but it spent most of its life around 15pts, which is roughly the margin tonight. Part of the joy of leads is that a team can slow down a bit and more or less coast in. Last game the Rockets did entirely too much coasting, tonight it was just enough.
Time for Bullet Points, The Lazy Man's Friend(tm)
- I don't like Jeryd Bayless, I've never liked his game, I've never liked him. Wherever he goes, and go he does, he strikes me as an ass, who is far too confident in his lower-middling (NBA level) abilities. He kinda, sorta, nearly, somewhat, lead Boston back with his combination of tackle basketball D (Thanks Joey Crawford - I hate you forever) and a stupid pull up mid-range runners that in true Jeryd Bayless fashion went in unerringly for a bit. Being Jeryd Bayless he continued to shoot that shot long past that time of improbable effectiveness. But hey, for a guy whose jersey should say "Not Courtney Lee's Contract" on the back, he's ok.
- Brad Stevens - you're the newest member of The Retracted Testicles Club. Membership is automatic when you deploy HackAHoward, and its for life. I hope that 1pt net gain was worth the permanent loss of your manhood. Now you can focus full-time on coaching, without the distractions of being an actual man!
- Boston Being Boston - at the end of the first half Boston inbounded the ball with around 8 seconds on the clock. The ball was not rolled in, it was thrown in close to the baseline and dribbled up court. I counted 1, then 2 seconds before the clock started while the Celtics were dribbling the ball. As the play turned out, Boston got a Joey Crawford Special bailout foul call with .2 seconds left, and made both FTs. Those were two points they should not have had. (And they messed up my score prediction.). If anyone wonders why I hate Boston sports teams, its this sort of crap (and so much more).