Harden was the key, taking it to the Lakers in a variety of ways. He scored 32 points on 17 shots, with 6 assists and no turnovers. Harden was getting anywhere he wanted on the court against Wesley Johnson and Kobe Bryant. He took and missed a handful of contested looks and hit 15-16 free throws, and he had one sweet no-look pass to Trevor Ariza in the corner.
The Rockets dominated a clearly inferior team on this night. Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones manhandle the Lakers' frontcourt of Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle. When Howard was on the floor, he was dominant, but he played only 21 minutes after foul trouble in the first half and a blowout in the fourth quarter. He finished 13 points and 11 rebounds, but shot 7-16 from the free throw line. The comfortable, high-arcing shot he displayed in the free throw was abysmal.
The other members of the starting lineup impressed, particularly Jones and Ariza. Jones had a double-double in the first half and finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals. He was facing the afore-mentioned horrible defense, but he did what he should do and wrought havoc. He was terrifyingly active on the offensive glass and looked impressive finishing around the hoop.
Ariza looked confident in his shot -- 5-8 from deep will do that -- and had a few great dribble fakes that completely fooled Kobe. While Chandler Parsons was choking away the Mavericks' shot at a season-opening win on the other side of the state, Ariza was fitting in beautifully, holding Kobe to 6-17 shooting and 19 points. Encouraging start for him as a cog of this team.
McHale revealed who will be his choices off the bench: Jason Terry, Kostas Papanikolaou, Donatas Motiejunas and Tarik Black. Black played 24 minutes with Dwight in foul trouble, and got just 2 points and 2 boards. He's not close to the shot blocker Dwight is, but he impressed me with his knowledge of positioning. He committed four fouls, but he played good D. Would love to see him matched up against real big men.
No Troy Daniels or Isaiah Canaan until garbage time, and no Francisco Garcia at all tonight. Disappointed, but everyone expected McHale to trust Terry over the young guys. To his credit, Terry hit 2-3 three-pointers, but I'm rooting for Daniels and/or Canaan to eventually supplant him in the final rotation.
We're 1-0 and Game 2 is tomorrow night against the Jazz What were you guys most impressed with?