A lot of the drama was sucked out of tonight's game when we heard that the Spurs would be without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, and Marco Bellinelli. But no one thought the game would be THIS easy. After three quarters, the Rockets were up 81-55.
Harden and Howard dominated the game, with a big assist from Jason Terry. Those three combined to score 69 percent of Houston's points tonight. Past that, no one was really special for the Rockets on offense, but it really didn't matter.
Yes, the Rockets played great defense for the most part. But the Spurs just didn't have enough talent on the floor, going just 2-for-20 from three. That being said, the Rockets were slightly shorthanded too, with Terrence Jones sitting out a second straight game and Pat Beverley back on the bench after playing on Tuesday. But they had more than enough to cruise to a 98-81 that was never even as close as that score might imply.
Again, the Rockets didn't get any challenge on the inside. Bogut and David Lee on Saturday will be a different story. But without Duncan, Dwight had a huge night, with 32 points and 16 rebounds, despite sitting out most of the fourth quarter. He looked better physically than he has all season so far.
James Harden took a bit of a backseat to Howard in terms of the scoring, but he continued to display the improved defense and passing we've seen this season. He had three blocks tonight, and he's averaging over a block per game so far. Even when playing late into the third quarter (past when most thought he should have been taken out), he was getting back well defensively and staying active offensively. Oh, also he had this early dunk of the year candidate:
At this point, I'm willing to say that without Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin, two players who love to dribble and have the ball in their hands, James Harden has had the room he needs to fulfill all of his promise offensively. He obviously has the motor to shoulder such a large burden, and what's more, he allows all of his teammates to fulfill their promise.
The Beard is without question the team's true point guard, even though he had more turnovers (8) than assists (6) tonight (after all, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green still played, and they're steals machines). By the way, that can absolutely work - with the exception of Big Papa, it seems like every single other Rocket has an offensive game suited to working off the ball. And that includes Dwight Howard.
Even with the Rockets at 6-0, with double-digit wins in all six games, there's an alarm sounding in Houston. Not one player has proven to be even competent at filling in at center when Dwight sits. Tarik Black and Joey Dorsey look over-matched, D-Mo has showed even fewer hopeful flashes than we're used to, and Clint Capela showed why he hadn't played a minute until tonight. I'm glad he was out there, but he is nowhere near ready.
Omer Asik, though he was the least likely Rocket of all to stick around after last season, is definitely the biggest loss Houston's feeling right now. With the Rockets bench as thin as it is, even though JET looks healthy again and Big Papa has been a find, any help that would come via trade seems like it would have to come at the expense of draft picks.
So, even though the Rockets failed to reach 100 points for the first time this season, it was distinctly for lack of trying. They still are 6-0, they still look improved on both sides of the ball, and they still haven't proven anything for sure yet.
PS: This is what Kevin McHale wore to practice today (h/t Trey Kerby):
That's a killer polo/gym shorts/black socks combo. Dad game strong.