James Harden and Chandler Parsons combine for 60 points. An amount rivaled by the Timberwolves Corey Brewer who dropped an everyday 51 points to power Minnesota to a 112 - 110 win over the playoff bound Rockets.
It is extremely difficult to summarize tonight's game without two general thoughts:
The Rockets defense has regressed at the worst possible time, but we can't pass judgement on it without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley (or whatever version of him we're going to get).
We want home court advantage in the playoffs against the Trailblazers and each game like tonight's matters. We didn't look like a competitive playoff team tonight and that's frustrating, but has to be acknowledged only after seeing our injury report.
- The Rockets absolutely ceded the first quarter. The Timberwolves scored 39 points in that quarter behind 18 points by Brewer. Without Dwight the team has frequently come out flat. Gone are those early spurts where Terrence Jones appears invincible and the Rockets threes start falling right out the gate.
- I frequently use the phrase "matador defense." Tonight's perimeter defense qualifies. I'm going to relay this stat: Brewer scored 19 baskets tonight. 16 of those were layups or dunks. He airballed two three pointers in this game. At the end of the night, his shot didn't have to falling. The perimeter defense let him get to the rack or allowed a Rubio move to the basket and produce a bucket from an on the move Brewer.
- The lack of perimeter defense put Asik in foul trouble while he tried to guard the house. That just means we have T-Jones and D-Mo manning the middle, which is usually a recipe for less intimidation and more fouls. Brewer took full advantage by hitting the charity stripe a career high 15 times.
Top Note: Any combo of 2 two wins or 2 Portland losses clinches home court advantage.
Let's replay those final plays:
The Rockets are down two and Jeremy Lin awkwardly fouls Ricky Rubio, who had missed four free throws already that night. Rubio goes one for two. A Harden-Parsons one-two creates a wide open Parsons dunk to create a one point game.
Rubio gets fouled again on the inbound but makes both free throws. It's a three point game when James Harden drills a coldblooded game tying three. Elation all around.
On the ensuing play Ricky Rubio throws a garbage pass that bounces off of two Rockets in the lane and lands in the hands of rookie Gorgui Dieng. Who calmly drains a virtual putback shot from inside the free throw line.
With four seconds on the clock and no timeouts, James Harden charges down the court and loses the ball. The Rockets don't even get a shot up leaving us with a two point loss.
A dramatic ending to say the least.
The Rockets walked in tonight without Dwight Howard and without Patrick Beverley, but with serious implication for the game. Before the game we had a one and a half game lead on the Portland Trailblazers with the fourth seed hanging in the balance.
The Timberwolves took the court without Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. Not exactly a feared lineup: Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Robbie Hummel, Dante Cunningham & Gorgui Dieng. With JJ Barea coming off a back injury that put him out of their most recent game.
Close observers of the Rockets wouldn't have been surprised to see Carlos Delfino come off the bench tonight. With the exception of Omri Casspi and four minutes from Isaiah Canaan this team looked just like the 2012 - 2013 Rockets. Which was able to stay in games when shots went their way, but had very limited defensive abilities or patterns.
Tonight that gave way to Mr. Corey Brewer... And his franchise record 51 points. How'd that happen? Here's three quick thoughts on that:
That's that. Congrats to Corey Brewer on a career game. Please celebrate responsibly and don't taunt Kobe on Twitter. I see that ending poorly for you.
Brewer's 51 points surpasses Carmelo Anthony's 45 for the most points a player has scored against the Rockets this year.
James Harden the point guard:
Jeremy Lin made the opposite of good decisions with the basketball this evening -- I think those are also known as bad decisions. The offense had no flow when the ball was in his hands and Kevin McHale made a switch to James Harden the point guard. Lin ended the game with a single assist and five turnovers. I'll commend him for shooting 3 of 6 from three and thought his shot looked better than it did a month ago, but it comes down to his decisions. They were not The Good this evening.
Reminiscent of last year the Rockets offense picked up serious steam led by Harden and Parsons. The dribble penetration created open shots, but there were most definitely some old hero ball elements that make a close observer nervous for the playoffs.
In the end Harden, 33p, and Parsons, 27p, put together 60 points including most of the second half heroics.
Also, can Donatas Motiejunas please listen to audio of Bill Walton saying "throw it down big man" on repeat? It is startling how afraid he is to attack the rim for a dunk or a foul. He has a soft shooting touch, which you would usually consider a positive attribute, but I'm beginning to consider a liability under the basket. Robin Lopez doesn't give a shiz about how deft your footwork is under the basket. He's going to put a hard body into you under the basket in the playoffs and you need to draw a foul off the contact, not avoid it #EndRant.
The play of the game definitively goes to Terrence Jones for this behind the back pass for a slam: