In the middle of a stretch of six games in eight days, the Rockets cruised to an easy win against the Nets on the road, giving their big-minutes players a rest. The 113-99 scoreline was closer than the game felt by the end, considering the last six minutes or so were pure garbage time. Even Alexey Shved got minutes!
After a somewhat tight first half, the Rockets turned on the defense and pulled away in the second half. With all the stops they were getting, they got out and ran - especially their new-and-improved second unit. There was a short Twitter poll tonight (@DreamShakeSBN, if you're curious) about what we should name this squad, led by Josh Smith, Corey Brewer and Jason Terry. I'm partial to the Headbandits or Headband of Brothers, myself. Poll below.
The Rockets scored 113 points tonight, and if you're wondering where all that offense came from, look no futher than their 40% mark from long range. They always shoot a lot, but when they hit at an actually-good rate, they are vicious.
The only Rocket who had an off night, Dwight Howard was not on his game - which is to say he was a victim of the inconsistency that has plagued him all year. He sat for most of the second half, and finished with 8 points and 5 rebounds in 28 minutes. What's more, the Brooklyn bigs ate him alive. Jump-shooting big men like the Gasol brothers, and now Brook Lopez, have had huge games against the Rockets, and a theme is most definitely emerging.
For comparison's sake, James Harden scored 30 points in 30 minutes, with 6 assists and 2 steals thrown in. No one could match up with him - it seemed like he barely broke a sweat. MVBeard continues.
Mason Plumlee scored a career-high 24 points against the Rockets, and the times where he shared the floor with Lopez were some of the Nets' most effective minutes. Considering that most metrics grade the Howard-Motiejunas frontline as elite defensively, this was eye-opening. And all this with Kevin Garnett getting ejected in the first quarter for headbutting Dwight.
Donuts had some wonderful defensive sequences on an individual basis (granted, that's some seriously anecdotal evidence), and once again he displayed incredible touch around the basket with both hands. He scored 18 points and brought down 11 rebounds, and led the team with nearly 37 minutes. His confidence is growing by leaps and bounds, in concert with Kevin McHale's confidence in him.
The Rockets have another winnable game coming up on Wednesday, facing the Magic on the road. and then things get rough. Two of their next six games are against the Warriors, and the healthy Thunder come to town as well. With luck, the Rockets can run away with their next game on Wednesday and be as fresh as possible for the big games to come.