The Houston Rockets are finally at .500, you guys! Bang a gong, we're at .500 and finally looked like a really good team again. The confidence was all there tonight, and Houston cruised to a 126-97 win.
The Rockets finally beat up on a bad team like a Western Conference playoff team should, paced by James Harden's 30 points. Dwight Howard also looked as good as he has all season, with an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double without playing the fourth quarter.
Clint Capela and Dwight both looked beastly on the defensive end, and Capela dunked everywhere once again (he had his own double-double with 11 points and 10 boards). He still has room to fill out, and when he does he will be impossible to handle on the inside. He's already got great hands and a good feel for passing in the paint.
Let's talk about the bench though, because they were more helpful than the stats may show. The game was put away, amazingly, as early as the second quarter when the bench squad stretched the starters' lead on 11 straight points by Marcus Thornton, who did his patented microwave act and finished with 18 points. When the Lakers got back in sniffing distance early in the fourth quarter, it was Thornton who hit a couple of threes to tread water until Harden came in and relieved him.
Thornton and Harden should never play together, which is not a criticism of Marcus, I swear. He has exactly the kind of aggressiveness that all other Rockets have lacked without Harden dominating the ball. Someone's gotta put shots up, and though Thornton runs extremely hot and cold, his rhytms approximate Harden's and give the rest of the team a comfort level.
As far as other reserves, Ty Lawson showed some life in the first half, but it was short-lived. He remains an enigma. But in rosier news, Donatas Motiejunas is really, truly back! Look at this hook:
He's still on a severe minutes restriction, but it shouldn't be long until he surpasses Terrence Jones (still lost out there offensively) in the rotation. Donuts also had a great couple of interior passes to Dwight. He makes the offense look so much better when he's out there, maybe because he passes out of the interior every so often. *pointedly stares at T-Jones* He finished with a season-high 11 points on 4-4 shooting.
And the Rockets finally had a comfortable enough game to get KJ McDaneils some minutes! He had a huge alley-oop dunk on a lob from Thornton, and even hit a three! An above-the-break three, no less! Why Brewer still plays 25 minutes a game while KJ withers away is beyond me.
You couldn't escape it if you watched the game -- Kobe Bryant was in the building on his farewell tour, and he actually played very well! Not on defense, but you know, he ain't got time for that no more. The Toyota Center crowd was filled with Kobe stans just like every arena has, and they went home happy. It was good to see Kobe hit some shots, all without threatening to, you know, actually beat the Rockets.
The Rockets' next game is on Monday night up in the altitude in Denver, where the Nuggets will likely be without rookie Emmanuel Mudiay. If the Rockets are really back, they'll continue to handle their business.