The Rockets won a hard-fought game and are now winners of three in a row and seven of their last 10 games. Below are three takeaways from the night.
The defense was on point
The Rockets, for a big chunk of the game held the Hornets to 30 percent shooting (they finished shooting 34.9 percent). The Rockets shut down the paint, only allowing 28 points. In the first half, Dwight Howard changed a lot of shots and protected the rim. Even Harden,who gets tagged with lazy defense all the time, showed up defensively during the win.
While the Rockets were aggressive and feisty on defense, it did lead to plenty of fouls. The Rockets kept the Hornets in the game due to putting them in the bonus earlier than normal.
The defense might be starting to trend in the right direction with it's third straight game holding an opponent to less 100 points. Considering the Rockets' pace of play, that's a really good trend.
Terrence Jones the man
Terrence "T-Rex" Jones was in the house on Monday night. Jones was a big factor in the team's win, finishing the night with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Jones was very aggressive and a force at times, dunking, blocking shots, rebounding and running the floor. The good play earned Jones a spot with the closing group (coinciding with Dwight's foul trouble and eventual sixth foul).
Jones made a bunch of big plays during the game, but perhaps his biggest was with the game on the line. With a minute and change left in the game Harden had the ball at the top of the key, Jones came over to set a pick but both defenders stayed with Harden. Jones then took off straight down the floor as Harden hit him in stride with a pass. Jones took the ball up strong to the hoop and while getting fouled, he was still able to get the ball to go down. That play gave the Rockets the lead and momentum to finish off the win.
Harden got pretty much whatever he wanted
Harden finished with 36 points on 9/16 shooting, 2/7 from three, and 16/19 on free throws on the night. Aside from settling from three every now and then, Harden could have had 60 points if he had felt like it.
Harden's offensive game was clicking on all cylinders; his drives to the basket game was almost flawless and very hard to stop. Plenty of Hornets could not stop themselves from smacking at Harden's hands as he drew tons of fouls. He even got three fouls on three-point attempts (thanks P.J. Hairston!).
There was however a handful of possessions in the game when Harden would spend 10-15 seconds in an ISO only to pass it off last second to teammate with only seconds on the shot clock. The shot that resulted after the Harden's pass was often bad, a last-second, forced shot. I have to think if instead of the ISOs, had Harden been aggressive like he was all night long it might not have made the game not so frighteningly close.