The Rockets took care of business, 110-100, in a classic dog-days, late-season slog of a road game on the road against the Indiana Pacers.. It wasn't very pretty, but Houston avoided a letdown, thanks to the Beard.
Leading with James Harden would be boring and predictable if it wasn't absolutely necessary. The MVP did MVP things, scoring 44 points with 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He was 21-22 from the FT line. When the game tightened up in the fourth quarter, it was Harden who put the team on his back, nailing a couple of huge threes and hitting a stepback jumper or two to put the game to bed.
The Rockets played two and a half quarters of dominant basketball tonight against a pretty bad basketball team. True to form, however, they had to let said pretty bad basketball team back into the game in the second half - and then a little bit again at the end.
Patrick Beverley sprained his wrist early in the third quarter (uh-oh) -- then all hell broke loose. Jason Terry made ordinary point guards look like All-Stars, but it wasn't all his fault.
Oh, that third quarter. There are many words I could use to describe it, but I'll go with suckfest. The Rockets clearly came out of halftime completely complacent, lulled to sleep by a comatose arena and a lackluster Pacers performance. They turned the ball over six times, giving Indiana an easy way back into the game. Houston gave 12 points of a 14-point halftime lead back before stretching it back to an eight-point lead to close the quarter.
Josh Smith was essential again tonight. He had a couple of ghastly moments in the middle of the third quarter garbage fire, but he was 4-6 from three and finished with 18 points. He also played great defense on David West, who only had 10 points on 4-13 shooting.
Donatas Motiejunas was also excellent, with 17 points. He drew one of the toughest matchups in the NBA tonight in Roy Hibbert. He did get outmuscled on the boards and on defense by Hibbert (who had 18 and 10) but he turned the craftiness meter up to eleven to get his offense:
He also had himself a buzzer beater, since you asked:
Boy, were the Rockets lucky their two big men came to play tonight, becuase the backcourt beyond Harden was absoultely abysmal. Beverley was pretty good before the injury, but Jason Terry had an awful night. I mentioned the defense, but let me reiterate -- he was unbelievably bad on defense tonight. He hit a couple of shots, but he also had a couple of ugly turnovers.
Trevor Ariza was sick today, so we can excuse his disappearing act. Pablo Prigioni only made it into the game in the fourth quarter, and he didn't make much of an impact. Corey Brewer finished with 11 points, but he was out of control in the half court offense, taking some dumb shots and coughing up the ball a couple times. He also got lost in the rotations on defense, giving up open threes at times. It was not his best night.
James Harden was a picture of efficiency, as usual, on the offensive end, but his defense was at last year's level. In general, the Pacers' guards got whatever they wanted for most of the game, and that falls on Harden and the ragtag bunch of point guards the Rockets throw out there every night.
Then again, it's impossible to give 100% every night in an 82-game season, and the Rockets were able to put the Pacers away at less than 100% effort, so here's hoping James was saving some defense for the playoffs.
Next up, another road game for the Rockets on Wednesday in the Smoothie King Center. (That's where the Pelicans play.)