There have been as many reasons for hope as there have been for despair during this Rockets season, believe it or not. There was the streak where the Rockets bounced back from that historically bad start and got to 4-3. There have been multiple times where the Rockets reached .500, including a huge win over San Antonio on Christmas. And then, last week there were two really solid team wins over a good Utah Jazz team.
If you only watched the first 18 minutes of the game against the Indiana Pacers, that hope would've sustained. Patrick Beverley continued his great-as-of-late shooting. In fact, the whole team was hitting a high percentage, mostly because they worked the ball around and took good, open shots. The Rockets played genuinely great halfcourt defense that forced the Pacers into bad, covered shots, and those shots turned into fastbreak opportunities galore. Houston looked like a team that was waiting to finally blow out a team that they were just flat better than.
But, you just can't trust this Rockets team to do that, just like you can't trust those aforementioned hopeful moments. When Dwight left the game in the second quarter, the defense disappeared. A 9-2 run for the Pacers and some continued lack of effort left the Rockets down 2 at the half, 50-48.
Then the real sloppy play began. Dwight Howard had a handful of goaltends. Trevor Ariza threw an alley-oop to Terrence Jones, and he didn't even jump for it. Through 3 quarters, the Rockets turned the ball over 18 times, one over their season average. Granted, this would all have been passable, if not watchable had Houston not been 4-22 from the field in the third quarter.
Down 13 in the 4th, the Rockets started back into their patented late run. All year long we've seen this. Houston decides to start playing hard and they come back from double digits and cut it to under 5, and then the clock runs out and we--wait what? We came back? Trevor Ariza hit a game tying 3 off an actual possession in the final minute instead of a Harden iso? Word!
The Rockets had won 10 straight games in overtime coming into Sunday. This happens, usually, because of Houston's fast starts. Unfortunately, that start went Indy's way as they began the OT period with 3 straight layups.
And then, something just clicked for Houston. Beverley hit a three to put it within 2. Harden passed arguably the best pass of his career to Dwight to tie. Ariza hit a three to give the Rockets their first lead of the second half, then Corey Brewer added his own. After a couple huge defensive plays, the Rockets won 107-103. That hope that dwindled away so quickly in the second and third quarters came right back, and it was because of plays like this.
Rockets defied mine and all expectations. Rather than James Harden going iso-mode for the entire last 2 minutes, the team seemed to trust one another in a way that we haven't seen since last season. And, shocker, it was really, really fun, even if it was a January game that got the Rockets back to .500.
The Rockets head to Memphis to play the Grizzlies on Tuesday.