The Houston Rockets looked like the 2014 - 2015 version of themselves while routing the Los Angeles Lakers 112 - 95 on Sunday night at the Staples Center. The win moved the boys in red and yellow to 22-20 on the season and is their sixth win in seven games.
James Harden did beard stuff by assembling 31 points in the first three quarters powering a Rockets offense that led by 20 points in the third quarter. By holding their lead against an inferior opponent the Rockets broke an unfortunate season-long trend of coughing up winnable games and failing to hold solid leads.
Houston ran up the score, gave the Lakers a chance to get it all back, staved off a fourth quarter push and then let the bench mop everything up. It felt just like the 2014 - 2015 regular season.
Kobe Bryant hogged the attention span of spectators as his retirement tour continues. Gone is the pedantic Kobe Bryant vs. Dwight Howard story which dominated the 2013 - 2014 season after Howard bolted a simmering dumpster fire of a team for a championship contender.
Dwight Howard wasn't the headline of this game... and that's wrong. The big man did work in the paint all night and posted his ninth straight double-double. Over the Rockets last 10 games the much maligned man-child is averaging 18.9 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg and 1.2 spg and shooting 64.9% from the field and 59.3% from the free throw line (he shot 52.8% from the line last season).
Three straight threes from James Harden in the third quarter put the Lakers away. But the yeoman defensive work and rebounding of Howard is continually leaving the Rockets shooters in position to seize any game. Clint Capela deserves an edible fruit arrangement from Howard for shouldering part of the physical load down low, but teams continue to swarm Howard, not Capela, a telling nod to Howard's ceiling.
This resurgence is helping the team settle into better offensive rhythm and turning Howard rebounds into fastbreak points. Leave Dwight Howard alone.