James Harden played one of his worst games of the season, messed around and got a triple-double anyway, but it wasn’t enough to lift his Houston Rockets over the San Antonio Spurs. Final score: 106-100.
The game started out slowly. The Rockets scored 40 points in the first half, by far their worst start of the season. They shot 31.8 percent from the floor and 20 percent from deep. And yet, they were down just 9 points. Against the Spurs.
They had several runs in the second half where it looked they might overtake their Texas neighbors. They cut it to a point, they cut it to four points late in the fourth quarter after going down 15.
There were listless moments that plagued them. Clint Capela had a good game on the glass, but there were shades of Dwight Howard last season — setting screens, then moving nowhere — that I hope are fatigue related. He and Nene actually did well on the boards tonight, but they couldn’t stop anything at the rim. LaMarcus Aldridge missed a lot of jumpers but Pau Gasol and David Lee ate up the Rockets’ bench for stretches.
The only reason the Rockets were in this game was because of Eric Gordon going super saiyan. He had a huge jam and was 7-12 from the game, tying his career high in three-pointers; I don’t see a way he doesn’t break that personal record this season. He can shoot. He had one play where Harden threw a pass to his ankles and he had a defender closing out on him, and he raised up and buried it anyway. He finished with 27 and is now averaging 16.7 points a game.
Eric Gordon providing a spark... starting with this thunderous dunk. pic.twitter.com/Mesnn1YYbO— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) November 13, 2016
Harden had 7 turnovers in this game, including two on travels (one of which was painfully obvious, and he argued it anyway). He was sloppy for long stretches, and couldn’t get comfortably open for his shot much. Credit the Spurs for employing Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, who are long and tough and give Harden problems every time.
It didn’t stop him from carving up Gasol and Aldridge in the pick and roll. I almost felt bad for them. Every time they switched onto him, it took approximately two seconds for him to go right by them and either get a foul or hit Clint Capela and/or an open shooter. He had 13 assists in a game the Rockets shot 38.2 percent. He could have easily had 18 or 20. His pass recipients missed oodles of wide open looks.
Again, this was one of his worst games this season. Twenty-five points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds. Corey Brewer shot 0-3 and was a -9 in 16 minutes.
Sam Dekker, who was a revelation on Wednesday night against the Spurs, did not do much better. He had a couple of nice sequences, and hit a three-pointer (better than we can say for Brewer or K.J., who is shooting just as poorly) but he still is not a good team or individual defender. I will say this: Brewer is better at defense than Dekker, and D’Antoni does not like playing the Wisconsin product at the three, and he’s never put Ariza at the 2. This is what the Rockets will be until Patrick Beverley returns.
That could be soon. But the Rockets get to sleep in their beds another couple of nights before the fun but bad Sixers roll into town on Monday.
The Rockets are 5-4, and, frankly, I’m more optimistic now than I was before the season started. The Spurs are one of the best teams in the league and their length always gives Harden problems, yet the Rockets just split a home-and-home against them in games where several of their other players also shat the bed (those with sensitive stomachs shouldn’t look at Ryan Anderson’s shooting line tonight).
The Rockets are a good team. They shouldn’t hover around .500 all of last season. They will be fun to watch all season. Every single game has been enjoyable, even against the Wizards. Chins up, friends. Losses suck, but this one sucks less than others.