Earlier in the season the Rockets would have lost this game. Hell, in December wunderkid Luka Doncic dropped 11 points in the final two minutes erasing a Houston lead and giving Harden and crew a loss.
Tonight James Harden and Chris Paul left their shot at home. They went a combined 9-36 from the field and 5-23 from deep. Harden broke his 28 point game streak with JUST 20 points.
Harden’s point shortfall is a credit to tonight’s referees. In the first 10 seconds of the second half he was tagged with a fifth foul. It was his third consecutive offensive foul call, with the fourth coming in the closing minutes of the first half. This relegated to Harden to the bench, but he returned in the third quarter and logged 34 minutes total.
Chris Paul’s poor shooting will be forgotten with his game saving block. Yes. This is a real sentence. In the game’s final second Jalen Bruson went one-on-one against Paul only to have his mid-range shot blocked by the diminutive floor general.
The play was emblematic of the two halves of the Rockets season. In the first half of the year the Rockets likely would have folded at some point in this game, but with a win streak and James Harden MVP campaign urging them on they found a way to win.
Some thoughts on the game:
- Iman Shumpert looked like James Ennis. He logged just five minutes where he accumulated 3 fouls, but largely looked out-of-place and lost.
- Eric Gordon dropped 26 which saved the game for Houston. When he shows up for Houston with 20 or more points the Rockets win.
- PJ Tucker is a horse and played like it.
- Luka Doncic was impressive, just and assist short of a triple double. But the inferiority of his teammates was evident and he came up short in his attempts to control the game on the offensive end.
- Maxi Kleber played surprisingly good defense on James Harden. I watched the Mavs broadcast and it’s what they spent most of the game talking about.
- Dirk Nowitzki was run off the floor for the most part. Wish we got to see more of him, but it’s clear his mobility is gone.
- Kenneth Faried missed tonight’s game with a hip injury and Gary Clark logged a DNP.