This is, as they say, why you watch the games, though. The Rockets started out possibly asleep, or deeply uninterested. They sportingly spotted Sacramento a quarter of just not caring, jacking bad shots, and turning the ball over, while also not playing much defense. Sacramento responded with their three point shooting specialists, Buddy Hield and Bogdan, Son of Bogdan launching 3pt attempts that barely seemed to stir the net on their way through.
The first quarter ended with the Kings up 36 to 23. Mike DAntoni put in the bench, specifically Austin Rivers, playing on what he deemed a personal home court. Rivers, and Jeff Green, kept the Rockets in the game until the rest of the team woke up. Rivers along with, of course, James Harden, got the Rockets a lead by half-time. Rivers then proceeded to go crazy in the second half. He dunked two-handed after breaking down the defense, he drained Hardenesque step-back three point shots. He scored a ton of layups, after beating his man with a quick first step.
By the time the game ended Austin Rivers had a new career high in points, with 41, in 33 minutes. He also notched 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. Rivers went 6-11 from three, and 14-20 overall. Evidently the last time a Rockets bench player scored 40+ points was Sleepy Floyd, in 1991. You can be forgiven for not knowing, or forgetting that Sleepy ever played for the Rockets. Eric Gordon’s 50pt night this season came as a starter, with Harden and Westbrook out.
James Harden had a ho-hum night (by the standards of James Harden, exclusively):
32pts, 8rbs, 7ast, 3stl, 1blk in 33 minutes. Yes, that’s a big game for most players, but it’s a slightly off night for Harden. James Harden, renown for not playing defense, is now the NBA steals leader. While steals aren’t defense in themselves, they’re certainly a part of it, and two Rockets, Harden and Robert Covington, are in the top five of the NBA for the statistic.
When the Rockets focus, and play hard, they’re tough. Sacramento managed just 15pts in the third quarter, as Houston put the game out of reach. The Kings did manage 41 points in the fourth, but not when the game was at all in question.
The closing minutes of this game featured appearances by the deep bench: Chris Clemons, Bruno Caboclo, Luc Mbah a Moute (scoring on an amazingly awkward drive). Benchie Michael Frazier got real minutes at 18, and played usefully.
This suggests the question, once again, of: “What’s happened to Demarre Carroll?” It is unclear, but he’s definitely glued to the bench if he can’t get in a game like this, late, when Bruno Caboclo is wandering around, fouling everyone.
There’s a suggestion that both Eric Gordon and Russell Westbrook will return for the next game, against the Spurs. It would be nice to get Gordon going like Austin Rivers, as the Rockets bench would then be terrifying.
Former King Ben McLemore dropped 20pts tonight on his former team, mostly from three point range, as is usual for him. Jeff Green had another solid night, and seems to be getting the hang of the PNR partnership with Harden. The fact that Green can curl off the pick to shoot, as well as roll to the basket, could be worth real points to the Rockets down the road in the playoffs.
For now, a night that started as a farce, ended as one as well, but with the roles reversed.
Another season ends without the playoffs for the Kings, and I for one, wish them and their fans well. They deserve a better team, with better management, and coaching. There is talent to build around, with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, but someone needs to put a team around them.
Will history record tonight as: "The Beginning of The Time of The Age of The Epoch of The Century of The Fated Foretold Destiny of Austin Rivers’ Utter Dominance of The NBA"?
This poll is closed
For how not?
So it was written, so it was done.
And so ended the short reign of Luka as Media Darling. NBAtv was renamed "The Austin Rivers Channel".