Apologies for the delayed game posting. Just been busy with holiday festivities.
I didn’t get a chance to see this entire game. I only started watching with less than 5 minutes or so to go in the second quarter, so I missed Chandler’s 18-point first quarter performance. When I turned on the game, I was very surprised to see the Rockets ahead by 3 and that was after the Knicks went on an 11 to 2 run. Because the Rockets had looked pretty bad against the Lakers and the Jazz (and they weren’t great against the Bulls, either), I expected the Rockets to get blown out by the Knicks.
However, before their Lakers and Jazz performance, I expected the Rockets to be as good as they were last night, ever since the beginning of the season. But they hadn’t looked good, lately, so I thought it would take a lot more time for the Rockets to show their full potential. Last night, the Rockets really shocked me by playing up to their potential. Although they’ve had stretches or quarters in previous games where they were firing on all cylinders offensively or defensively, this is the first game in which the Rockets were on for a full 48 minutes on both ends of the court. The Knicks looked like they were just not expecting the Rockets to be that good, so I think that may have contributed to the blow out. I think the Knicks under-estimated the Rockets. But that’s a little surprising, because I would think that it would be a game that the Knicks would really want to win, just as much as Lin did. So I’m not sure if it’s accurate to say that the Knicks just didn’t show up. I think Knicks simply got outplayed. The Rockets exposed their poor defense, which was is surprising to me, because Woodson is all about defense. I haven’t watched the Knicks all season, so I have no idea how they play. I’ve just been seeing them win game after game, so I figured they were good. But last night, they looked like the Knicks of last season–except they were much better shooters.
Parsons and Asik had the best games of their careers and Harden had one of his best games, as well. Lin did better than he has done in weeks and even hit a three point shot. His first, probably since the air ball in Miami. I think that air ball has had a huge impact on Lin’s game, because ever since then he’s been shooting terribly. Hopefully, that three he hit last night stops his awful shooting slump and he can get back to being an adequate shooter from the field. Of course, Lin really wanted to do well last night and, although he wasn’t stellar by any means compared to his teammates, he definitely stepped up from his terrible performance as of late. So that’s going to do a lot to boost his confidence. Maybe this is just the “breakout game’ that Lin needed. I’m sure Lin was just as concerned as I was about facing the Knicks. Now that it resulted in the Rockets not just winning but obliterating the Knicks, I’m sure that will have a significant positive impact on Lin’s psyche. I thought coach Sampson really looked out for Lin tonight, knowing that Lin really wanted to do well against the Knicks. Sampson gave Lin more playing time than he has since he took over for McHale. I know the total minutes didn’t speak to that, but that’s because most of the fourth quarter was garbage time. So the fact that Lin played 35 minutes in basically three quarters says that Sampson really wanted this game to be a confidence booster for Lin. Sampson also left Lin in the game for the last possession before halftime without Harden and let Lin make a play, which resulted in a wide wide open three for Douglas. So I’m happy to see the Rockets continuing to experiment with the ball in Lin’s hands at the end of quarters. In the post game interview, Sampson said that Lin played with swag and that he was really happy to see that. Even though Sampson doesn’t have full confidence in Lin, I think he is a Lin supporter, who wants to see Lin play aggressively if it will help the team. So it’s really up to Lin to do well. I think he has a pretty good support network in Houston. He’s the only one who can get himself out of his shooting slump. And really that’s the only thing he needs to get better at. He’s solid in all other aspects of his game. Just needs to be able to shoot adequately to keep the defense honest.
The last two games have been huge for the Rockets psychologically. They gutted out a grinder against a rugged Bulls team in which they won the game even though they did a lot of things wrong and they blew out the team with the best record in the NBA. These two wins are huge confidence boosters. Hopefully, the Rockets will build on these two wins. As great as the Rockets looked last night, they have potential for more, because Lin is still not playing up to Lin’s capabilities. Once Lin gets his rhythm back and starts being an adequate shooter, the Rockets can become even more dangerous. So it’s really all up to Lin, because he’s the only key Rockets player that has been struggling. I feel like all the other key Rockets guys have been consistently solid. Parsons really struggled at the beginning of the season, but he’s really come alive since then and has been playing well above expectations. All the work he did off-season has really paid off. Harden has done a great job of playing his game again after a short stretch where he was forcing things too much and playing hero ball. I think Harden has figured how to play within the flow of the offense, which is something he’s always done and is starting to be more efficient, again. Asik has been the most consistently solid and is continuing to improve his offensive game. He’s making concerted efforts to go hard to the rim and dunk the ball like a powerful center, rather than finessing his shots. Lin is the only key player who has been struggling consistently. So the Rockets won’t be able to play to their potential until Lin can get out of his shooting slump and can keep the defense honest. Once Lin does this, the the Rockets can be the team that I envisioned them to be at the beginning of the season, when I said that they’d be a lock to make the playoffs. If Lin doesn’t improve, then I think the Rockets will continue to be up and down all season long and finish slightly under 500.