The Rockets looked very sluggish in the first half of this game–it was the most sluggish they’ve looked in a while, I thought. I was concerned about this game and was pretty sure the Rockets would lose the game by halftime, but the fan in me was hoping that they’d talk things over and come out running in the second half. I missed the first half of the third quarter, so not sure how they managed to cut the Bucks lead to 3. It looks like they had some help from the Bucks who couldn’t hit a basket and kept turning the ball over–at least that’s what the announcers were saying.
Lin had one of his worst games in a while. I didn’t see what he did in the third quarter when he got hurt. I only saw him again in the fourth quarter with the five stitches. Lin did manage to turn things up in the fourth quarter. I thought he got robbed when he was called for a foul jumping for a lose ball against Udoh (I think it was) in the fourth. I don’t see how he could have possibly fouled Udoh (he had his back to Udoh). It looked like he just out jumped Udoh and knocked away a loose ball. But I think the refs just didn’t believe that Lin could out jump Udoh, so they just called a foul. They didn’t replay the foul, so I can’t really say for sure that Lin didn’t foul Udoh. Anyway, not a big deal, since that didn’t end up being a factor in the game. I gotta give McHale props again for sticking with Lin and putting Lin on the court to finish the game in the fourth quarter. Douglas did well, so I thought McHale might end up benching Lin in the fourth. I wouldn’t have blamed McHale for benching Lin tonight. But he didn’t and it paid off. Lin played aggressively in the fourth quarter and racked up a lot of assists. Lin is still passing out a little too much when he gets in the lane. He should learn to draw fouls like Harden. The key is to keep the ball high and dare the defender to knock the ball out of your hands. This is what Harden does and the defender often ends up hitting his arm when they try and swat the ball. The refs see it and they call a foul. Refs look for these things, so it’s an easy call for them to make. Lin’s problem is that he often brings the ball down to adjust to the defender’s hand position. As a result, he forces up a wild shot or he has no shot, because the ball is in too awkward of a position (down by his waist) to put up a shot. So Lin just passes it out to a shooter. It’s fine if he does this a fair number of times, but he does it a little too much–especially in tonight’s game.
Tonight’s win was a good mental win for the Rockets. They were able to finish strong on the road after a very sluggish start against a dangerous team. It was a good test for this young squad and they passed. They had some help from the Bucks, who played terribly in the second half. After the first half, I thought it was going to be one of those games that the Rockets were just going to let themselves get rolled over. We couldn’t get anything going in the first half. I think our stagnant ball movement had a lot to do with Lin not playing aggressively in the first half. A lot of our guys also couldn’t hit shots. So for them to turn it around so completely in the second half on the road is a good mental win. In the second half, they looked like the team that they’ve been since the Knicks game. I couldn’t recognize them in the first half. It was painful to watch.
Rockets have a bunch of road games in January with very little practice time, so I’m hoping they’re at a stage now where they have a clear sense of their identity and can continue to play their game without constant reminding from the coaching staff. In the first half of tonight’s game, it looked like they forgot who they were. There was no ball movement and no player movement. So I’m very happy that they needed only a locker room halftime session to turn things around in dramatic fashion.
A big night for Delfino. He got some revenge on his team. So, so far every Rockets player has had revenge on their former team, except Harden (and Aldrich/Cook). I was anticipating that Delfino would have a big night tonight and he delivered. He finished with 22 point, including a drive in dunk. He was nearly perfect from three point (6 – 7) and shot 8 of 11 from the field. Harden was magnificent, once again. He’s been performing at such a high level for like 10+ consecutive games. Harden and Lin both had four steals, each. Douglas also had a great game, including 6 quick and easy fast break lay ins to finish with 18 points. Also, it’s so great to see 2Pat back in form. He’s had two great consecutive games off the bench and is showing that he deserves his starting job back. At the beginning of the game, I thought McHale should have started 2Pat over Morris, because I thought 2Pat would have matched up better with the guy the Bucks decided to start, which was Udoh, I believe. I wanted McHale to quickly switch Morris out for 2Pat after Morris committed an early foul, but he didn’t. Who knows, we may even have played better in the first half if 2Pat was starting. We’ll see what happens going forward. I don’t think the coaching staff themselves know who they want for the starting job. Maybe they’ll keep things fluid and decide on who to start, depending on the match up or maybe on who has the hot hand. Right now, with Delfino, 2Pat, Smith, and Douglas, we have a pretty solid second unit. We even got to see the new guy Anderson tonight. I don’t know much about this guy, but if he is a solid perimeter shooter, then he’ll fit in just fine with our club. I’m hoping he can give Harden some rest. We’ll see. It’s unfortunate that we won’t have too many practices coming up to get Anderson up to speed. As a result, I’m not sure how much of him we’ll see. Hopefully, we take care of business against the Cavs early tomorrow and Anderson can get some burn to see what he can do. Tonight, I saw him forcing up a shot that he shouldn’t have taken in garbage time. By the way, the Rockets did horribly in garbage time tonight.
The Boy with the Dragon Tattoo:
Harden joins in on Lin and Parson’s pregame “handshake”: