Wow…just…wow! I think tonight might have been the best game the Rockets have had all season. They were great on both ends of the floor and they played with intensity for an entire 48 minutes. It probably also helped that the Jazz were pretty terrible, missing a couple of their key guys: Gordon Hayward and Mo Williams’. But I don’t think these guys would have made much of a difference.
This 45 point defeat eclipsed Utah’s previously worst home court loss set back in 1980 by 12 points. Whenever you win by 45 points, it’s stunning. What makes this even more stunning is how great Utah is at home. They’ve only lost 4 games at home prior to tonight and they’ve been rolling in January owning the fifth or so best record in January. The Rockets, on the other hand have had an awful January, due primarily to a grueling schedule, that left little practice time and a lot of tired legs. So for the Rockets to win in such dominating fashion was very stunning. And I’m sure for long time Rockets fans, this was probably one of the most satisfying wins as a Rockets fan, because of the bitterness Rockets fans have towards the Jazz that date back to Karl Malone. On the broadcast tonight, they mentioned that the teams that the Jazz have faced the most in the playoffs is Houston. So for the Rockets to hand the Jazz their worst home court defeat is something that I’m sure a lot of Rockets fans are still reveling.
Everything clicked for the Rockets tonight, but I want to start with Jeremy Lin. Jeremy started out playing very aggressive. He was penetrating and making plays for himself and for his teammates. He didn’t get to see the Sundance premier of Linsanity, but he was there to take questions and such at the end and was there for the standing ovation. Maybe taking part in that helped remind him of what Linsanity was all about, because Lin came out with more aggression in the first quarter than I’ve seen him all season with the exception of a couple of games, like the Knicks. He went into passive mode again in the second quarter, when Harden started heating up. Then in the third quarter, Lin started heating up again right when McHale took him out of the game for good. Still, Lin ended up with some solid stats: 12 points (Asik’s offensive goal tending took away 2 of Lin’s points), 7 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers in only 24:43 minutes. He was also a perfect 5 of 5 from the field and had a three pointer off a loose ball with time winding down. What was also very impressive about Lin tonight was his ability to help out and double team the Jazz Bigs without sacrificing his on-man defense. I think that was a big factor in shutting down the Jazz Bigs. Lin forced a great jump ball against Jefferson when he came down to help on defense (and the Rockets took possession after the jump ball). It reminded me of a jump ball that Lin forced against Zach Randolph. Harden had a very efficient game with 25 points (a perfect 8 of 8 from the free throw line) in 27:40 minutes (none of the starters played in the fourth). Almost all of Harden’s points were in the paint. It was like a layup drill for Harden. The Jazz just looked confused on defense all night.
Other notable performances of the night: Asik had 19 rebounds; Morris and Delfino were 4 for 6 from three point each.
Some notable team stats:
- All but two players had a +/- of 11 or more tonight
- Only 5 turnovers (also had 12 steals, so we had more steals than turnovers)
- 26 to 2 fast break points
- 16 of 34 from three-point (Delfino set the tone from three point)
- 42 points in the paint
The Rockets really needed this win, since the Jazz are a place ahead of them in the standings. With everything clicking tonight and also with an impressive win against the Nets, I think the Rockets are back. I think we can chalk up the losses in January to a grueling (dare I say unfair) schedule with a ridiculous number of back to backs and consecutive road games (no other team in the NBA had the ridiculous schedule that the Rockets had in January). Now that the schedule going forward is much more reasonable, I’m hoping this allows the Rockets to get some practice in in between games and start playing like they did back in December. The Rockets are a team that definitely need the practice time. Being a young squad, they need to be constantly reminded of how to play their brand of basketball, of where to be on the court. Spacing for this team is perhaps the most important aspect of their game, because it allows Lin and Harden room to maneuver and make plays. Spacing is all about knowing where you should be on the court at all times. Now it’s time to get some revenge on the Nuggets!
Here’s a well-written summary of the game from Rockets.com’s Jason Friedman:
“James Harden split the double-team and accelerated on his way into the paint before hurling himself into the air to unleash a ferocious, filthy and positively violent tomahawk dunk amid a crowd of helpless, sagging and slump-shouldered Jazz defenders. They knew. Everyone knew. Harden’s jam was not just thrown down in the mug of Utah’s players; it had been forcefully flushed in the faces of the entire franchise and its fan base. It was, of course, just a single play. But when the final horn sounded and the Rockets had finished dooming Utah to a 125-80 defeat – its worst home loss in franchise history – that one play summed up what took place during those 48 jaw-dropping minutes more than mere words ever could.”