For the most part, I felt good about the way Rockets played in terms of how they executed in the half-court and how they defended the paint. Rockets was the better team tonight and even though they ended up losing, I liked the way the Rockets played. So I think they’re back! Rockets stuck to how they played back in December. The things I didn’t like about tonight’s game are the turnovers and missed free throws. Harden, in particular, forced the issue a little too much, committing 6 turnovers and Asik committed 7. Parsons chipped in 4 turnovers.
To me, Rockets lost because of a few unlucky/stupid plays. We had a nice lead going into the fourth after back-to-back steals by Douglas. The momentum was clearly on the Rockets side. Then Douglas committed a very stupid foul against Faried going for a loose ball that he was clearly not going to get after he missed his free throw. That sent Faried to the line. Then immediately after, Parsons, inexplicably was trying to isolate for the last shot of the game at the top of the key. I thought he was going to pass it to Morris for a three, but, instead, Parsons tried to penetrate the lane and just got flustered and turned the ball over, leading to an easy basket by Brewer. Our 7-point lead suddenly shrunk to 3 points in less than 30 seconds. That was a momentum killer. Then the other keys to the loss were two lucky buzzer beaters by Gallinari early in the fourth. The Rockets defended the ball well, but Gallinari just hit two lucky shots. So Rockets lost because of a few unlucky and stupid plays. That’s really what it came down to and that’s how you lose a game even though you played a better game. Sometimes, games just come down to a few stupid and unlucky plays.
So that’s why I feel good about the way the Rockets played. It was a little mind-boggling how Denver still kept it close the entire game, even though the Rockets executed their game plan much better.
Lin had his best game in a while and probably his best ball-handling game ever–even including during the Linsanity period. Lin also played with aggression for the entire game tonight. I think it was a mistake for McHale to sit Lin for too long tonight. Lin was clearly playing very well right from the start. The guy McHale should have sat more was Harden, tonight. Harden was pressing too much, when he should have stuck to making the easy plays. Lin was definitely feeling it tonight. I’m not sure why McHale failed to see that and not play Lin more. Lin ended with only 31:00 minutes, while Harden ended with 41:53 minutes. Even though Lin only had 5 assists, he made all the right plays tonight. He had a lot of missed assists tonight, either because the guy he passed it to missed easy shots or the guy go fouled. So the 5 assists was deceiving. What I loved most about Lin’s play tonight was his ability to keep his dribble alive. Lin ended up with only 1 turnover tonight, even though he played aggressively and constantly penetrated the lane on nearly every possession. He also contained Lawson. Lawson got most of his points from the free throw line tonight in “garbage” time. So that’s how he ended up with the 16 points. Lin ended up with 22 points tonight. Almost always, when Lin plays well, the Rockets win. And they should have won tonight, if it weren’t for a few dumb/unlucky plays. Lin also had the first foul call in his favor that he didn’t deserve this season. It was one where he was driving in the lane and cocked his head back for no reason (clarification: he cocked his head back to avoid contact) and stopped short. They called a foul on Gallinari. I’ve never seen Lin get ref call in his favor that he didn’t deserve.
As long as the Rockets continue to play this way, they’ll be just fine. So this loss wasn’t like the one Denver handed them in Houston the last time these two teams met.
Three of our starters ended up with 20+ tonight with Lin leading the way: Lin (22); Harden (21) Parsons (21). Asik had 18 boards.