Rockets Put Away Sixers: Great Team Win–Especially for the Money Boys + Smith, Douglas, Morris

The chemistry among the Money Boys (i.e., Harden, Lin and Asik) reminded me of the chemistry they had in Harden’s debut games–except it was even better tonight. That chemistry went away after the coaches over-emphasized Harden being the number 1 option and messed up Lin’s head. But that chemistry was back tonight, as Lin is playing with a lot of confidence. Lin also looked like he enjoyed himself out there and was having a lot of fun. It was the most comfortable and fun I’ve seen him out on the court (I missed the Knicks game). Lin’s enjoyment reached a peak when he dropped off the ball to Douglas for a three in transition in the fourth quarter. Lin had a big smile after that play, which is great to see. These guys are really enjoying playing with each other right now. The more they’re having fun out there, the more they will keep winning. That was what Linsanity was all about. It was one celebration after another and there was so much joy on the court. I’m not sure if the Rockets will ever reach that level of joy (probably no team can), but hope they come close this season.

I thought tonight was one of Harden’s best games. He plays like an old, wise Kung Fu master: patient, decisive, and devastatingly efficient. He played within himself, rather than try to force plays and shots. He had great numbers tonight: 33 points, 7 of 12 field goal (2 of 3 from three point), 17 of 18 free throws, 7 assists and only 1 turnover! I think the 18 free throw attempts is a career high for him. Not sure, but just guessing. It was ridiculous how many fouls he drew tonight. So frustrating to watch for Sixers fans, I’m sure.

Lin finally had back-to-back good games! I think it’s a turning point for Lin. This is what I was picturing would happen for Lin soon after the Spurs game. It took a few games for it to work itself out, but looks like things are starting to move in the right direction for him and, as a result, the Rockets are playing well. They shot 56% from the floor tonight: a season best for the Rockets! It’s not because they were hitting outside shots. In fact, they struggled with their outside shots tonight (with the exception of Douglas threes in the 4th). Their high field goal percentage is due to the fact that they were taking high percentage shots, because Lin and Harden were playing aggressively and their Bigs (Asik and Smith) had so many opportunities in the Paint. We had six players in double figures: Harden 33; Lin 18, Asik 17, Douglas 17, Morris 14, Smith 13. Parsons had 9 points. Smith was a perfect 5 of 5 from the field and had six or eight straight points in the second half that was key to staving any hope of a Sixers come back in the third quarter (I think). Smith is such an impressive finisher. Asik, after struggling in the past several games had a big night tonight with 15 rebounds to add to his 17 points. He was great in the pick and roll tonight. The best I’ve seen him all season! Hope he continues improving on that, because between Harden and Lin, Asik and Smith are going to have a lot of opportunities for easy baskets. The player that struggled the most tonight was Delfino. He couldn’t get anything going and was pretty much taking away minutes tonight. Parsons has also been struggling pretty badly with his outside shot (4 of 13 Field Goal and 1 of 7 from Three Point), but still managed to be effective in other ways.

I saw the coaches play Lin differently tonight. Lin got screens whenever he wanted them. The ball was in his hands just as much as it was in Harden’s hands. When Lin went to the bench towards the end of first quarter and into the second quarter is when the Sixers made their run and McHale didn’t waste much time in putting Lin back into the game. So they’re showing a lot more confidence in Lin. Like I’ve been saying, I know that the Rockets have a good offense, but I think it can be even better if they let Lin play more of his game and they did that tonight. As a result, the Rockets had their best Field Goal percentage of the season! When Lin plays well, the Rockets do well. It’s that simple. Lin just needs to maintain this same level of energy and mental toughness to continue to play his game no matter what. I think it’ll be easier for him to do this now that he knows this is what the coaching staff want from him. I think up until the Knicks game, he still wasn’t sure if the coaching staff wanted him to play aggressively or defer to Harden. But now it’s clear that the team is better when Lin plays aggressively. And Lin’s aggressive play does not affect Harden’s scoring in any way, as evident in the Knicks game and tonight’s game.

There were a few lapses in tonight’s game (early in the second quarter and in the third quarter), but overall, I thought the ball movement and player movement was solid. It was a fun game to watch. I even saw Harden set a screen for Lin. Hope they continue to throw that into the mix. It’s one of the Linharden synergies I’ve envisioned from day one. It appears this team is just starting to gel. If this is real and they have in fact built some good chemistry, then they’re way ahead of schedule. I think the Rockets organization had expected it to take much longer for this team to gel. The big test is against the Grizzlies and I’m very optimistic that the Rockets have a good shot at beating the Grizzlies, as long as they continue to play team basketball with Lin being aggressive as the primary play maker and Harden being the scorer.

RELATED POSTS:
Reasons for Lin’s scoring struggles and why the Spurs game is his breakout game

Minus Harden, Lin has his most important game of the Season against a great team

Harden plays like an old, wise Kung Fu Master

Linharden: The Scariest Back Court Baller in the NBA

About JLintel

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  • Hopefully, that Knick game last Dec17 will be the start of something good for JLin πŸ™‚
    It showed for tonight’s game.
    Really praying it continues πŸ™‚
    So happy for him enjoying the game and winning πŸ˜‰

    • standupphilosopher

      Yep. I’m hoping this is a turning point for Lin. I’m sure he’ll still have some bad games. But I think those will be fewer and farther between than they have been so far this season.

  • emz

    Worried about the Grizzlies though, tbh, although it’ll be a good measuring stick of how far they’ve come. Hard traps and shot blockers seem to give the backcourt trouble, Lin specifically, though the hard traps made Harden inefficient too.

    But this is before Linharden seemed to have worked itself out. So we’ll see.

    • standupphilosopher

      Great point, emz! Grizzlies do have shot blockers that will make it tough for Linharden. It will be a big test for the Rockets for sure. I think the key is for them to run like they have been in the past two games and not let the defense set. Jeremy is still struggling with his shooting, so not being able to get to the paint will make things tough on him scoring-wise. All I’m saying is that I’m a lot more optimistic about the Grizzlies game now than I was before the Knicks game and I even think that they can pull out a win, which was not in the realm of possibility before the Knicks game.

      • emz

        that’s true. I feel that as long as they have good ball movement, that the Rockets would have a chance. I feel like Asik would probably get really worn down trying to contain the bigs; I’m hoping that they rotate him well with Greg Smith and DMo, because he’s already wearing down a bit.

        So ideally, we’ll see a lot of assists again, and hopefully good things if the 3’s keep falling.

        Perspective: Grizzlies are in the bottom 3rd in pace, and is first in the league in Points Allowed (ie. points denied, lol). They’re not really a high scoring team.

        It’s pretty much Houston’s exact opposite.

      • standupphilosopher

        Thanks for the stats, emz! Great to hear that they’re a slow team. Hopefully, it’ll turn out like the Knicks game.

      • emz

        The thing with the Knicks is that they’re still a step slow on defense. But the Grizzlies have Tony Allen.

        It’s like Lin said post-Knicks win, ‘they’re missing Shump’. And Lin stated Shump before Amare and Melo.

        imo, if we’re talking offensive shootout, I feel like Rockets would take the win, (ie. Knicks is slow Offensive team), but I’m not sure still if Rockets can match against a slow Defensive team. Mostly because they haven’t succeeded.

        Yet.

        I look forward to when the Rockets figure it out, because I have faith that they can. =)

        …but it’s gonna be tough for them.

      • standupphilosopher

        Shump would have made things tough for Harden. I hope they play TJones in the Memphis game. I think he’ll match up well against Memphis.

      • emz

        Why specifically do you think Jones would be a good matchup?

      • standupphilosopher

        Memphis has a lot of size and Randolph is a beast on the boards. I think Rockets are going to need Jones’s length and strength to block Randolph out. This could be just the game that we use our big line up of Asik, Smith and Jones. The problem with having both Asik and Smith on the floor is that they tend to get in each other’s ways on the offensive end, which is why I like Jones, because he can also hit the outside shot and hopefully draw a guy like Randolph out of the paint. But overall, i just want to see Jones out there. I’m a big believe that Jones is a star in the making and the Memphis game could be just the game to test him out–especially with 2Pat out. Morris is strong and has been aggressive, but doesn’t have the length.

      • emz

        hmm. Good point. DMo has the range but not the physicality. It might need both Smith and Jones on the floor, to be honest, because Asik tends to not shove people; I remember Smith doing a good job on Howard.

        What about Asik, Smith or Jones, Lin, Harden, and whoever has the hotter hand of Parsons or TD? Or basically 2 at the post and then whoever two players with the hottest hand plus one facilitator?

        I don’t remember Jones having 3pt range…

      • standupphilosopher

        Yeah, DMo is not strong or physical enough. And you’re right, Asik isn’t physical enough, ether. Smith has been the biggest surprise. I was a fan of his since the end of preseason and am happy to see him getting the confidence from the coaches.

        Jones has shown that he can hit the three. So he does have the range, unlike a guy like Smith. He can also do the 2Pat thing and hit the 18-footer. Jones also has the added bonus of being an elite shot blocker. I’d like to see all three out on the floor at the same time, just to see what that would look like. It could turn out to be a big disaster, but I think if there’s a game to try it out, it would be the Memphis game. I doubt McHale will do it, because it’s a little crazy. We’ll see. I do think Jones will get over 10 minutes in the game, though.

  • MrPingPong

    Thanks for the post game analysis, Philosopher. I missed most of the game. Just caught the last few minutes to see TD make some treys. I like TD. I guess mainly because I think he is a Lin fan. He always cheered for Lin, as a Knicks and now as a Rockets. He and Lin seem to have fun playing on the floor together. That big smile of Lin after TD made a trey with his assist tells it all. And yes, Lin seems more relaxed now.

    As to the Griz, agreed with EMZ that it’s gonna be tough. But, unlike EMZ, I am not worried. The last time out, Rockets lost in Memphis due mainly to TO, in my opinion. It’s not gonna happen again, in Houston. Plus, it will be a back-to-back game for the Griz when they face the Rockets, while Lin and Company will have plenty of rest and will be ready. The “Money Boys” will boss!

    • standupphilosopher

      You’re welcome. You missed a good one, MrPingPong!

    • emz

      I hope you’re right!

      Memphis is just really a good team, and I really hope that this evolving team does well against them…

      …but given the tough matchup I’m not gonna be too upset if they lose, because it’ll be another game where they can learn from the film. =)

      • MrPingPong

        There is no question that Memphis is a good team, EMZ. But I don’t think Tony Allen will be able to contain Harden this time around because Harden will be well rested. The last time against Memphis, Harden was gassed, if I remember correctly. And Memphis will be facing a different Lin now. They have yet to taste Linsanity, haven’t they?

        Big bad Z-Bo is problematic. TJones is a little bit to green to be able to contain Z-Bo, in my opinion. Let’s see how McHale approaches this problem. He might go Linsane and put Asik, Smith and Jones on the floor at the same time as suggested by our Philosopher! πŸ™‚

      • MrPingPong

        I missed the Memphis game.
        πŸ™
        Just saw the score and highlights.
        Didn’t I say, ‘the Money Boys will boss’?
        πŸ™‚
        Linsanity 2.0 is taking over The Red Nation!

      • emz

        It was a great win! It really showed the Rocket’s improvements, and I’m fairly sure that they’ll beat the Bulls now because they’re basically Grizz-lite, if only the Rockets can stay steady and take their game ‘on the road’.

        This next stretch should be a great ‘learning’ trip for them, to see how they’re at and to gauge where they are in the conditioning.

        To be honest, I’m not as concerned about Asik wearing down anymore, now that Greg Smith is working out fine and DMo is slowly rounding into defensive form. In games with smaller bigs, I expect to see more TJones, but even the Grizz BENCH is big so I’m not surprised they played Aldridge and DMo.

        Also it’s REALLY nice to see that they have the backcourt rotations worked out between Lin, Harden, Douglas, and Delfino; again that should prevent some wear and tear on Lin and Harden.

        And in theory these rotations should be able to give Parsons a bit of rest too, by simply either ‘going big’ or ‘going small’.

        Heh, probably getting a bit ahead of myself; basically there’s gonna be a tough roadtrip coming up, and then there’s gonna be a MARATHON in Jan, mediocre to decent teams but ALOT of them and on the road. If the Rockets end up 2-2 or better this roadtrip, or better than .500 post-Jan, they’ll make the playoffs baring freak accident/injuries (KNOCK ON WOOD).

      • MrPingPong

        You bet, EMZ! You bet!

        πŸ™‚

        I hope the Philosopher would do some post game analysis for us.

        On a late note, I watched the Grizz vs Mavs game Friday night and came away not impressed. You may say that hindsight is always 20/20 but, playing at home, Grizz could not put away the severely shorthanded Mavs until the last minutes of the game. The Mavs fought every inch of the way and pulled within four points at around the two minutes mark. For some unknown reason, Carlisle sat his bigs and played small in last part of the 4th. Grizz misfired a lot but ended up with a bunch of offensive rebounds. Gasol didn’t even have to jump to grab a rebound… I am sure McHale and his coaching staff watched that game too.