The Houston Rockets picked up their sixth win of the season to get back to within a game of .500 on Friday night with an electric offensive performance fueled by James Harden and Chandler Parsons.
This game isn’t necessarily an indication of what we can regularly expect from the Rockets, but it does show the potential they have to rack up points. The Knicks came into the game with the third best defensive record in the league and are coming off their hottest start to a season in recent history, but when your opponent shoots 56% from three point range, it likely doesn’t matter how hot you are coming into it.
Parsons’ 31 points represents a career high for the second year forward who finished the first quarter 8-of-8 from the field with 18 points. On the night, he finished having drained four three pointers and showed why he is quickly becoming one of the Rockets most important players by adding four steals on the defensive end.
Much was made about Jeremy Lin taking on his former team for the first time since moving to Houston, but Linsanity wasn’t the highlight of the night as he finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
The big stories to come out of this one went to Parsons, James Harden who would score 33 points and 9 assists, and how well the Rockets front court matched up to a Knicks team whose power structure is heavily weighted in its front court.
The Rockets ran their offense to perfection in this game, spreading the ball around well enough to get all of their starters in to double digit point totals. Coming in, you might expect Tyson Chandler to have an advantage over the less experienced Omer Asik, but the Turk finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds to just 6 points, 7 rebounds for Chandler.
Patrick Patterson, whose game is developing nicely under Kevin McHale, was able to chip in with 10 points and 5 rebounds.
Overall, this game is a big win for the Rockets, a team that struggled once the dust from the James Harden trade finally settled. Houston has put up good performances against good teams and simply come up short, but any night a team puts 131 points on the board, they’ll be tough to beat.
Houston outscored the Knicks 54-36 in the paint, 23-12 in fast break points and out rebounded New York 49-30. Not bad numbers for a team that collectively has less experience than their opponent has sitting on their bench and extremely important when you consider that the Rockets are ranked 25th in the league defensively. They have given up more than 100 points in almost half their games this season.
Given that the Rockets are a young team, defense is the part of the game they will struggle with most. Add to that the lack of a shot blocking presence to the guard the rim, a stat they are fifth worst in the league in, and it doesn’t get any easier for Houston to keep the ball out of the basket. Tonight, they were able to top New York despite Carmelo Anthony going off for 37 points, but that won’t be the case every night.
Through 13 games, the Rockets have shown signs that they’ll struggle against teams with a solid front court who can get to the basket. Despite being the fifth best rebounding team in the league, losses to Portland, Denver, Memphis, Miami, Utah and the Lakers all highlight Houston’s defensive weakness. Each of those teams possesses strong front court players who can protect the rim as easily as they can get to it. Four of those games saw scores over 100 win it, while Memphis and Denver held the Rockets to less than 90 points.
Relying heavily on offense seems to be the Rockets game plan this year, which is why they won’t make the postseason in the Western Conference. Successful teams at any level of basketball can defend well and in the West, it’s mandatory if a team has any desire to even sniff postseason play.
Right now, Houston evokes memories of a Mike D’Antoni team, almost requiring 110 points for a good chance at victory. But as the cliché goes, defense wins championships. In the west, defense merely gives you the opportunity to be seriously competitive and the Rockets don’t have much to offer in that department.