The Houston Rockets scored a 109-92 victory in San Antonio in the Spurs final preseason contest of the year. The Rockets led by just two points at the half but came out strong in the third quarter, as James Harden and Dwight Howard paired well together to devastate the Spurs on the interior.
The Rockets had 46 points in the paint and out-rebounded the Spurs 51-41. While the starting lineup remains a work in progress, Kevin McHale is getting a good idea of what different units can do.
1) The stars came out to play. Houston got great play from its two max-contract players, Dwight Howard and James Harden. The pair combined for 22 points in the third quarter as Houston out-scored San Antonio 37-25 in the period. Howard looked fluid and his speed gave the San Antonio bigs trouble the entire game. Dwight finished 7-of-10 from the floor for 15 points and he snagged 16 boards. Harden facilitated a lot of offense, hitting 7-of-16 from the floor and dishing out a team high 11 assists. Chandler Parsons chipped in 16 points, as well, hitting 7-of-14 on the night.
2) Omri Casspi & Donatas Motiejunas both looked like good stretch-4 options when the Rockets opt to go with a smaller lineup and leave Omer Asik on the bench. More on Asik in the negatives. Casspi hit 6-of-11 from the floor including 4-of-8 from behind the arc for 11 points and he looked aggressive every time he got the ball. D-Mo showed his range with a three and also hit a righty hook in the paint. His skill set is not unlike Pau Gasol’s, and TNT commentators were speaking of D-Mo having attended Arvydas Sabonis’ big man academy overseas.
3) Patrick Beverley’s Energy: Patrick Beverley didn’t have a statistically overwhelming night but for the 28 minutes he was on the court he left it all out there. Beverley sought to disrupt the mediocre point guards that back up Tony Parker and he helped incite the Rockets avoid falling asleep in a preseason gamae.
1) Omer Asik is having trouble finding his way offensively with Dwight Howard on the court. The tandem looks good defensively and it’s nice to be able to put Howard on either the PF or the C depending upon which is better, but Asik has to find a way to space the court and stay within his comfort zone. An Asik trade still seems likely since his skill set isn’t going to change overnight.
2) Perimeter defensive rotations were a little slow and the Spurs hit 7-of-18 from three-point range. The Rockets need to realize Howard can protect the basket and get out to shooters.