Mar 24, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) dribbles against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half at the Toyota Center. The Rockets won 96-95. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
The Houston Rockets came into tonight’s battle with the Los Angeles Clippers 1-2 in the last three games vs. playoff teams. They had yet to beat the Clippers this season, and to exacerbate their problems James Harden was benched with a sore foot. It is a good thing, however, that the Clippers thought they only had to play for one quarter.
Perhaps there was more to this unexpected, lop-sided Rockets victory. Perhaps the Clippers had developed an excellent game plan to stop James Harden iso-ball and simply weren’t ready for anything but that. Even if that was the case, the Rockets flashed something tonight that they must keep when Harden returns: unbelievable ball movement.
On one particular possession later in the second quarter, the ball changed hand 8 times before a wide open three swished through the hoop. They Rockets were super-charged one night after a painful loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and ultimately broke the Clippers back in the third quarter. They simply wanted the game more and did whatever it took to win.
If players not named James Harden can accomplish this, the Rockets should be ecstatic about their future. The key will be bottling whatever they had tonight and keeping it when Harden is back on the floor. If they do, opponents will not be able to key on Harden or the Rockets will just sling the pill around for a dunk or an open three. The running game was much the same tonight as any other night when the Rockets are running well, but it is inevitable that they will also need a half court game in the playoffs.
Maybe Harden saw the same thing sitting on the bench tonight and realizes the value of it. If the boys on the floor tonight were able to find the open man, it is certainly possible when Harden finds himself triple-teamed.