Rockets brew revenge over Blazers in blowout victory that Corey Brewer and James Harden dominated. Space City Scoop Rocket Science Recap breaks it down.
Three Keys To the Win:
ONE: James Harden became the first player since Michael Jordan to score 40-points, get 5-assists and 5-steals in 35 minutes or less. By the end of the first half he’d already accumulated 31-points. His final point total of 44 tied his season high that he previously earned in an overtime game in Sacramento. The impressive thing was how he did it, while Portland defended Harden to shoot from the field he repeatedly drove the lane scoring and getting to the line, ultimately capturing 3-point plays the old fashioned way.
It was Harden’s eighth career 40- point game and league leading third this season. He has 11-games this season with 30 or more points, also best in NBA.
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TWO: While we knew Corey Brewer was the Association’s best thief with 2.3 steals per game, few predicted exactly how much his addition would propel Houston’s offense. His entrance into the game at 4:23 of the first quarter sparked the entire team on the court and set the Rockets offense into high gear. After his first 9-minutes Brewer had 10-points, 3-assists, 2-rebounds, had hit 2 of 3-threes and had grabbed five steals. By game end he’d played 22-minutes and a stat line of 12-points, 4-rebounds, 5-assists, hit 2 of 4 three-pointers and had five steals. Yet the most impressive stat was Houston was a +23 when he was on the court.
It was thought Brewer’s presence could provide some useful rest periods for Trevor Ariza and Harden who’ve both logged heavy minutes with the plethora of early season Rocket injuries. But after witnessing the immediate on-court chemistry between Harden and Brewer I suspect these two will find themselves on the court together more often than not. By the half the Rockets had 10-steals off a team who only turns over the ball 14 times a game. Houston finished with 14 steals and had forced 22-turnovers. For opposing teams they now face three of the top-11 steal specialists in the league: Brewer, Ariza and Harden.
THREE: Houston’s bench hasn’t had much of a chance to produce this season given all the injuries, but one outing with Brewer and a brief run of Alexey Shved is showcasing the unlimited options now available to Kevin McHale. Looking just at the frontcourt position alone he has three-point specialist Jason Terry, Alexey Shved who at 6’6″ offers a pass first point guard who can offset larger guards or he can utilize Nick Johnson, Isaiah Canaan, or the prowess of Brewer.
That’s a ton of options to have at your disposal and offers unmatched versatility by most of the Rockets’ opposition. Further, with rumors Josh Smith could be picked up by GM Daryl Morey to join good friend Dwight Howard suddenly coach McHale will have copious options in the front court with Donatas Motiejunas, Kostas Papanikolaou, Tarik Black, Joey Dorsey and Terrence Jones (when he returns from injury). Obviously if Smith is added after he clears waivers Morey will need to cut another player from the team to meet their 15-player limit, but that’s a good problem to have.
Harden scored 31-points in the first half which is more than his league leading point per game average.
Play of the night:
James Harden gets the steal, hits an impossible shot while getting fouled and ends up turning it into a four point play when Matthews got a tech complaining he didn’t foul him resulting in Harden shooting two from the line (one for the foul and one for the tech).
Corey Brewer: talk about a first impression, Brewer won over Rocket fans in his first minute on the court. I felt with Howard and Papanikolaou’s return Houston’s 21st ranked offense would improve. After what I witnessed in this game I think they’ll vault into the top-10 by mid-January.
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