James Harden: 29 Pts, 6 Asts, 6 Rebs, 2 Blks, 1 Stl
Brian Roberts: 23 Pts, 3 Asts, 5 Rebs
It wasn’t a glossy win where you’d expect everything to go well but a win is a win, right? As one of the Hornets announcers stated, the first half felt like a preseason game. Charlotte was playing well (to their standard) but the Houston Rockets played below their expectation. Granted, both teams were without their starting center and several other players including Patrick Beverley, Mo Williams and Lance Stephenson.
It was a must-win for Houston but also a “let’s not play too hard” type of game. With the playoffs starting this weekend, it seemed like they were playing more so to avoid any other tragic injury.
- Houston moved from the sixth seed to the third seed (then dropped to the fifth after Clippers win). Their last game against Utah should be a win. However, they’ll need to pocket a rabbit’s foot as luck will be a huge factor for them to retain homecourt (See scenarios below).
- For the last four out of five games, the Rockets have took care of the ball better than their season average (16 turnovers per game). Last night, they only had 10 turnovers. Hopefully this is a sign that symbolizes the Rockets have realized the essence of utilizing every possession. At least, that’s what I’d like to think.
- A solid free throw shooting night at 80 percent. Only three players (Harden, Josh Smith, Clint Capela) attempted free throws. Of that trio, Smith’s efficiency (5-6 FTs) trumped the others. He’ll be the lab rat in the playoffs as teams will test his ability to make free throws after his atrocious performance at the line vs. the Spurs. If they happen to meet in the postseason, you can bet your bottom dollar that Smith will be at the line 15 times a game.
- This game was much closer than it needed to be. I expected Harden to finally sit a fourth quarter due to a blowout, but that was not the case. Instead, Houston did not pull away until late in the third quarter. Winning is most important but consistently playing at a high level is a close second.
- Luckily, since this game was against the Hornets, they got away with shooting 41 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. This is no way to end the season though. It’s important to carry momentum into the playoffs (as San Antonio has shown). Houston needs to play with ruthless intentions against the Jazz on Wednesday. Finish the season on a good note and alleviate any doubts or concerns about the damage this team can do.
- Their lackluster effort to defend the three was difficult to watch. Once again, fortunately they played the Hornets because had they’d been playing Portland or San Antonio (both top 10 in three-point percentage) this game could have went the other way.
In any scenario, if the Spurs win vs the Pelicans or the Clippers win over the Suns, the Rockets will not obtain homecourt advantage. Here’s a look at what can take place in the next two days.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 14, 2015
There wasn’t much to talk about in this game other than I hope this isn’t what the Rockets look like in the postseason. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they collectively decided not to exhaust themselves while still conquering the win. Harden deposited 13 first quarter points but the rest of the team only scored 11 points (4-15 FGs). They also allowed three dunks in the first three and a half minutes of the game. Any other day, Houston would be climbing out of a hole to get back into the game. But, in Charlotte they ended the quarter with a one-point lead.
In the second quarter, the Rockets allowed the Hornets to make six consecutive threes. Harden only scored three points in the period but the rest of the team was trigger happy from downtown too. They made four of eight which was enough to keep the game even at 52 points at halftime.
Late in the third, Houston finally began slashing to the paint. A few hard drives resulted in layups, free throws and an open Corey Brewer jumper to end the quarter with an eight point lead. Clint Capela was handed a few easy looks at the rim to help increase the lead to double digits and the Hornets did not have enough fire power to overcome that deficit.
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