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Three Takeaways From Houston Rockets – Clippers Instant Classic

Jan 18, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) is defended by Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during an NBA basketball game at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Rockers 140-132 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 18, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) is defended by Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during an NBA basketball game at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Rockers 140-132 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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What a game last night. The Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers battled it out all the way through overtime and even though the Rockets eventually lost, if you like a good basketball game you most likely didn’t leave disappointed, albeit sad with the loss.

The game was filled with copious story lines: from the Clippers side, J.J. Redick had an evening to remember hitting a franchise record 9 three-point shots and his personal career-high in scoring of 40 points.

As for the Rockets, two players excelled, the first and most obvious was Dwight Howard who has been on a major roll posting consistently impressive numbers over the last month or two.

The second, an unlikely hero: Marcus Thornton who took the game by assault and forced overtime hitting two huge three-point shots at the end of regulation.

So, without further delay let’s jump into 3 takeaways from Rockets at Clippers instant Classic:

Marcus Thornton must become this team’s sixth man

It’s not even fair anymore comparing Thornton’s numbers with anybody else on J.B. Bickerstaff’s bench squad. Last night he registered 23 points in 21 minutes. 

Never mind the fact he is the only Rocket who can actually knock down a shot from beyond the arc (5/9 last night), never mind the fact he single handedly took the Clippers game to overtime, Thornton has earned his spot by being productive everywhere.

Watching Thornton play last night reminded me a lot of a player on the opposition: Jamal Crawford. They are incredibly alike. Their job is to score points when the team is struggling to get them.

However, unlike Crawford who plays a solid 26 minutes per game, Thornton sees action for a measly 19 minutes. Just a couple more than Jason Terry.

I’ve recently debated Bickerstaff’s rotation highlighting Thornton’s and Corey Brewer’s numbers and it just keep getting worse.

Brewer was fine last night, he had 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals but while James Harden keeps having inconsistent games, when he struggles the Rockets must try and find a replacement for him in the scoring department and Brewer might just not be this person.

As a matter of fact Thornton also might not be this person, but as far as bench options goes, he is miles ahead of his competition.

It should not even be up for debate anymore. Marcus Thornton is currently the best option coming off the bench for the Rockets.

James Harden’s defense is not even funny anymore

Take a look at how Harden was vigilant guarding last night’s hottest player on court

No wonder poor Clint Capela had no idea who he was supposed to guard. That’s not even funny. Listen, I like J.J. Redick and I believe he is a great shooter and a nice player, but he wasn’t supposed to be allowed to score 40 points in NBA 2k16, let alone a professional game.

And when Bickerstaff decided that was enough and relieved Harden of his duties of guarding Redick, here’s what happened

That’s Paul Pierce knocking down a three-pointer something he might be known for. But there’s more:

That’s Pierce. Again. For three. The exact same play TWICE. In a row. I don’t know what else to say.

Can Dwight Howard maintain this level of play?

If you are watching the Rockets in the last 9 or 10 games then you are probably aware of Dwight Howard’s vast jump in productivity. 

I’m not sure if he’s finally healthy or has a chip on his shoulder or is trying to prove something, but Howard is clearly living his best stride as a Rocket player since he arrived in H-town -excluding the playoffs-.

Granted he didn’t have any dominant big man in his way in those last 9 to 10 games excluding perhaps Marc Gasol. Still that doesn’t take anything away from Howard’s growth. If he is able to keep going at this pace the Rockets could probably make some noise in the post season.

Wednesday night (Jan. 20th) will mark Howard’s sternest test this month when he faces Andre Drummond currently my pick for center of the year.

It’s tough watching the Rockets this year as Harden and Howard keep alternating good and bad moments since the beginning of the year and rarely have managed to play great games together. If they ever do figure out how to both be productive simultaneously we could be watching the team rise up the ladder, if not expect more of the same inconsistency.

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