James Harden scored fewer than half his per game average, but the Rockets held on to beat the Magic, extending their winning streak to seven.
It may not be good for James Harden‘s MVP case, but the Houston Rockets are a capable team without him. The Beard flirted with a triple-double during the contest, putting up 14 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds. However, he also shot just 33% from the floor and went 0-8 from three.
Several of his teammates stepped up, though, and grinded out a tough win against the Orlando Magic. It’s not often that the Rockets put as few as 100 points on the board and win, but that’s exactly what happened this time.
The reason Mike D’Antoni‘s triple-heavy offensive scheme works is because he’s coaching a team filled with shooters. Even if a few players are missing shots, there are enough marksmen on the roster to balance things out. During the game in Orlando, for example, Harden and Eric Gordon went a combined 3/24 from beyond the arc. Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, and Ryan Anderson, conversely, made a blistering 52.3% of their three point attempts.
The Orlando Magic controlled a good portion of the first half, leading by as many as 10. They stayed relevant during the entirety of the game as well, never trailing by more than 8. Five Magic players scored in double digits, with D.J. Augustin leading the way off the bench. He put up 19 points on just 9 shots along with 2 assists and a steal.
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Orlando played good team defense as well, holding Houston’s electric offense to only 100 points and forcing 15 turnovers.
Things were set for the Magic to run away with the game coming out of halftime, but Ryan Anderson had other ideas. After going scoreless during the first 24 minutes, he erupted for a perfect third quarter: 17 points on 6/6 shooting.
Ryno only scored 2 more points during the fourth, but it was his one-man run that kept the Rockets alive after the break.
While Anderson saved the day during the third quarter, Patrick Beverley was the most consistent Rocket of the contest. Mr. 94 Feet nearly posted a double-double with 17 points and 9 boards on 7/9 shooting. He also added 3 steals and 3 assists, and was the only Houston starter with a positive plus/minus for the night.
This game was significant for a number of reasons. As I previously stated, it proved that the Houston Rockets can win even when the Beard doesn’t put up MVP numbers. It also extended their winning streak to seven, the longest in the league right now. Lastly, the team is now just one measly game behind the San Antonio Spurs for the third spot in the Western Conference.
The Rockets are the real deal, and their ugly outing in Orlando backs that up. Good teams win, even on off nights, and that’s exactly what Houston did.
The Rockets have their work cut out for them over the next two weeks. Starting on Sunday, they’ll begin a 14-day stretch where they’ll play nine games with three back-to-backs. Six of those matchups will be against playoff teams. If they can survive that and still look as good as they do, it’ll be a beautiful thing.