Rockets Continue Winning Ways

The Houston Rockets committed 19 fouls and 16 turnovers tonight, a combination that leads most teams towards a loss. Instead James Harden decided to take the fourth quarter in the palm of his hands, and never looked back.

Harden scored 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, proving his capability to take the youngest team in the NBA on his back, and lead them to a huge road victory. The Rockets clawed their way to an 87-84 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“When he’s playing downhill on you, he’s just a monster at that. He’s coming at you,” Houston coach Kevin McHale told the media. “It’s just so hard to defend. He’s got the side-step, Euro-step, driving into you. He’s so doggone strong. He’s really got strong hands. He mauls the ball through your armpit and finds a way to finish.”

The performance tonight by Harden serves a bigger purpose than just a regular season win. In this league it takes more than one superstar to win a championship. As Harden continues to prove himself as an individual, the superstar fraternity is watching keenly. Harden has made it clear he is working on bringing more talent to this Rockets team.

“I’ve been starting that recruiting process. One player is not going to win a championship. Nowadays you need two or maybe more, Harden said in a local radio interview. “We need more guys to come over here, so we can win. For right now we are going to stick with the players we have and try to run with that.’”

After obliterating the Chicago Bulls on Christmas night, the Rockets looked sluggish and cold in Minnesota. Harden wasn’t getting to the free throw line, and shots were not falling for the team that averages 106 points per game; tops in the NBA.

The Rockets entered tonight’s game with staggering offensive numbers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rockets tied the NBA record (with nine others) by winning three straight games, scoring 120 points, and winning each game by at least 22 points.

The Rockets have pushed the offensive pace to a new level, giving all five players on the court the opportunity to run on every possession.

A big piece to the success has been Omer Asik. The mammoth center crowding the paint has been a double-double machine. Asik pulled down 17 rebounds tonight, and 18 last night. In nearly 70 minutes of play, Asik has managed to pull down 35 rebounds.

The Rockets are now 16-12 and currently enjoying a five game winning streak.

Linsanity Revisits New York

Madison Square Garden gave a rousing ovation to former Knicks guard Jeremy Lin as he returned to New York draped in a Rockets jersey. The cheers turned into boos, as Lin put on a show against his former team.

Lin finished the night with 22 points, eight assists, two steals, four rebounds, and a 109-96 Rockets win.

The first two points of the game were scored by Lin, and he never looked back.

The Rockets were coming off a bad loss in Toronto that saw Lin score a woeful seven points, in 32 minutes. It almost felt like his mind was in New York, and the Raptors game was just in his way.

Judging from his performance tonight, “Linsanity” was well prepared. In just his first 10 minutes back at “MSG,” Lin racked up eight points, and three assists, as the ovations quickly turned into boos.

By halftime Lin had 16 points, four assists, and two rebounds. That was his best first half of the season as a Houston Rocket.

For a guy who was averaging a measly 9.6 points per game, and shooting below 40% on the season, Lin proved why he could be a long term starting point guard for this young Rockets team. He proved that under a pressure filled situation, he once again could rise up and accept the challenge, as he did game after game with the Knicks last season.

Another thorn in the backside of the Rockets has been the chemistry between James Harden, and Lin. While Harden has individually found success, the two have not found a comfortable balance yet. Tonight was a huge step forward.

Lin and Harden combined for 50 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, and two steals. Tonight proved the potential this backcourt has, along with the quest for consistency.

“We complemented each other really well,” Lin told the media. “It is important for us to be aggressive and pick our spots.”

The win ended a seven-game road losing streak for the Rockets. It also was the first home loss of the season for the Knicks, ending what could have been an 11-0 home start, the best since the 1991-92 season.

The Rockets have swept the season series against the Knicks, and continue to hover around the .500 mark, as the playoffs remain the goal for the youngest team in the NBA.

Patrick Patterson Sidelined

Houston Rockets forward Patrick Patterson will unexpectedly be sidelined, after a MRI was performed Saturday morning.

The results were not favorable, as tests showed Patterson has a bone bruise in his right foot.

The brawny forward is averaging 13.2 points per game, along with 4.8 rebounds.  The physicality that Patterson possesses certainly doesn’t match the low rebound numbers, but his defensive significance is important to this young Rockets team.

While Patterson has yet to have a double figure rebounding game this season, he did have a strong offensive stretch in the final seven games of November.

Patterson and the Rockets coaching staff have tried to capitalize on his ability to stretch the floor this season, much like he did during his collegiate career with Kentucky. So far that experiment has been a work in progress. Patterson has already attempted 42 three pointers, and made just 14 of them.

During his absence, swing-forward Marcus Morris is expected to earn the starting nod. Morris had a strong offensive stretch in mid-November, and starting minutes may spark a similar performance.

Morris is currently a mystery for the Rockets. The goal is to maximize his potential, and the question is at what position? Is he a small forward, or a power forward?

The term “tweener” is frequently used now in basketball. While it’s a huge plus to have a versatile player, the certainty of what position the player can succeed in most, is always a battle. With Morris possibly seeing extending starting minutes, the answer may not be far.

The Rockets are also expected to recall Terrence Jones from D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and expect him to be with the team for a matinee meeting tomorrow against the Raptors.

Patrick Patterson will go through additional tests in the coming days, no timetable for his return is set.