Without their two MVPs and starting center, the Houston Rockets weren’t giving much of a chance. To compound issues, it was a back to back vs a Utah Jazz team that has won 19 out of 21 games. Even with the odds stacked
The biggest question all year has been
Everyone involved in the offense for the Houston Rockets
The Rockets are a team built around its superstars. At times this can be great when you have two of the top 15 players. Other times it can cause other players around those stars to not get many opportunities. Mike D’Antoni like any coach relies on Harden and Westbrook to run his offense. Other teams have started to try and completely take Harden out of the game plan. Teams have resorted to double teams soon as Harden crosses midcourt. The last month-plus Westbrook has been great but other players like House, Austin Rivers and at time Gordon have been missing in action.
This game was different as Gordon scored a career-high 50 points, House had his best game in a long time with 21 points and Rivers finished with 21 points as well. The Rockets attacked the rim relentlessly racking up 46 free throw attempts. No one player dribbled on the perimeter for 15 seconds or try to go one on four. The entire team played as one cohesive unit against one of the best defenses in the league. Even players like Michael Frazier who many Rockets fans have wanted to get playing time was able to contribute. Frazier finished with six points and a +/- of 11. If the Houston Rockets are going to advance in the playoffs they will need their bench to perform at a high level on most nights.
What is needed going forward
The Rockets have gotten close over the last few years only to come up short. The question every offseason has been can the Rockets put enough around Harden to help the Rockets advance. With any superstar, you need the right pieces around him. You also need a coach and superstar to trust those other players. Both are relevant in this case. In Harden’s career with the Rockets, there have been times when he didnt has enough help. With the addition of Westbrook and Gordon coming back from his knee injury, the Rockets do have those pieces now. This leads to Harden and D’Antoni trusting other players to step up.
Eric Gordon can be the difference maker
The former sixth man of the year has been a really good player for the Rockets since signing as a free agent a few years ago. This year didn’t start off well as Gordon by many measures was one of the worst players in the league. We would find out that the reason was because of a bad knee that Gordon was playing with. Since coming back from the injury Gordon has been great averaging over 18 points a game and more importantly stretching the defense out to 30 feet at times. Of course, Gordon doesn’t have to have career nights every night but he is one of the few Rockets who can create there own shot and put up monster numbers from time to time. Gordon is the difference between a second-round exit and a possible championship.
The biggest complaint against D ‘Antoni has been his short rotations and unwillingness to play young players. For Harden it has been dribbling out the shot clock and going one on one to often. For the Rockets to become contenders both have to change and hopefully with a performance like this from the supporting cast everyone will realize it.
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