The Rockets made it look easy tonight.
The Rockets played the part of the West’s best team as they beat the Pacers 118-95 Sunday evening.
Houston had the odds stacked against them coming off of a back-to-back against Memphis at home to travel to Indiana, lose an hour, and play an early evening game. The Rockets did not get into Indiana until roughly 12 hours before tipoff, but it did not seem to faze them.
James Harden lead the team with 26 points and dished out 15 assists, two shy of his career high. Nine of those assists came in the first quarter as Harden set the quick tempo early and allowed the Rockets to pick up right where they left off last night against the Grizzlies.
Also recording a double-double was Clint Capela, who scored 20 on 9-12 shooting and grabbed 16 rebounds. The pick-and-roll offense clicked early for Capela and Harden as the first play of the game was an explosive alley-oop leading to the emphatic dunk by Capela.
Indiana simply had no answer for the offense. When the Pacers went to crowd the paint and defend the alley-oop, the three-point line was wide open. When Indiana went to defend the three-point line, the paint was wide open. That is what makes the Rockets offense so deadly. Houston asks teams to pick their poison and most of the time, it does not work.
When the team’s three-point shot is clicking, the Rockets are near impossible to beat. Shooting 17-47 from the three-point line sounds rough, but those 17 shots lead to 51 points, and the Pacers only made eight threes, leading to 24 points. Houston was a +27 from downtown in a 23-point victory. If that does not explain how important the three-point shot is for Houston, I don’t know what does. Trevor Ariza made five of those 17 threes for 15 points in the contest, and Luc Mbah a Moute made three of his five threes for 11 points off the bench.
The one thing people cannot see in the box score is the defensive attitude the team has gained this season. It is the one glaring difference from this team compared to last year’s team. They go after steals and blocks more often, forcing double teams and poor shots from the other team, and that was apparent tonight. Everyone, including Harden, seems to have a different approach to defense this year, and it makes this team that more dangerous. This is all without Chris Paul, a First Team All-Defense guard last season, who has not been on the floor since the team’s first game.
The Rockets have failed to trail at any point in these two games over the weekend and they have pieced together a very nice six-game win streak that began at the beginning of this month. Houston has not lost since before Halloween, and this team is not at 100 percent yet. That’s scary.
Houston looks to extend the win streak to seven games on Tuesday as the Toronto Raptors come to town. Tipoff is at 7 CT.