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Houston Rockets Cool Phoenix Suns, Dwight Howard Dominates, Jeremy Lin Gets Crunch-Time Minutes

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Houston Rockets had one of their most impressive victories of the year Wednesday night.

After an absolutely putrid performance against the Phoenix Suns earlier this season, the Rockets were able to outlast Jeff Hornacek's upstart crew 122-108.

In my opinion, Dwight Howard had his best game of the season, scoring 34 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Phoenix chose not to double Howard for most of the game, and Superman showed great poise in the post as he waited for creases to open up.

Normally when the Rockets' offense starts to falter, they throw James Harden the ball and ask him to make lemonade. But on Wednesday night, the team showed a dedication to posting Howard, which won the Rockets the game. Although he did turn the ball over five times, Howard was extremely efficient, shooting 11-17 from the field and 12-18 from the free-throw line.

During the Rockets' current four-game winning streak, Superman has averaged 26 points and 10.3 boards, while shooting 59% from the field and 65% from the free-throw line.

Houston's offensive attack was more balanced than usual, with James Harden scoring 23 points on only 10 shots (3-5 from distance). Last time Houston squared off against Phoenix, Harden went 3-17 from the field, including 0-10 from the 3-point line.

This time, P.J Tucker wasn't able to shut down The Beard. As Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley become more comfortable with their roles, I expect Harden's percentages to rise as his turnovers decline (only one turnover against Phoenix).

Lin, whose stat line from Wednesday night's game was relatively unimpressive (11 points, two assists and three turnovers), played the entire fourth quarter, helping guide the Rockets to a victory. I expect McHale to continue to mix and match Lin and Beverley late in games, depending on the matchup, and it's not out of the realm of possibility to see them on the court together during crunch time.

Quietly, Chandler Parsons also had an outstanding game, scoring 19 points. Parsons once again led the Rockets in minutes with 41, while also adding seven boards, six assists and two steals without committing a turnover.

Terrence Jones continues to improve by leaps and bounds, and last night he poured in 19 points to go with nine boards and three blocks. Similarly to Lin, Jones' confidence is sky high right now, and the more I see him play, the more apparent it becomes that he's just now acclimating himself to being an NBA power forward.

Jones was a guard in high school (kind of makes you feel sorry for whomever he was playing against, doesn't it?), so his ball-handling skills, especially in the open court, are still part of his repertoire. Jones has also displayed the ability to make a myriad of runners and floaters, and his effectiveness on those shots is shocking. What America-born power forward has that kind of skill set? Factor in that he can take those runners with either hand, and it becomes clear that Jones is a special player with a bright future in this league.

As I wrote earlier in the week, I think the Rockets are turning a corner. They're finally healthy in the backcourt, their rotation is solidified, and McHale has pretty much stopped using Omri Casspi at the 4, which was killing Houston's second unit on the boards.

Maybe I'm getting a little too excited by a home win against an overachieving team, but it seems like things are finally coming together for the boys in red. Their offense is jelling, their defense is improving, and their young players are starting to look more comfortable everyday.

The Rockets have just three games left before the All-Star break, none of which are against top-tier teams (Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards). It's within the realm of possibility that Houston goes into the All-Star break riding a seven-game winning streak and in fourth place in the Western Conference.

M. De Moor is a basketball enthusiast who has followed the Rockets since he was a kid.

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