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Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lin Shows Off Improved Shooting Stroke, Harden-Less Rockets Fall to Philadelphia 76ers

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COMMENTARY | The Houston Rockets blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night, eventually falling 123-117 to the young group of gunslingers.

James Harden sat out the game with an assortment of ailments, the worst of which being a bruised left foot.

Jeremy Lin continued to impress on the offensive end, scoring 34 points, dishing out 12 assists (it should be 11, but we'll let the statistician off the hook this time), five rebounds and eight turnovers. Lin tied the Rockets franchise record for three-point shots in a game, making nine of his 15 attempts (tying Robert Horry, who accomplished the feat in 1996).

Overall, the game was just another sign that the Rockets need to start making changes on the defensive end. Offensively, they're fine; even without their best scorer, they were able to put up 106 points in regulation, although they did struggle in the fourth quarter (the Sixers outscored them 26-16).

Omer Asik, who was benched in favor of the younger Terrence Jones, played just four minutes in the loss.

Defensively, the Rockets were absolutely atrocious, as they allowed the Sixers' perimeter players to dominate the game. Check out the statistical output by the three biggest contributing perimeter players Wednesday night:

Tony Wroten: 18 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds

James Anderson: 36 points (12-16 FG), five rebounds, three steals

Evan Turner: 23 points, seven rebounds, five assists

With Michael Carter-Williams sitting out the game with a bruised left arch, it seemed as though the Rockets were going to dominate the perimeter, but, instead, they were torched by the three aforementioned youngsters. Beverley didn't play particularly poorly on the defensive end, but both Chandler Parsons and Lin were repeatedly beaten off the dribble, which was a big reason for the 76ers' fourth-quarter comeback.

Obviously, Lin was a huge part of the Rockets being up 10 going into the fourth as he had already scored 28 points after three quarters, but he didn't score a single point in the fourth. Lin missed both of his shot attempts in the fourth quarter, while turning the ball over three times.

Parsons, who looks like he has lost some of his elasticity after a summer of weight lifting (just look at the guy; he was considerably skinnier last season and moved more fluently), posted a very strong stat line as well, pouring in 22 points (once again scattering them throughout the game), seven assists, six rebounds, and four blocks.

The takeaways from another bad loss are many, but, once again, it's important to remember that we're not watching a finished product here. Houston is still raw, getting used to each other, and wildly inconsistent, and it's going to take a lot of time to remedy its current problems.

Wednesday night, the Rockets blew a game that they were in control of. but playing without Harden, that shouldn't come off as too much of a surprise. Harden is their bread and butter down the stretch, as he's the lone guy on the roster who can score at will no matter who is defending him. If you take any team's elite scorer (think Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks) away from them for a game, many times the other players will rise to the occasion in their short-term expanded roles. However, down the stretch of the games, when refs swallow their whistles, coaches use their dry-erase boards, offense/defense substitutions are made, and the game gets slowed down, it's very common for teams to struggle without their stars. The Rockets struggled down the stretch Wednesday night without Harden; not really a shocker.

Defensively, the Rockets need to improve dramatically, and I believe that they have the defensive talent on the roster to do so. With a starting lineup of Beverley, Harden, Parsons, Jones and Howard, Houston has two very good shot blockers on the court), and it need to use that to its advantage. The Rockets need to stop allowing teams to play with such ease out on the perimeter and start to pressure the ball with some desperation, drawing smaller perimeter players into the teeth of the defense.

The way the Rockets are playing defense right now, everyone is beating them off the dribble, so why not use that to their advantage? Beverley and Lin need to start pushing up on the ball, causing discomfort for lead guards. If they get beat, they need to have faith that their big men will have their backs, and they need to hustle back to the basket to try to steal the last pass or grab a rebound. Right now, the Rockets have zero defensive structure, and despite having some above-average on-ball and help defenders, Houston is giving up the third-most points per game in the NBA.

As I've said for the last couple of weeks, this portion of the season is a learning process. The Rockets are a very young team and they look like one. As fans, it's important to stay patient; these things don't get fixed over night.

On Thursday night, the Rockets face off against the Knicks on TNT. Last season, Houston tortured the Knicks twice, with Harden, Parsons and Lin all flaunting big-time performances. Hopefully, Lin exposes Raymond Felton (who I happen to love as a player) on the defensive end, giving James Dolan 25 million reasons why he should have matched Lin's offer sheet in the summer of 2012.

M. De Moor is a die-hard Rockets fan, and a graduate of Montclair State University. He believes that the runner is the most beautiful shot in basketball, and that left-handed shooters naturally have better looking jumpers than right-handed shooters.

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