The game was marked by small injuries, as Patrick Beverley, James Harden, and Jeremy Lin all had to head to the locker room at some point, but only Beverley was unable to return (ribs: out 10-14 days, according to The SportsXchange). Lin needed stitches after catching a shot in his chin, and Harden was troubled by a tight back, which stripped him of some of his athletic ability.
Despite the injuries, the Rockets were still able to come away from the game victorious, thanks in large part to a balanced offensive attack (four players with 16+ points), a solid defensive performance (Charlotte shot just 37% from the field), and Al Jefferson's gimpy ankle, which played a large part in his ineffectiveness (he shot just 6-19 from the field in his Bobcats' debut).
While Harden led the team in scoring with 21 points, the performances of Lin and Howard were extremely promising. Lin played nearly 31 minutes and posted 16 points on just 5-7 from the field, including 2-2 from distance. Some may point to Lin's low assist total (two) as a sign of weakness from the recently demoted international icon. But in his new role as sixth man, his ability to score, and score efficiently, will be significantly more important than the amount of dimes he dishes out.
Lin displayed a quick trigger from beyond the arc, something we didn't see from him last season. Also, he showed that he has improved his left hand, as he made it all the way to the rim several times by simply faking right (which is the direction he used to go almost exclusively) and going left. In traffic, Lin showed off his ability to finish on the move with accuracy, although Charlotte isn't exactly known for its interior defense (especially with Jefferson's bad ankle).
With the ball, Lin looked composed. Unlike last year, Lin started a lot of half-court offensive possessions from the wing, where he looked very comfortable attacking from. For the next 10-14 days, Lin will be starting at the 1 for Houston (in all likelihood), which will give him an opportunity to steal his starting job back from Beverley (although no team official will say that).
If Beverley misses the entire two weeks, then he won't return until Wednesday, November 13 when the Rockets travel to Philly to play the Philadelphia Sixers. Until then, Lin will face Jose Calderon (Dallas Mavericks), John Lucas Jr./Alec Burks (Utah Jazz), Chris Paul (twice, Los Angeles Clippers), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Steve Nash (Los Angeles Lakers), and Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors).
As you can see, the competition will be relatively tough on Lin, who had a lot of trouble staying in front of quicker guards last season, but this will be his chance to prove to his doubters that he's taken the next step. Although I feel it's a long shot for Lin to get his job back (why would that be an option if they just made the decision to start Beverley a few days ago?), if the Rockets rattle off a win streak, it might be best for the team to stick with what's working.
When it comes to Howard, his defense-first mentality was the most promising takeaway from his debut. Howard made Jefferson look flat-out bad (and I'm a big Jefferson fan), while altering a countless number of shots from help position. Howard finished with a total of 17 points (8-14 from the field), 26 rebounds, two blocks and four turnovers. The Rockets out-rebounded Charlotte by 17 (54-37), which is something that Rockets fans will become accustomed to with the starting combination of Omer Asik and Dwight Howard.
Offensively, Dwight played within himself, looking very strong as a roller in the pick-and-roll game and looking comfortable in the post. Up to this point in his career, Howard was never really involved in a pick-and-roll heavy offense, and after watching the preseason and the first regular-season game, the question is, why not? I was blown away by how comfortable he looked rolling to the basket, as his athleticism and strength make a pick-and-roll with he and Harden nearly impossible to guard.
Another positive aspect of Howard's game that I've been noticing is his passing. Don't get me wrong, he's no Marc Gasol, but his ability to read the defense properly when the double team comes is will be invaluable to a Rockets offense that figures to be one of the better units in the league.
The Rockets will play their first road game of the regular season November 1 against the Dallas Mavericks.
M. De Moor is an NBA junkie and the writer of "The Daily Fix" on Hoopshabit.com. He is inspired by the likes of Bob Dylan, James Harden, Isaac Brock (of Modest Mouse; not the British officer), John Frusciante, the recently-departed Lou Reed, and Jose Calderon.
- Sports & Recreation
- James Harden
- Jeremy Lin
- Houston Rockets
- Patrick Beverley
- Charlotte Bobcats
- Dwight Howard