Coming off a terrible defensive effort against the Clippers just 24 hours earlier, the Rockets stepped up their effort on the defensive side and would come away with a 116-101 win against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Rockets just finished playing their fifth game in seven nights, and will enter their matchup with the Lakers with a 4-1 record on Thursday night.
James Harden followed up his worse performance of the season with a great performance tonight. Harden finished the game with 33 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in 39:34 minutes of play. Harden went 11-18 from the field (2-7 from 3) and was 9-10 from the charity stripe. The Rockets usually avoid shooting 17+ footers but that was Harden’s bread and butter tonight. Dwight Howard also had his best offensive performance as a member of the Rockets with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Howard dominated in the paint, shooting 10-13 from the field and also hit 9-12 from the free throw line. With both superstars playing this well, it will be tough for any team to beat the Rockets.
The other big story was the return of Patrick Beverley. The point guard was expected to miss several more days but Rockets trainers cleared him to return tonight. Beverley was a big difference maker in his 28+ minutes of play. Beverley had 12 points and 4 rebounds, with all 4 rebounds being on the offensive end. Beverley’s defense on Damian Lillard was also a factor in tonight’s affair.
The Rockets did not get much other scoring from the other players but they didn’t need it. With Harden and Howard combing for 62 points, Parsons, Asik, Garcia, and Casspi were all held to less than 10 points. Jeremy Lin was the only other Rockets player in double figures with 12 points.
The Rockets still have a few things to work on as they get ready for the Lakers. The Rockets turned the ball over 20 times tonight (Harden – 8 Howard – 6) and that won’t be a part of a winning formula against elite teams. The Rockets 3-point shot did not fall tonight (6-22) but that number is obviously expected to rise. With Beverley back, the Rockets will likely slide Lin back to the bench as the Rockets get ready to face Steve Nash and Chris Paul over the weekend.
The Rockets head back home to face the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night at 8:30 PM.