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Game Day: Rockets at Lakers

Analysis and observations from the Rockets' 145-130 win over the Los Angeles Lakers

  • Inside Trax: Rockets vs. Lakers
    Go inside the Lakers and Rockets huddles to hear what the coaches are telling the players as they prepare to hit the floor.
  • Rockets vs. Lakers
    James Harden and Terrence Jones score 33 points apiece, and the Rockets get their third straight victory, 145-130 over the Lakers.
  • Rockets vs. Lakers: First Half
    The Rockets lead the Lakers at the half 66-61.
  • Harden Lobs to Parsons
    In the final seconds of the first half James Harden lobs it up to Chandler Parsons who soars in with the smash.
  • Jones' Block and Slam
    Terrence Jones starts the break with the block and Jeremy Lin one-hands the outlet back to Jones for the jam.

POST-GAME OBSERVATIONS

It’s so easy to forget facts like these, but Terrence Jones could still be playing in college if he so desired. The 22-year-old would have been a senior had he chosen to complete his eligibility at the University of Kentucky, and suffice to say the Wildcats could have used him last night during their loss to Connecticut in the men’s national title game.

Jones, quite simply, was everywhere during a high-flying first half that saw no shortage of points put on the board. And no one was more prolific at doing so than was Jones during the opening two periods of play. TJ needed fewer than five minutes to hit double digits and he finished the half with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting, leaving him just 13 points shy of his career-high which was set earlier this season.

PHOTO GALLERY

With a bevy of green shoes on the court tonight to highlight the NBA’s “Green Week,” nothing was greener than the light Jones saw whenever LA’s Ryan Kelly was defending him. Jones was relentless in his all-out assault of the rim, and he played a rather significant role in the fact that Houston racked up 24 paint points in the first quarter alone.  

- The Lakers came into tonight’s contest having hit 43 percent from 3-point land against the Rockets this season, and they very nearly nailed that number exactly in the opening half, knocking down seven of the 16 triples they took. Houston, meanwhile, could only muster three 3-point makes during the first two quarters of play, and that disparity allowed Los Angeles to make up for the Rockets’ ability to relentlessly bludgeon them in the paint.

Also aiding the Lakers’ cause was the turn-back-the-clock performance turned in by Steve Nash, who providing a huge spark during a 13-minute first half stint that saw him pass Mark Jackson and ascend to No. 3 on the NBA’s all-time assist leaders list. True to the form that allowed him to reach that lofty status, Nash created quality looks for the Lakers nearly every time down the floor and he played an immense role in LA’s ability to momentarily erase the 13-point edge Houston had built for itself. The 40-year-ld future Hall of Famer received hugs and a much-deserved huge ovation as he made his way to the bench after breaking the record. After all these years and the injuries that have so severely limited him since he arrived in LA, it’s still a joy to watch the man run an NBA offense. An absolute legend.

- And while we’re on the subject of stellar passers, tonight’s first half came to a close mere seconds after James Harden had delivered a beauty of a dime to Chandler Parsons for an alley-oop slam that allowed Houston to take a 66-61 lead to halftime. Harden hit the break with eight assists to go along with his 15 points. As expected, scoring was no an issue for Houston during the first half. The club’s defense, however, needed to make more than the cameo appearance it delivered during the first two periods of play.

- Maybe all the Rockets required to rectify their 3-point shooting was to switch sides. Because from the second the third quarter began, whatever it was that had kept Houston’s perimeter shooting on the chilly side suddenly dissipated as the Rockets’ rapidly transformed into a squad filled with nothing but flamethrowers. Houston knocked down its first six treys of the period – with Harden connecting on three of those – as the Rockets wasted little time turning what once was a close game into an absolute laugher.

All told, Houston hit 18-of-24 from the field and seven of its 10 attempts from downtown in the quarter as Houston stretched its lead to as large as 28 before ‘settling’ for a 115-90 advantage heading to the final frame. Harden exploded for 18 points in the period on his way to finishing the game with 33 points and 12 assists (just one off his career-high). Jones kept punishing the rim (and the Lakers), with only a minor calf strain in his left leg proving enough to slow him down (TJ just missed his career-high, scoring 33 points tonight).

But no number stood out quite the way ‘49’ did – yes, just one game after Houston racked up 47 points in the second quarter against the Nuggets, the Rockets topped that figure with a 49-point outburst in the third period tonight (one point away from matching the franchise record of 50 Houston had in a single period versus Denver in 1991). Good thing, too, because with the dreaded Denver back-to-back looming for Houston on Wednesday (expected arrival time at the team’s Denver hotel after tonight’s game: 4 AM), it was imperative for the Rockets to take care of business as quickly as possible tonight. Mission accomplished, since none of the team’s starters, save for Jeremy Lin, was asked to play a single minute in the final frame.

- From the “You’re never going to believe this” files: When Omer Asik (10 points, 15 boards) left the game for good late in the third quarter, he led all players in plus/minus with a +24. Jones ultimately tied him in that category, and Harden beat them both, wrapping up the night at +26.

- More season-highs for Houston tonight: points in the paint (80) and, of course, 145 - the final point total for the Rockets. That number, by the way, also represents the most points scored in a game in the NBA this season. Isaiah Canaan also matched his career-high for scoring (15) that he set Sunday night against the Nuggets. Oh, and Donatas Motiejunas also set a new career-high for rebounds in a game with 15. 

- With the win, the Rockets are now 52-25 on the season and have trimmed their magic number to clinch home-court advantage in the first round to two. Next up for Houston: a date with Denver Wednesday night in the mile-high altitude. 

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

Terrence had it going. They came back and made some 3s in the second quarter when I thought we relaxed a little bit, but we had a really good third quarter and kind of put the game away there.

(any concerns about Terrence?)

No, Terrence just got cramps. It was nothing more than just cramps. 

CHANDLER PARSONS

Obviously they’re not at fully strength and didn’t have a lot of shot blockers in there so we wanted to attack the rim, keep moving the ball, space the floor and play unselfish. We got off to a good start, we got easy shots and just continued to do that in the third quarter. We got hot, guys made the simple plays and guys stepped up and made shots.

I thought we did a great job starting the third quarter of shutting the door and giving them no hope to get off, get off our legs in the fourth quarter for a big game tomorrow night.

(on scoring 145 points)

It’s not a concern. It’s more important that we win the game. Putting up gaudy numbers like that is exciting, but as long as we win that’s all that matters.

JAMES HARDEN

We had it going. We still gave up too many points, more than we wanted to, but offensively we got it going and made up for our lack of defense tonight.

(on Terrence Jones)

He’s getting more confidence. It’s only his first year starting and playing a lot. The better he plays, the better we play. As long as he continues to play well, stick with it and be consistent, we’re going to be alright.

JEREMY LIN

We moved the ball and spaced the floor. Terrence played unbelievable. Isaiah and D-Mo played really well off the bench with a big time double-double. A lot of guys contributed.

TERRENCE JONES

I’m just trying to be aggressive when we’ve got guys out. I want to be a big who’s going to be aggressive, make shots and help pick up the slack with such a great player (Dwight Howard) not playing.

I just tried to use my versatility to score in various ways and try to be there for guys on pick-and-rolls and knock down open shots when necessary.

(trying to attack the rim more?)

Definitely. Just wanting to be aggressive, get fouled or get a layup – that’s how this team plays with layups and 3s. If I’m not shooting a 3 I’m going to try to get all the way to the basket and not try to settle.

(on being a more consistent force)

I want to be considered a threat. I consider myself a threat. We have so many guys who are offensive weapons and threats like Chandler and James and Dwight. There are so many guys on the floor with me who can get 30. I’m just trying to do all the little things, and when it comes time when guys are out and I get an opportunity to score a lot of points, I try to take advantage of it.