Patrick Patterson Rises
Amid uncertainty and doubt, third-year pro returns to lift Rockets even higher
HOUSTON - Few things strike fear in the hearts of men quite the way uncertainty does. It is in our nature to want control – to feel as if we are masters, rather than mere playthings, subject to the fickle whims of fate. Yet there sit life’s inevitable question marks, perpetually staring us in the face, all the while offering an unavoidable reminder that there is only so much that truly rests within our firm control.
Imagine, then, how Patrick Patterson must have felt back on December 15 when the prognosis on the bone bruise on his right foot consisted of little more than cryptic, ambiguous allusions to the fact that more tests would be required to determine the proper course of action. Surgery was one option – and with it the likelihood that he would be shelved for the better part of two months – while rest represented another.
As it so often does amid times of uncertainty, the rumor mill went into overdrive. Unfounded whispers of a lost season surfaced. Patterson heard it all and found himself face to face with an immediate future offering little in the way of clarity. It is in such times that fear and doubt can eat away at those possessing even the strongest of resolves. Yet when his own personal question mark attempted to stare him down, Patterson countered simply with his own steely glare, never wavering in his belief that, no matter the path before him, he’d do whatever it took to get back on the court and help his team rack up wins as soon as humanly possible.
“I knew I’d be back to my normal self at some point,” Patterson reflected. “I’ve played with pain before in my life and it’s nothing new – it’s just all about maintaining it and just playing hard every single day.”
The reality of course was nothing even remotely resembling the worst-case scenario; Patterson didn’t even miss a month, much less a full season. The 23-year-old went the rest route and returned to the team last Saturday after sitting out the previous seven games.
What’s more, he’s come back looking revitalized, though never more so than he did Wednesday night during a monster fourth quarter performance that sparked the Rockets to a 104-92 win over New Orleans. True to his silent December vow, Patterson was back to the business of playing winning basketball. And what a sight it was, watching him rack up 13 points and five rebounds in the final frame alone, providing his club with the spark it so desperately needed to finally put away the pesky Hornets.
“He’s done a great job,” praised James Harden, who wasn’t too shabby himself Wednesday night while scoring a game-high 31 points. “He hasn’t complained about wanting to start and come back into the starting lineup, he’s done a great job of just coming in, checking into the game and just playing hard. He did a great job tonight on Ryan Anderson who’s one of the best 3-point shooters in this league. We were just running with that energy he brought and it won us this game.”
As Harden mentioned, an undeniable part of the alluring ethos surrounding Patterson’s return has been his ready willingness to contribute off the bench as opposed to doing so from his customary starting role. Patterson saw the Rockets play some of their best ball of the season while Marcus Morris was manning the starting four-spot, and he had no desire to disrupt the team’s burgeoning chemistry with his return. Make no mistake, the third-year pro yearns to earn back that starter’s role, and it’s impossible to say how long head coach Kevin McHale will ride the current rotation. In the interim, however, the significance behind Patterson’s workmanlike acceptance of the task currently set before him should not be discounted. This is a team leader adding another layer to the club’s foundation while making sure that winning is, was and always will be the No. 1 priority.
He has done so with both his actions and words and, as Harden said, the Rockets made sure to follow his lead in the fourth quarter Wednesday night. Jeremy Lin rose to the occasion in winning time with a string of assists that helped Houston hold off the Hornets. Omer Asik was a beast throughout, matching his career-high with 21 points as the Rockets bludgeoned New Orleans along the interior, outscoring them in the paint by a 60-28 margin. Chandler Parsons hit the boards hard to record a double-double.
The end result was a team that scored on 13 of its final 15 possessions to turn a tight game into a double-digit win. And standing at the center of that fourth quarter flurry was Patterson, stroking 3s, crashing the glass, expertly defending pick-and-rolls, and doing all the little things he swore he’d do to help his team reach the lofty goals they’ve set for themselves this season.
“It feels good just because I’m back out there again,” Patterson said after putting the finishing touches on a 15-point, 10 rebound performance. “I’m able to play basketball; I didn’t have to have surgery, I didn’t have to sit out for an extended period of time. Being able to feel great and still do all the things that I was able to do previously before going down – it just tastes better.”
On controlling the Hornets tempo) “Monty's (Williams) teams always play well. They have a style, they play it. They are solid defensively. They have a bunch of young guys that are learning. They make you earn your points. We catch a little rhythm and then we get slowed down. As I said, walking off it felt like a boggy game but we scored our average. We got 104 points. It just kind of felt like we were trying to get the motor going. Like, we were close a few times. We turned it over ten or eleven times tonight. For us, we are going to take a lot of 3's. It's just kind of how our offense is and how our personnel is. Tonight we were five for twenty-four, I think. I would say, probably eight or ten of those were open 3's. Like I said, at halftime we were one for eleven from the 3-point line. It really took eight really good 3's. If you go four for eleven, you are kind of shooting your average and it's 9 extra points. We do live and die on that a little bit.”
(On going small on the Hornets' guards in 4th quarter) “They (Hornets) were really getting in a rhythm on that double pick. They were just doing a double high pick and roll at the top of the 3 point line and top of the key area. We were having a heck of a time. It was either (Ryan) Anderson popping free or (Jason) Smith was coming off it. We just decided to go small and try to switch one side of it and keep Patrick (Patterson) up on Smith on the other side.”
(On Omer Asik's offensive play) “He played very well. Offensively, he rolled, got the ball, finished. Omer got caught up a little bit trying to guard (Jason) Smith and some of those poppers. We mostly did that to try to get a defensive presence. We moved Patrick (Patterson) over to center. I think Patrick had two or three hoops down the stretch around the rim doing the same thing that Omer was doing around the rim which was good for us to find that guy and let him (the center position) and let him finish around the basket.”
(On his career high) “I don't care that much. It's important that we won the game. We started off really bad and so slow. In the 4th quarter we played better defense and won the game. That's the important thing.”
(On the team's chemistry) “The good thing is that we really never give up the fight. We're playing bad really bad in the first half but we came out in the second half and made the easy plays. We struggled a little bit on defense. Then, in the beginning of the 4th quarter they came back but after that we played harder and won the game.”
(on Patterson’s performance)
That’s huge. It must be huge for him. He did it so efficiently in not that much time. He played really well for us tonight and was a huge spark off the bench.
(On the win) “Tonight was a tougher one. Shots were not falling. It was an ugly one but we got the win and I am thankful for that.”
(On the key to the win) “We were tightening up on defense. Also, we had a smaller line up with Chandler (Parsons) at the four. We tried to spread a little bit. We tried to attack from different angles and move the ball. We got a few layups. Patrick (Patterson) got a couple of layups and jumpers. James (Harden) got to the free throw line. Chandler got a couple of layups. On defense we tried to switch a lot of things and make it hard for them to get open shots.”
(on Patrick Patterson)
He’s done a great job. He hasn’t complained about wanting to start and come back into the starting lineup, he’s done a great job of just coming in, checking into the game and just playing hard. He did a great job tonight on Ryan Anderson who’s one of the best 3-point shooters in this league. We were just running with that energy he brought and it won us this game.
(On the win despite the Rockets offensive struggles) “There have been a couple of games like that this year where our offense was not really on point and we didn't score 120 or 130 points. We had to find other ways to do it and I think that is showing a maturity that we are growing. We are getting better. We are just finding ways. Most nights we're going to have to find a way. Whether it is me or Jeremy (Lin) or somebody stepping up and making big plays. Tonight, I think there were a lot of guys who stepped up and made key plays to win the game.”
(on Patrick Patterson)
He was great. He looks like he didn’t miss a beat. He’s getting his wind back, he’s blocking shots, he’s rebounding, he’s doing all those little things that he did before when he went down with an injury. So we’re glad to have him back and hopefully it continues.
I have no problem playing defense against someone who’s taller and bigger than me. It just comes down to pick-and-rolling 24-7, rolling to the basket, rebounding, just doing the little things for my teammates. Basically, when we do stuff like that I’m a five-man and I have no problem with that. I just have to focus more on rebounding.
(comfortable coming off the bench?)
Right now, yeah, just because Marcus is playing extremely well starting and right now we’re in a groove with that lineup. As long as I’m playing I’m fine, but at the end of the day I’m competitive just like him – we both want to be in that starting lineup so both of us will do whatever it takes for us to maintain that starting position and, for myself, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get it back.
(significance of a game like this just a few weeks after an injury had brought with it so much uncertainty?)
It feels good just because I’m back out there again. I’m able to play basketball; I didn’t have to have surgery, I didn’t have to sit out for an extended period of time. Being able to feel great and still do all the things that I was able to do previously before going down, it just tastes better.
(were there periods during that stretch where you were wondering if you would have nights like this again this season?)
No, I knew I’d be back to my normal self at some point. Like I said, I’ve played with pain before in my life and it’s nothing new – it’s just all about maintaining it and just playing hard every single day. For myself right now, not having to worry about my ankle or worry about the soreness and pain, it’s good and hopefully this feeling lasts for a real long time.
(On his offensive game) “My shot was falling, even the 3 (pointer). A couple of great looks around the rim, jump shots in transition. For me, it was all about getting open, providing opportunities for myself and for my teammates. Like I said, in the 4th quarter my shot was falling. I hit a clutch 3 (pointer) in the corner off of Chandler's (Parsons) penetration and kick, key offensive rebound put back and, I was just overall feeling it in the 4th quarter.”
(On the competitiveness of the game) “I don't know if it was a lack of energy and assertiveness on the offensive and defensive side of the court. I thought we shared the ball pretty well, even though we didn't have normal high assists like in the twenty-five range. For myself, I'm not sure what happened. They (Hornets) were in the game pretty much the whole time. We got a good 12 or 14 point lead at some point and they started inching back into the game and made it a close game. I take my hat off to them. They played extremely tough but for us, it was a letdown offensively and defensively. We should have played a lot better then what we did tonight.”
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS COACH MONTY WILLIAMS
(On his teams play) “A number of things hurt us. I thought we had some empty possessions when the game was tied (84-84). I’m not quite sure but Ryan (Anderson) missed a layup off of a free throw rebound and then we missed an alley oop, then Houston capitalized. Every time we made a mistake Houston was at the rim. They had 60 points in the paint and kept attacking, their guard penetration and then they knocked down 3’s that they normally knock down. I thought they played in our paint all night long. We got the game where we wanted it on the road but we just couldn’t capitalize with some solid possessions on offense and some stops on defense. “
(On the Rockets) “They shoot the ball so well and when they run, they can capitalize very quickly. We just got beat up in the fourth quarter and just weren’t able to come back.”
(On what went wrong in the fourth quarter) “They just made shots, a couple of fast break points. I think we competed the whole game but basically things weren’t going our way. Free throws hurt us and we turned the ball over, were two key factors that helped Houston win the game. When you miss free throws and turn the ball over, it’s really tough to win games. We also gave up a 30-point quarter (fourth) and a 20-point second. We try to hold teams under 23 points (a quarter) to try and win games.”
(On the teams play in the fourth quarter) “I thought we competed, but the biggest thing for us, our defense. We are a team that defends and the second quarter and the last quarter, we gave up 20 points and 30 points. We can’t really trade buckets with them, we are not that good. It’s really tough to win because we really aren’t that talented as other teams. We really have to stick with what we do. We have to play better defense. We made a great effort to come back in the game and I think our juice ran out and we didn’t have enough to close out the game.”
(On defending James Harden) “He is a great player, an All-Star player. You have to play great team defense to try to stop him. That’s a guy that’s going to score. He draws a lot of fouls and he knows how to score. He’s a scorer and that’s why he gets paid.”
(On his slow start) “Obviously they were guarding us very well and they knew our tendencies. They did a good job on sticking on me in pick and rolls and I wasn’t able to move much. In the second half we drew up a couple of plays to get me free and that helped. We had a couple of guys that were more aggressive in the fourth and that helped me get easy shots. I wasn’t frustrated (in the first half). As a shooter, you’re going to have a lot of games where you miss shots. I wanted to keep shooting and I had confidence and they were dropping late in the game. You can’t lose confidence at any time during the game.”
Houston registered another sellout crowd of 18,198 for tonight’s game, marking a fourth straight sellout at Toyota Center.
The Rockets began 2013 with a 104-92 victory over the Hornets, snapping a string of five straight losses in Houston’s first game of the new calendar year. The last win to open a calendar year was a 103-96 decision over Seattle on Jan. 3, 2007.
Houston outscored New Orleans to the tune of 60-28 in the paint. It marked the third time this season that the Rockets have posted 60 points in the paint (record: 3-0).
The Rockets, who went 10-of-29 (.345) from downtown in the last meeting vs. New Orleans (11/14/12), went just 5-of-24 (.208) from beyond the arc tonight.
Houston was held to just 15 points off the break. The Rockets entered tonight’s game averaging 25.3 fast-break points over its last three games.
James Harden registered 31 points (11-23 FG, 7-9 FT) and seven assists tonight. He now has at least 25 points in each of his last 10 consecutive games. L.A. Lakers’ Kobe Bryant holds the NBA’s longest such streak this season with 15 in a row (12/2/12-1/1/13). Overall, Harden has posted 20-plus points in a career-best 14 straight games played (12/7/12-1/2/13).
Omer Asik matched his career-high 21 points (8-14 FG, 5-8 FT) to go with eight boards tonight. Asik set his career high with 21 points (5-11 FG, 11-14 FT) and 10 rebounds vs. San Antonio (12/10/12).
Patrick Patterson posted 15 points (7-8 FG) and a season-high 10 rebounds tonight, surpassing his nine boards vs. Miami (11/12/12). Patterson now owns six career double-doubles.
Chandler Parsons finished with 10 points (5-9 FG) and 10 rebounds tonight. Parsons marked his sixth double-double of the season.
Ryan Anderson, who recorded 20 points (9-19 FG) and a team-high 12 rebounds in the last game at Houston (11/14/12), came off the bench with a team-best 18 points (6-15 FG) and seven boards tonight.
Greivis Vasquez collected 15 points (6-15 FG, 2-3 3FG) and a game-high 14 assists tonight. Vasquez’s 14 dimes matched Toronto’s Jose Calderon (14 on 12/16/12) for the most in a game against the Rockets this season.
Robin Lopez notched 12 points (6-12 FG) and a team-high eight rebounds tonight, matching Al-Farouq Aminu who also had eight boards.