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Rockets Hit All The Right Notes In Romp Over Jazz

January 28, 2013 11:44 pm EST

HOUSTON - James Harden split the double-team and accelerated on his way into the paint before hurling himself into the air to unleash a ferocious, filthy and positively violent tomahawk dunk amid a crowd of helpless, sagging and slump-shouldered Jazz defenders. They knew. Everyone knew. Harden’s jam was not just thrown down in the mug of Utah’s players; it had been forcefully flushed in the faces of the entire franchise and its fan base. It was, of course, just a single play. But when the final horn sounded and the Rockets had finished dooming Utah to a 125-80 defeat – its worst home loss in franchise history – that one play summed up what took place during those 48 jaw-dropping minutes more than mere words ever could.

This was the Rockets at their free-flowing, fast-breaking basketball best; repeatedly laying waste to Utah’s defense with dribble penetration, hitting open shooters, making the extra pass, dominating the paint defensively and running the ball straight down their opponent’s throat after every single miss. It was also, by the way, the Jazz at their absolute worst, possessing no answers for a Houston team dedicated to packing the paint on defense while knowing full well Utah was powerless to stop them from doing so given the absence of two of their best shooters and playmakers in Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward.

Nonetheless, Monday's contest represented an emphatic return to the same sort of form Houston was displaying on a nightly basis at the start of the month before the club collectively hit a wall and unwittingly entered into a two-week long malaise. Now here they are, having navigated the most gruesome part of their schedule, sitting three games over .500 and still smack dab in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race. The Rockets took their lumps, licked their wounds and, having finally had a couple days off and some much-needed practice time, now look refreshed and revitalized after winning four of their last five contests – the last two in double-digit, dominating fashion.

Houston's slump and current resurgence serve as yet another reminder that growing pains happen. They are, in fact, a necessary and essential experience, especially for a club possessing the youngest roster in the NBA. The Rockets certainly endured their fair share during that seven-game slide. Adversity hit hard. Houston’s chemistry, continuity and trust were all tested. Severely. But instead of giving in and succumbing to all the surrounding doom, gloom and despair, the Rockets instead responded with increased resolve. They figured out the issues at hand, fought through the problems, rededicated themselves and redoubled their efforts to bust loose. In short, they grew. And Monday night saw them show off their new physique while the Jazz could only look on longingly, knowing they possessed neither the method, means nor muscle to compete.

Omer Asik dominated the glass at an otherworldly rate while transforming Al Jefferson, one of the game’s great low-post scoring threats, into an errant, inefficient nonfactor. Patrick Patterson did the same to Paul Millsap. Jeremy Lin aggressively set the tone on offense, pushing the ball and punishing Utah with his flawless first quarter playmaking and decision-making. Chandler Parsons unabashedly abused the Jazz in transition. Carlos Delfino turned Energy Solutions Arena into his own private shooting gallery, knocking down each of his first four three-point attempts on a night when Houston hit 16 of its 34 shots from beyond the arc. And James Harden, well … in an effort to keep this piece PG and family friendly we’ll just say he did the Jazz dirty all night long.

It was a tour de force, a romp to remember and about as emphatic a statement as a team can make on the basketball court. More than anything, however, it was a reminder of just how much this team has grown and what the Rockets are capable of accomplishing when they follow the formula essential for their success. Nine days ago, Houston hit rock bottom in Minnesota. Tonight, the team probably didn’t even need a plane to make its way to the Mile High City. The Rockets are soaring once again; confident, defiant and determined to mimic their star and lay down the hammer upon every opponent that crosses their path.

“The shots found the players I think,” said Jeremy Lin after the game. “We played with really high energy. And I think our coach did a great job of getting us a good game plan to be able to execute against them, to try to take away some of their options.”

“Everyone got in the game and everybody scored. I think it’s a testament to how the ball really moved tonight and how everyone was looking for everybody. When you have a team play like that, play so unselfishly, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

We played really well. It was one of those nights where a lot of stuff went our way. We played the right way and moved the ball. I thought defensively, Jeremy Lin did a really nice job of helping out and sagging off and trying to make Watson and Tinsley make a few shots. He did a really nice job of clogging up and being kind of a safety for us. Then Omer rebounded and Carlos had that great stretch where he made some threes and got some separation and we just kept playing.

We had this direction going about three weeks ago, too. That’s the way we have to play. We have to play with pace, we have to move the ball. The ball can’t get sticky; it’s got to go from side to side, and guys just have to make plays and trust each other. I was excited about our overall effort by everybody; they really played hard tonight. That’s what we’ve got to do. Marcus Morris hit a lot of shots and spread the floor. (Omer) rolled really hard and rebounded really well. Chandler did a really good job Everybody who played did a really good job.

When we move the ball and just keep the defenses moving side to side, then it opens up the paint and we have guys who can drive in there and finish. That’s kind of how we have to play.

CHANDLER PARSONS

“It was just fun because everyone was getting involved. And it was right from tip, we wanted to emphasize transition defense and taking care of the ball. We did those two things beautifully tonight and played unselfish. Everyone was just having fun out there and it’s a lot more fun to play that way.”

JEREMY LIN

“I thought today we did a good job of just really sharing the ball. The shots found the players I think. We played with really high energy. And I think our coach did a great job of getting us a good game plan to be able to execute against them, try to take away some of their options.”

“Everyone got in the game and everybody scored. I think it’s a testament to how the ball really moved tonight and how everyone was looking for everybody. When you have a team play like that, play so unselfishly, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.”

On if this was a statement game

“I think this is something we definitely needed. We know we’re there in the seventh seed, and obviously that’s where we want to go next. Not necessarily a statement game as more of just one that we really need to win.”

UTAH HEAD COACH TYRONE CORBIN

On the game

“It’s one loss. You’ve got to understand why you lost the game, how did we play. We didn’t have a lot of energy, we didn’t execute, we didn’t get stops, and we didn’t get back. Pick your poison. We didn’t do anything on the defensive end, we didn’t do anything on the offensive end.”

On the Houston Rockets

“They are a high-scoring team. They want to get in an up-tempo game. They shoot a lot of three-point shots and they got all of that tonight. They got transition baskets; I think it was 26-2 there. I want to say in the first half they made 12 three’s, I think for the game they were 16-34. You know you’ve got to take something away from them. They got transition baskets, open three-point shots…they got offense, they got from strong side to weak-side, they got to the foul line. We didn’t do much of anything on both ends tonight.”

AL JEFFERSON

On the game

“It was pretty bad. It was worse because it was on our home floor.”

On being unable to come back

“I don’t know, it was just like everything went wrong.”

On knowing if it was bad from the beginning

“I thought we started the game no different than we have before. They (Houston) came ready to play. I don’t know where our energy was. I don’t know where our focus was. Between now and Wednesday we better find it.”

GORDON HAYWARD

On the game

“It was unfortunate that we came out and played the way we did today, but I think we’ll learn from this one, put it behind us and move on.”

On losing the momentum built up in January

“I don’t think it ruins it. I think it was a bad game for us, but there will be plenty more. We will be ready for the next one.”