Rockets Keep Rolling, Knock Off Nets

by Jason Friedman Writer/Reporter

HOUSTON - Houston head coach Kevin McHale did not fear Brooklyn’s size, nor did he seem terribly concerned about the fact his club was about to face off with one of the league’s best offensive big men in Brook Lopez. The way McHale saw it, Lopez’s presence simply gave him ample reason to play Omer Asik as much as possible, and that could only mean good things for the Rockets.

20 points, 16 rebounds and a 119-106 win later, Asik’s stellar performance made McHale’s pregame confidence appear downright prescient.

Asik led a total team effort as the Rockets surgically and systematically broke Brooklyn’s defense to pieces while cruising to a rather comfortable 119-106 victory. Houston’s center put his stamp on the game early and often, absolutely owning the boards on both sides of the ball on a night when the Rockets outrebounded Brooklyn by a 50-31 margin.

His board work, however, was only part of the story detailing the degree of dominance Houston owned along the interior. Asik’s hands, notoriously shaky from time to time, were sure, safe and secure Saturday night, as was his touch around the basket. The 26-year-old finished 9-12 from the floor against the Nets while turning the ball over just two times, contributing mightily to the Rockets’ jaw-dropping 60-24 advantage in paint points. Brooklyn effectively dared Asik to beat them, aggressively overplaying Houston’s pick-and-rolls while leaving the Rockets’ big man free to receive any number of pocket passes from the likes of James Harden and Jeremy Lin – provided he could cleanly handle the ball and finish around the rim, of course. Yet that’s exactly what Asik did, repeatedly abusing Brooklyn for its tactics while simultaneously opening up every other facet of Houston’s offense in the process. 

“That’s everything,” said Jeremy Lin of Asik’s ability to catch and finish when fed along the interior, “because, if he does that on that given day, it’s going to open up a ton of shots for everybody else outside. It’s just one of those things where it’s a chain reaction: once that starts happening, they’re going to have to adjust and then it comes down to the extra pass which is usually a corner three which is a high percentage shot for us.”

Indeed, the Rockets’ offense was so dynamic and so dominant it seemed a minor miracle that Brooklyn was able to hang around as long as it actually did. Houston drained nearly 43 percent of its threes, boasted a 27-7 advantage in fast break points and the team assisted on a whopping 31 of its 43 made buckets. Literally everything was working. And the individual standouts were almost too numerous to mention. Asik was obviously awesome but so, too, were Chandler Parsons (16 points and a career-high 11 assists), James Harden (game-high 29 points), Jeremy Lin (he took over in the fourth quarter when the Nets attempted to rally) and Carlos Delfino (more of the same, steady, invaluable minutes that he’s given this team all season long).

This was, without question, a return to the style of basketball that had served the Rockets so well during their month-long rampage that saw them win 12 of 15 during the latter half of December and early part of January. They packed the paint on defense, devoured the available rebounds after nearly every missed shot and then took off in transition to get bucket after bucket via early offense. The ball movement was crisp and concise and the team even limited its turnovers, coughing it up just 12 times on the night.

To be sure, tougher tests lie in wait on the horizon as the Rockets now travel to Utah and Denver – two of the toughest places to play in the league – for road games against the Jazz and Nuggets. But having rediscovered their blueprint for success, Houston’s players and coaches can at least travel with confidence knowing the club has shaken out of its slump and re-embraced the style of play that had put them squarely in the playoff picture in the first place.

“With the away games that we have, it's huge for us to take care of home court,” said Parsons. “I thought our spacing tonight was unbelievable. It allowed guys to penetrate, it allowed more guys to have open shots and we really moved the ball great tonight. I think we need to continue to do that because it is a lot more fun to play that way.”



(on the fast pace of play)

It’s how we need to play. But we’ve got to be determined to do it. You’ve got to be determined when you’re tired, you’ve got to be determined when things aren’t going (well), you’ve got to be determined to just keep on going. Even tonight, when we had a really good flow going there for a while, in the fourth we just slowed down and tried to run the clock and we don’t do that very well. We’ve just got to keep pushing and let our offense flow. We have a very free-flowing offense; it’s a lot of read-and-react and when guys are crisp and moving it becomes a lot of different actions that people have to guard.

James I think benefits more than anybody when we play (with pace) because when we slow it down, there’s too much of a crowd and his shooting percentages go down – the whole team’s shooting percentages go down. There’s just not enough space out there. But when we play with pace and space it just helps everyone.

“They made a lot of threes tonight. We are trying to plug the paint up. For them (Nets), it started off with Deron (Williams) making some tough threes in the first quarter. He had 20 points in the first quarter. After that, we kind of got him under control a little bit but then the penetration late in the game, they went to (Brook) Lopez and he drew a lot of fouls. We figured that they (Nets) couldn't keep on making them. For a while there I wasn't sure but then we did a better job of pushing the ball. We had 31 assists and for us that's a lot of assists and that's what we are looking to do, get the ball up and down the floor. We had 119 points and got back to getting some pace in the game.”

(On Omer Asik's play and offensive rebounds) “Omer was big. He had 20 points and 16 rebounds. He had 6 offensive rebounds that really helped us. Marcus Morris had 5 offensive rebounds for us. All together we had 14, which is really good for us. That's a really good offensive rebounding team. Our guys went and got it and did a good job of keeping them (Nets) off the board for the most part. They (Rockets) kind of got them (offensive rebounds) in stretches.”

(On Deron Williams having 20 points in first quarter) “We put some different guys on him. Three of those shots, 9 points of those shots, were like 'shake his hand.' I figured he couldn't keep making those and if he did, we weren't going to have much of a chance to win anyway. Anytime you get a great player like him who gets hot, you've got your hands full. If (Brook) Lopez had started off doing what he was doing in the 4th quarter, then I would have been more concerned with that.”


(finding Omer on the pick-and-roll)

We knew they were aggressive playing the pick-and-roll – that’s just a good scouting report that (Rockets assistant coach Dean Cooper) did. We knew that the pocket pass was going to be open and sometimes other people flashed as well. Omer did a great job finishing and he did a great job rebounding tonight, too, which allowed us to start the transition offense which we’re best at.

Omer had 16 rebounds. The guy’s been great for us all year long rebounding. Like I said, that’s what starts our break which allows us to do what we’re best at. I think it just comes down to us playing hard and with energy the last couple games; we’ve played harder, we’ve played with passion and fire and it’s been really fun the last two games. We’ve got to keep that up.

(On the key to the win) “This stretch is important for us. Especially to take care of home court with the away games that we have. It's huge for us to take care of home court. I thought our spacing tonight was unbelievable. It allowed guys to penetrate, it allowed more guys to have open shots and we really moved the ball great tonight. I think we need to continue to do that because it is a lot more fun to play that way.”


Tonight we were able to get into the paint, drive inside, get our big men easy buckets and kick out for some easy threes as well. Then defensively, our bigs just hit the boards super hard tonight and got all the defensive rebounds and that’s why we were able to run.

(the difference it makes when Omer is able to catch and finish those pocket passes)

That’s everything because, if he does that on that given day, it’s going to open up a ton of shots for everybody else outside. It’s just one of those things where it’s a chain reaction: once that starts happening, they’re going to have to adjust and then it comes down to the extra pass which is usually a corner three which is a high percentage shot for us.

(On the Rockets defensive strategy for Deron Williams) “We just tried to make it difficult and we had extra guys coming in to protect on when he would drive. We just tried to load in really fast the same way other teams try to load for James (Harden).”


(On the back-to-back wins) “(It feels) great, great, before the game today we were talking about getting the second win in a row. It's just a great feeling. I think we need to improve to find our way again to run the court and push the ball. We did a great job today. We have to continue to improve and play as much of a game as we can with the same rhythm.”

(On controlling the game) “It feels good. That's what I'm talking about. Sometimes I think in the past we've had the same mistake. Sometimes we'll have them down by 10 or 15 points and we'll think the game is over and the other team will make a run and we would need to make another run. So we need to play smart and push the gas and try to break the game down and not let the other team come back. As long as we win and continue to improve we're going to be okay.”


(On playing against the Nets) “They slowed things down. They got 80 points, then it was (a) 90-point game, then 100, then 100-plus, so we did a good job of stopping them. I think everybody did a good job of rebounding. Every guy that stepped on the court got out in transition and got some easy layups and got some 3-balls and just played our game. Our brand of basketball.”

(On the Rockets controlling the game and him having no turnovers) “We knew they were going to go on a run. They are a very good team. We just had to keep our composure and just run the offense and do what we do. As far as me not turning the ball over, it feels good to not just give away easy points.”


(On the fourth quarter ) “Our shot selection was not good. We had chances to get back in it and we didn’t and a lot of that is on me. A lot of the game we had trouble finding the combination of people to get us offense, defense and rebounding. We had some guys that were giving us good defense but couldn’t make shots for us but other guys were giving us some offense but weren’t giving us defense. When we finally found a group that was playing pretty well, there were still enough time left but our shot selection, controlling the tempo were going to be big and we just couldn’t do it. We took too many threes, particularly early in the shot clock. Defensively and competitively, I thought we did a pretty good job in the second half. We dug a big hole because we weren’t defending well or we couldn’t put the ball in the basket.”

(On what happened on Deron Williams’ ejection ) “The referee said he (Deron) said something to him and he threw him out.”


(On the game) “I thought we were okay for a minute but our turnovers really killed us. They got out into transition and we just couldn’t stop them. We had a point in a time in the second half were we could score but we just couldn’t get stops. We cut it to 9 or 10 and we just couldn’t get over the hump. We’ve had breakdowns (defensively), and when you have one or two then our guys stop trusting one another and that’s when we kind of get out of sync. We have to get back to trusting one another and playing defense.”

(On the team’s 3-point shooting) “We killed ourselves because we had too many turnovers and when are doubled, we have to make the right decision to make everybody else’s job easier. We were making our threes but it was somewhat deceptive because we didn’t establish our inside game.”


(On the Rockets effectiveness in the paint) “They did a good job of crashing the boards and played very well in transition. We got off to a little slow start again and its tough to play from behind.”

(On coming back from the slow start) “I think we made some great plays and they made some big threes. I thought C.J.’s (Watson) fast-break layup was really a turning point. I think that was a tough call but I really don’t want to comment too much on how it went but had that call gone our way, it might have been a different game.”

(On the Nets defense) “I don’t know maybe we were a step slow. I don’t know if I’m communicating enough and contesting enough but we have to change what were getting back to doing.”


Houston registered another sellout crowd of 18,236 for tonight’s game.

The Rockets registered a 119-106 win over Brooklyn tonight, running Houston’s winning streak over the Nets to 12 in a row. Houston has also captured six wins in a row over the Nets at Toyota Center.

Houston also captured a 100-82 victory last night at New Orleans (1/25/13), giving the Rockets their third sweep of back-to-back games this season.

The Rockets scored 62 first-half points on 23-of-46 (.500) shooting. It marked Houston’s first 60-point half since a 66-point second-half vs. the L.A. Lakers (1/8/13). Overall, the Rockets have recorded 16 60-point halves this season.

Houston took the battle of the boards by a 50-31 (+19) advantage tonight. The Rockets also outrebounded the Hornets by a 44-34 (+10) count last night at New Orleans (1/25/13).

The Rockets dished out 31 assists tonight, giving Houston six 30-plus assist games on the season (Rockets record: 5-1).

Houston posted a 60-24 advantage in the paint tonight and a 27-7 edge off the break. It marked the fifth time this season that the Rockets have posted 60 points in the paint (record: 5-0).

James Harden finished with a game-high 29 points (7-15 FG, 13-14 FT) and seven assists tonight. Harden had his streak of consecutive free throws made snapped at a career-best 36 in a row (1/21/13-1/26/13).

Omer Asik posted 20 points (9-12 FG) and 16 rebounds tonight, marking his 18th double-double of the season. It also marked his 13th “double-dozen” game of the season in which he has notched at least 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Chandler Parsons recorded 16 points (7-11 FG, 2-5 3FG), a career-high 11 assists, six rebounds and another blocked shot. Parsons actually matched his previous career high in assists with eight in the first half alone (eight on 12/14/12 vs. Boston).

Jeremy Lin added 14 points (5-14 FG, 2-4 3FG) and nine dimes tonight, marking the second time this season that three Rockets have had seven or more assists in the same game.

Marcus Morris pulled down a career-best 10 rebounds tonight. Morris had recorded his previous career high of eight rebounds in four games this season vs. Detroit (11/10/12), at the L.A. Lakers (11/18/12), vs. the L.A. Clippers (1/15/13) and at Charlotte (1/21/13).

Deron Williams led four Nets in double-figure scoring with 27 points (10-15 FG, 5-9 3FG) and 11 assists tonight. He now owns 13 regular season double-digit assist games against the Rockets dating back to 2006-07. Williams actually scored 20 of his points in a perfect first quarter (7-7 FG, 4-4 3FG, 2-2 FT), becoming the first Rockets opponent to reach 20 points in a quarter since Dirk Nowitzki had a 21-point fourth quarter at Dallas (4/18/12).

Brook Lopez notched 21 points (6-13 FG, 9-10 FT), seven rebounds and a season-high-tying five blocks tonight. Lopez also had 22 points (9-20 FG), 11 boards and five blocks in a win vs. New York (11/26/12).