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Rockets Ride Red-Hot Offense To Win Over Jazz

December 01, 2012 11:00 pm EST

HOUSTON - Remember the days when people were actually worried about the Rockets’ offense?

Once upon a time (read: three weeks ago) it seemed to be a legitimate concern. But with Houston throwing up numbers befitting their massive new scoreboard on a near nightly basis of late, that period is growing fainter and tougher to recall by the day.

The Rockets made Utah the latest victim of their offensive expertise, scoring at will on their way to ringing up a 124-116 victory over the overwhelmed Jazz. The box score numbers might as well be writ large in neon, so boldly do they leap off the page: 55 percent shooting from the field, 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc (good for an effective field goal percentage of 62 percent, for the advanced stat gurus among you), 62 points in the paint, 26 assists and 22 fast-break points. And Houston did it in the most balanced way possible, too, as seven players scored in double digits, led by Patrick Patterson’s 20.

Indeed, it was another offensive tour de force from start to finish for the Rockets, who have made this sort of point-scoring extravaganza rather commonplace of late, especially on their home floor where they have now won five in a row. It begins with much-improved ball movement that has, not surprisingly, grown by leaps and bounds as Houston’s players have had more time to become familiar with one another.

And while the passing proficiency has picked up, so too has the team’s ability to put the finishing touches on those plays. The Rockets seem to have shaken off the cold shooting that plagued them at times during the season’s first two weeks and are now taking advantage of a much higher percentage of the good looks they’re generating.

Credit for that deserves to be spread team-wide of course, but special mention must be made of the incredible impact Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik have upon the Houston offense when opposing defenses have to account for them as well. It’s no secret that James Harden is item No. 1 on every opponent’s scouting report and teams are going to toss every trick in the book at him in an attempt to get the ball out of his hands and throw him off his game. Time and attention, too, are certain to be spent on pushing Jeremy Lin out of his comfort zone and finding ways to throw off the red-hot Chandler Parsons. Given that, it only goes to follow that scoring opportunities galore are going to be there for Patterson and Asik. And both are making opponents pay of late, with Asik collecting double-doubles the way a Kardashian accrues eye rolls and Patterson making 20-point games – and made 3s – appear downright commonplace.

“It’s huge,” said Parsons of the offensive contributions of his frontcourt partners in crime. “Pat, the way he’s shooting the ball, it’s going to stretch out the defense so much. It’s not going to allow teams to show as hard on pick-and-rolls and go and double James. And (Asik) has just got to continue to finish. He’s got to try to dunk everything and those guys being able to score the basketball just makes the game easier for me, James and Jeremy.

“We’re very unselfish. We’re moving the ball great right now. If you look at the stat sheet tonight, we’re so balanced and that’s how I think we’ve got to go because every night a different player can beat you, so you can’t really key in on one or two guys because we have so many different weapons.”

As for the Rockets’ defense, however … Hey, how about that offense? Yes, Houston’s D still has some work to do. Utah is a good offensive club as well, but conceding 67 second-half points is not a long-term recipe for a success. Defense promises to be a serious talking point when the Rockets return to the practice court Monday, especially with the equally explosive Lakers and Spurs making up three of the next four games on Houston’s schedule.

But before too many sirens are sounded, it’s worth recalling that once upon a time it seemed as if scoring points might be a serious concern around these parts. The Rockets have since placed that fear far, far away in the rearview mirror. The key now of course is finding a way to do the same to their issues on the defensive side of the ball. Accomplish that, and this "once upon a time" stuff may ultimately lead to a fairy tale finish as well. 

QUOTES

KELVIN SAMPSON

(On the offense) “Utah is a real physical team. I think it took us a while to realize just to get a feel for them. Every team is different. Some teams we play are finesse teams. This team will rattle your cage. I think we had 7 turnovers in the first 6 minutes and I think we only have 2 the rest of the half if I'm not mistaken. Just getting more ball movement, the think that I keep emphasizing to our guys is strong to weak to strong. Anything we go strong to weak the defense gets expanded then we come back to the other side and then we can run our roll game especially with O (Omer Asik) and Pat (Patrick Patterson). Pats more of a popper and O's more of a roller. But there’s a lot of ways to get the ball in the post. Utah gets it to the post by throwing it to (Al) Jefferson and (Paul) Millsap on the block. We get it into the post differently. We do it through either dribble penetration or rolls.”

(on Jeremy Lin and the pick-and-roll game)

Regardless of how teams guard you, there’s not a million ways you can guard pick-and-roll: Some teams hard show, get out and really hedge or show hard into the dribble lanes; some teams back up and stay flat. But regardless when we set the screen, we have to make contact with that screen because that forces the big to at least have to pause or come up and help, and that opens up our roll game.

But your roll game is only as good as your spacing. Once we roll, now Jeremy turns the corner and he has options. His reads are real simple: if they suck in, kick it out; and if they stay out, then take it to the rim. And I thought his decision-making tonight was outstanding.

(on the defense)

We’re playing a little bit of a dicey game here. We’re becoming a good offensive team but there’s going to be some nights when these balls don’t go in now. We’re going to have to get a little tougher on defense and learn to win that way – and we’ve shown we can do it. Sometimes with a young team like us, they get pretty impressed with their offense and maybe they don’t compete as hard at the other end.

(on the play of Delfino and Parsons)

We ran some stuff for Carlos tonight; he came off some pin-downs and got us some big shots. But he can do things other guys can’t do. He just has a good feel for how to play.

And Chandler is the ultimate glue guy. We don’t have anybody like him. He doesn’t have to necessarily have the ball; he’s a willing passer, he’s a willing cutter, he’s a willing rebounder. He’s not overly impressed with how many points he has – that’s just not who he is. He does all the dirty work things for you. You’ve got to have guys like Chandler. There are some guys in this league who can only help a really good team because they’re not good enough to help a really bad team. Chandler is one of those guys who can help a good or bad team because of his skills, his heart and his brain.

(On Greg Smith's game) “If you look back at the stat sheet from the last game we played against New Orleans, I think he had 10 rebounds. There were some games before that, I don’t ever think we ran a play for him. He's a big strong kid that can finish around that paint. He's just a youngster too; I think he just turned 21. He should be a junior in college right now. He's ox-country strong. That’s a strong boy. Look at his free throw shooting last year, shooting free throws last year for him was swinging at a piñata, he had no idea where that thing was going. But now, he's slowing down, he's gaining confidence. And we don't mind throwing the ball into Greg. Al Jefferson is a tough match up for the whole league. He scores on that low post. I thought Greg battled him too. He had 3 offensive rebounds. Greg is, well we were concerned about that position coming out of McAllen, who was going to be our back up 5. But Greg has evolved into that position. Cole Aldrich has had some moments, his injury obviously was unfortunate, but he has had his moments.”

CHANDLER PARSONS

(on the offense)

We’re very unselfish. We’re moving the ball great right now. If you look at the stat sheet tonight, we’re so balanced and that’s how I think we’ve got to go because every night a different player can beat you, so you can’t really key in on one or two guys because we have so many different weapons. And it seems like at home we’re moving the ball way more and we’ve got to continue that over to the road.

(on what it means to have Asik and Patterson contributing on offense)

It’s huge. Pat, the way he’s shooting the ball, it’s going to stretch out the defense so much. It’s not going to allow teams to show as hard on pick-and-rolls and go and double James. And (Asik) has just got to continue to finish. He’s got to try to dunk everything and those guys being able to score the basketball just makes the game easier for me, James and Jeremy.

JAMES HARDEN

(On the importance of Patrick Patterson to the offense) “He is doing a tremendous job of spacing the floor and of picking his spots, of being in the right spot at all times. It is key for us because they (Jazz) clog the paint so Pat (Patterson) can basically spread the floor out and he's doing a great job of it.”

(On the Rockets spacing offensively) “We were being aggressive. Our bigs set some great screens and Pat (Patterson) spacing the floor well. It's hard for a big to be in the paint. Helping on defense when you have a shooter who is knocking down shots.”

JEREMY LIN

(On the Rockets recent improved play) “I wouldn't say we're there. I think that what we did tonight was a step in the right direction. Not everything is right when you win. We definitely have some holes that we still need to address. We caught a good team on the back end of a back-to-back. We want to make sure we appreciate it, but we understand too that they were a tired team coming in here.”

(On the key to securing the win late in the game) “Just trusting each other and playing hard and playing with each other. When we do that and when we buckle down on defense, that's when we are at our best.”

GREG SMITH

(On the Rockets shooting tonight) “Ball movement, just passing the ball to the open man. Driving and kicking (the ball out) making the defense work. They (Utah) were coming off back-to-back against OKC, so we knew they were tired, so go out there, pass the ball, drive and kick and everybody was open and hope the shot would go in.”

(On his career high) “It felt good. I saw I had 13. I thought I had more, but when you're making everything, it seems like you don't have any points. But it felt good making my career high. I feel proud that my teammates were finding me.”

UTAH JAZZ COACH TYRONE CORBIN

(On the loss) “Any loss is a disappointing loss. I thought our effort after playing last night we came back and had opportunities in the game, on the road. We just didn’t finish it off. We gave up rotations at the end, three or four blow bys. Lin did a good job attacking the basket and we didn’t do a good job staying in between our man and the basket at key points in the game.”

(On overcoming the lead and the close of the game) “It’s just pride man. We’re a proud bunch of guys and there is a lot of fight in us. We just have to get smarter and we and do for a long period of time. We wait or give teams the opportunity to get runs against and we get runs back. That happens in games but we have to understand from the beginning of the game as if we are down. Come out with that type of desire in the beginning. It’s a matter of concern once we get down there. I am concerned but as long as we have time on the clock we’ll continue to fight and give ourselves a chance to get back in it.”

GORDON HAYWARD

(On the run at the end of the game) “Yeah, I definitely think we had an opportunity to win the game. Down the stretch we’ve got to be able to execute plays and get good shots, get some stops obviously so we can win the ball game. We were in it and I don’t think nobody is satisfied with that and not being able to win on the road.”

(On the game and its strange feel) “We’ve got to continue to be aggressive and go to the hole whether they call fouls or not. You maybe we’ve got to dump off on a drive knowing that they’re going to block shots. You know we’ve got to continue to be aggressive.”

RANDY FOYE

(On the Rockets) “They played well. You got to give them a lot of credit. They shot the ball well from the 3-point line. They shared the ball. James Harden distributed the ball really well. We loaded up on him and we took him away for the most part and he got other guys open shots. They missed some but they made the big ones.”

(On the defensive display) “Usually that’s something that all of us from top to bottom take pride in getting stops and tonight we didn’t do it. You can’t look at any numbers and say if we would’ve got this or we would’ve got that, top to bottom we didn’t get the job done on defense.”

(On the play of the bench) “I think Alec (Burks) did a nice job on James (Harden). I’m not surprised. I see them everyday in practice. I see them working out before games, after practice working out so it’s not new to me.”

ALEC BURKS

(On not overcoming at the end of the game) “It happens. We fought hard and it didn’t come our way this time. We just got to be ready Monday.”

(On performing on a regular basis) “I can only control what I can control. I just got be ready when I go out there and everything will take care of itself.”

NOTES

Houston scored a season-high 39 fourth-quarter points to hold off Utah for a 124-116 win tonight. The Jazz had scored an opponent season-best 37 third-quarter points to take an 86-85 lead into the final 12 minutes. The Rockets also snapped a three-game losing streak to the Jazz (2/29/12-11/19/12).

The Rockets hit a season-best .554 (46-83 FG) from the floor tonight, including 11-of-22 (.500) from downtown. Houston now owns an active five-game home winning streak (11/14/12-12/1/12). Over this run, the Rockets have scored 565 points (113.0 ppg), while shooting 204-of-409 (.499) from the field and 55-of-121 (.455) from beyond the arc.

All five Rockets starters have now scored 10-plus points in each of the last three home games vs. New York (11/23/12), vs. Toronto (11/27/12) and again tonight. The last time Houston accomplished such a feat was back in 2010-11 (3/23/11, 4/1/11 and 4/3/11).

Houston had seven players in double-figure scoring tonight. The last time the Rockets had that many players with 10 plus points was on 4/18/12 at Dallas (seven players).

Utah had three 20-point scores in the game tonight, marking the first time that has occurred since 11/16/12 at Portland (OT) – Nicolas Batum (35), LaMarcus Aldridge (29) and Damian Lillard (27).

Patrick Patterson recorded a team-high 20 points (8-17 FG, 2-5 3FG), seven rebounds and three blocks. He now has a career-best three consecutive 20-point games: 22 points (7-14 FG, 2-4 3FG, 6-7 FT) vs. Toronto (11/27/12) and a career-high 27 points (11-18 FG, 2-3 3FG, 3-4 FT) at Oklahoma City (11/28/12).

Jeremy Lin totaled 19 points (8-14 FG) and a game-high eight assists tonight, which marked the seventh time this season he has dished at least eight assists in a game.

Chandler Parsons returned to the lineup tonight after missing the last game with a sore right shoulder tonight. Parsons, who had 19 points (7-12 FG, 3-5 3FG) tonight, has now made at least one 3-pointer in 21 consecutive games played (4/15/12-12/1/12) dating back to last season.

Omer Asik finished with 14 points (4-4 FG), 12 rebounds and three blocks tonight. Asik now has a career-high four consecutive double-doubles (11/23/12-12/1/12), surpassing his run of three straight from earlier this season (11/12/12-11/16/12).

Carlos Delfino, who missed the last seven games (11/16/12-11/28/12) with a groin injury, notched 13 points (5-7 FG, 3-5 3FG) and five rebounds tonight. Greg Smith also had a career-best 13 points (7-9 FT).

Gordon Hayward topped six Utah players in double-figure scoring with 21 points (8-12 FG, 3-5 3FG) tonight. Hayward also led the Jazz with 15 points (5-12 FG) off the bench at Utah (11/19/12).

Randy Foye added 20 points (8-11 FG) tonight, including a 4-of-6 performance from downtown. He now has nine double-figure scoring games on the season with three 20-point outings.

Al Jefferson, who posted 14 points (6-7 FT) and 16 rebounds at Utah (11/19/12), registered 20 points (10-19 FG) and eight boards tonight.

Paul Millsap recorded his fifth double-double of the season off a 12-point, 11-rebound outing tonight.