Rockets Swat Hornets Aside
HOUSTON - For one half of basketball Wednesday night, the Rockets looked every bit like a group that had not seen any live-game action over the course of the past week. There were turnovers and missed layups galore as the club spent a significant portion of the first two quarters shaking off the rust that had seemingly set in.
It only served to figure, then, that the Rockets would seek to send a message at the start of the second half; something to make it abundantly clear that this was a team capable of much more. And right on cue, Houston’s starting five delivered that statement in the most emphatic way possible, opening the third quarter with a dominating 17-4 run that propelled the Rockets to a 97-90 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
The decisive run featured strong play from each of Houston’s starters who collectively triggered the Rockets’ attack by clamping down on defense and forcing New Orleans into an abundance of bad shots and miscues. The Rockets generated 26 Hornets’ turnovers in all during an evening that was filled with a staggering amount of carelessness from both sides during the vast majority of the game.
The lone exception, however, occurred during Houston’s commanding third quarter blitzkrieg. Terrence Jones, starting in place of the injured Patrick Patterson (right quad strain), kicked off the run with a three-point play on the Rockets’ opening possession of the half. Kevin Martin returned to his red-hot form, bouncing back – like his teammates – from a rocky first half to score 11 points in the frame thanks in large part to his 3-for-3 barrage from behind the arc. Chandler Parsons joined in on the long-range target practice as well, knocking down back-to-back triples as Houston extended its lead to double-digits for the first time. Jeremy Lin, still struggling to find his shot, instead made his presence felt by slicing through the Hornets’ defense and setting up his teammates for open looks. And all the while, Omer Asik simply continued to do what he’s done since the start of training camp: control the paint, dominate the glass and chip in offensively with putbacks, dunks and some startlingly clever passes.
From there, Houston’s bench helped take care of business, with several subs turning in strong showings as well. Shaun Livingston produced his best performance as a Rocket to date, scoring seven points to go along with five assists and three steals in 22 minutes of play. Greg Smith, too, looked good in limited action, scoring eight points on 4-4 shooting. Most notable of all, however, was the play of Carlos Delfino, who came off the bench to lead all Rockets in scoring with 20 points, primarily due to his marksmanship from downtown. Delfino connected on four of his nine three-point attempts, keying a Rockets’ shooting exhibition that saw the team go 12-27 (44.4 percent) from long range.
“We’ve got some good shooters,” said Chandler Parsons, who finished 4-6 from beyond the arc on his way to scoring 18 points. “As long as we keep moving the ball like that and keep playing unselfish, we’re going to be fine. We’ve got guys who can really put the ball in the net, we’ve just got to get stops first so we can get out on the break and get those open looks.”