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Slump Busters

January 21, 2013 6:33 pm EST

Rockets ride big fourth quarter to rally past Bobcats, put end to seven-game slide

HOUSTON - Having spent the vast majority of the past two weeks in desperate need of a win, the Rockets had long since left any remaining pickiness behind. They didn’t care how the victory arrived or from where. Whether it was a blowout or nail-biter carried no significance whatsoever. The only thing that mattered: seeing the game clock at :00 with more points beneath their team name than that of their opponent’s. All other details could be worked out on the happy – and exceedingly relieved – flight home.

It should come as no surprise then to have seen and heard the ecstatic tweets and sound bites emanating from Houston’s players following the team’s tougher-than-expected 100-94 win over the beleaguered Charlotte Bobcats; a victory which finally put an end to the team’s seven-game losing streak. Make no mistake: the Rockets had to fight for the full 48 minutes to emerge victorious. They had to rally once again after falling behind by double-digits for the eleventh consecutive contest. They had to survive the oft-spectacular shot-making of Kemba Walker who erupted for a career-high 35 points and the similarly impressive rim protection of Bismack Biyombo who swatted seven shots.

But perhaps it was better that way. The Rockets had to earn this triumph; had to scratch, bite and claw their way back into the win column. Houston did it with all the things that had been so sorely missing during its slump: suffocating fourth quarter defense, timely made shots in crunch time and an indomitable determination to keep attacking the rim, leading to a massive 41-24 margin in free throw attempts – the stat that undeniably determined the victor of Monday’s contest. Little wonder, then, that James Harden, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen, responded post-game by saying "I feel like we just won the championship."

“These last few games I’ve been struggling, especially with my shot,” said Harden, who despite shooting 5-20 from the field still managed to lead the team with 29 points thanks to his incredible 19-21 effort from the free throw line. “Guys stepped up and hit some big shots, some big threes. Marcus (Morris) and Carlos (Delfino) and those guys stepped up all night.”

Indeed, the Rockets’ losing streak would likely still be active if not for the huge boost Houston received from several of its subs. Morris (21 points) and Delfino (16 points) were especially valuable, providing the club with the spacing it simply has to have for its offense to hit high gear. Those two players combined to knock down six of the 14 shots they attempted from beyond the arc, with Delfino’s corner trey at the 1:54 mark of the fourth quarter giving Houston a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way. Patrick Beverley played a big role off the Rockets’ bench as well, manning the point guard spot for all 12 minutes of the final frame while using his hyper-aggressive, high-energy effort to spark the team on both ends of the floor.

No one, however, proved more vital to the Houston cause than did Chandler Parsons and James Harden. Parsons (14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) put the team on his back for long stretches of the first half, and without his efforts the Rockets likely never would have been in position to stage a late rally in the first place. Harden, meanwhile, simply proved unstoppable down the stretch, either scoring or assisting on 21 of Houston’s final 22 points as he keyed the Rockets’ 22-11 closing run that ensured the team came home with a win it absolutely, positively had to have.   

“I’ve got the green light every game, it’s just a matter of me making shots and making plays for my teammates,” Harden said. “Guys were ready to shoot the ball. Carlos and Marcus hit some big threes and Patrick Beverly hit a big three to take the lead. It was a much-needed win for us. It gives us a lot of confidence going into the next game.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(relief of finally breaking through)

Well, again, we were playing the way we were: We were missing layups, bouncing the ball off our knee – it was a comedy act for awhile where we just couldn’t get things to go. But that’s what happens; we’re in a funk right now and we have to work our way out of it. We’ve got a chance to practice tomorrow and a chance to tighten up some stuff. We’ve got to improve and we will. I really thought that the guys in Indiana played really hard we’ve just been going through a period where we haven’t had much going our way. Carlos made a big corner 3, James got to the line 21 times and we got a chance to get a win.

We got in the penalty really early and I said, ‘Let’s try to get to the line as much as we can. 21 times is pretty amazing. James was 5-20 from the field. He had 29 points – that’s hard to do.

(on the fourth quarter defense)

Walker was killing us so we tried to trap him and make the ball go to Biyombo or someone else. Then he shook loose for a couple, then we have a great possession, can’t get a rebound, they throw it out and he makes a 3. He really played well. He’s got a lot of confidence right now running that mid-screen and roll. So we tried to trap him and our guys played hard. Patrick Beverley did a nice job with his quickness trying to at least contain a guy like that.

(on Beverley playing the entire fourth quarter)

We were just sticking with what worked. He’s got to get with what we’re doing a little bit. He hasn’t been here very long. Practice tomorrow is going to be big for him. He’ll get some more sets down and get some stuff we’re doing. Hopefully we can start building on this.

MARCUS MORRIS

We’ve been in a funk on this road trip so we’re just trying to get out of it and hopefully we can start here.

(broke out of your shooting slump tonight)

I just stopped worrying about shooting and just letting it go. Maybe I’ve been trying to aim it too much trying to make every shot. I’m human, I’m not going to make every shot so I just came out, tried to be aggressive and if I was open, shoot it.

(on James Harden)

He’s tough. He’s a superstar. He’s been in a little slump himself, but he came out here, he played hard and he kept being aggressive even when it wasn’t going down.

(On ending the seven-game losing streak)

“We needed this win.  We’ve just got to keep going and keep building from there.  We’ve got practice tomorrow, so (we’ve got to) keep getting better.”

(On whether or not it helps to hit shots early in a game)

“It’s just more related to timing.  I think the more time I get, the more I can produce.  I just played aggressive.  The coaches told me to just be myself and just be aggressive.  If I’m open, shoot it.  Stop with the indecisiveness.”

(On the mindset of the team when they were down in the first half)

“Just keep going.  They got hot early and Kemba (Walker) got off to a great start.  It was just keep fighting, keep fighting until the end.”

JAMES HARDEN

(On tonight’s game)

“I’ve got the green light every game, it’s just a matter of me making shots and making plays for my teammates.  These last few games I’ve been struggling, especially with my shot.  Guys stepped up and hit some big shots, some big threes.  Marcus (Morris) and Carlos (Delfino) and those guys stepped up all night.”

(On the team’s play tonight)

“Guys were ready to shoot the ball.  Carlos and Marcus hit some big threes and Patrick Beverly hit a big three to take the lead.  It was a much-needed win for us.  It gives us a lot of confidence going into the next game.”

(On continuing to attack the rim despite Bismack Biyombo’s seven blocks)

“He blocked my shot about five times, sent it into the stands.  He’s a great shot-blocker.  But we were still in attack mode.  We knew that we couldn’t give up getting to the basket and we stayed aggressive.”

BOBCATS HEAD COACH MIKE DUNLAP

(On today’s game)

“Kemba (Walker) and (Ramon) Sessions got going but we needed that third scorer. It’s not an individual with our team, it’s just finding who that third scorer is.  Whether it’s going to the rim and scoring off the block or hitting threes or middle jumpers, there’s a number of ways and a number of different guys that have done that for us in the fourth and we just didn’t have it tonight.”

(On Kemba Walker’s career-high 35 points)

“The development of Kemba continues.  We targeted him early in the season and everything is double what it was last year.  He’s a sophomore in the league. His promise as a future star in this league is high, and as he matures and takes responsibility with his voice for our entire team he’s going to be an All-Star.  I said that from the beginning and statistically he’s showing that.”

(On Bismack Biyombo)

“His issue, as all 20-year-olds are, is consistency.  If you can bring that kind of presence most nights, knowing full well you can’t do that in this league every night, it makes us a different team. They couldn’t get into their pick-and-roll game a lot of times because of that, and then when (James) Harden broke free, there were a number of points that were left at the rim, so to speak, that Harden couldn’t finish on because of Bis.  That was part of our defensive strategy, for our fives to protect the rim, and he broke through and he did his job”

(On Tyrus Thomas)

“He gave us energy and was active defensively. The thing we need from Tyrus is activity and rebounds. Before he got hurt he was leading us in blocked shots at the rim, so for the nine minutes that he got, he was fine.”

KEMBA WALKER

(On today’s game)

“It was pretty disappointing. We played hard. We fought through the whole game, those guys just made big plays and we just came up short.”

(On the team’s struggles in the fourth quarter)

“It’s tough man. We’re trying our hardest to win these games, but you know it’s just not working out for us right now. We still have so much basketball left so hopefully things are going to start looking out for us and I think they will.”

(On whether the Rockets did anything different in the fourth quarter)

 “They trapped me and Ramon on ball screens which made it tough for us. That was the biggest adjustment they made.”

RAMON SESSIONS

(On the fourth quarter)

“They got a lot of second chance points. (Patrick) Beverley came in and snuck a couple rebounds here and there.  I think offensively we could’ve executed a little better and that would have helped us out. But mainly on the defensive end it’s just getting those stops we needed.“

(On whether the Rockets did anything different in the fourth quarter)

“To be honest I really didn’t see anything much different.  I think our execution, we just stopped running a little bit within the half court, set a little more. It’s no secret we’re better when we’re running and gunning. It’s one of those things where we just kind of slowed the pace down and slowed the game down so just execution really.”