The Sound Of Music
Of Chandler Parsons, ceilings and the sound of offensive perfection
HOUSTON - This is what offensive perfection sounds like: Five players moving with the same melody in their head, diving and cutting and spacing the floor in rhythm, all the while pushing the tempo when the right moments arise in order to bring the house down with a crescendo of rapturous noise.
And this is what offensive perfection looks like: A seemingly endless array of layups, dunks and wide-open three-pointers, all made possible by the exquisite, unselfish basketball employed by the aforementioned players navigating the court in harmonious concert with one another.
That, in essence, was what the Toyota Center crowd was treated to Friday night during the Rockets’ sonic, optic and otherwise absolute 131-103 demolition of the New York Knicks. Pick a number, any number, and chances are it speaks to Houston’s offensive domination: 56 percent shooting from beyond the arc; an effective field goal percentage near 60 percent; a hit rate of almost 90 percent from the free throw line; an 11-6 edge on the offensive glass (and a 49-30 rebounding advantage overall).
The individual standouts were nearly as numerous. James Harden was at his unstoppably efficient playmaking best, scoring 33 points on just 15 shots while hitting all 16 of his free throw attempts and dishing out a game-high nine assists for good measure. If ever there were such thing as an effortless 33 points, Harden might have provided the prototype, so seemingly simple was the ease with which he penetrated and repeatedly broke down the New York defense. Omer Asik, meanwhile, absolutely obliterated any chance of a Knicks rally in the second half by racking up 14 points and nine rebounds (four on the offensive end) during the final two quarters on his way to recording his sixth double-double of the young season.
But make no mistake, this game belonged to Chandler Parsons. He was the one who set the tone, matching Carmelo Anthony shot for shot and point for point during their first quarter duel that saw both players detonate for 18 points in the opening period. He was the one who had already eclipsed his previous career-high for points in a game (25) by halftime. He was the one who said all the right things (as usual) after the game, heaping praise upon his teammates for their play while downplaying what he’d accomplished on both ends of the floor with a stat line that included eye-popping totals of 31 points (on 13-17 shooting), five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
And now he’s the one who’s starting to raise eyebrows and make people pose the sort of question that probably would have been unthinkable a year ago: Precisely how high is Parsons’ ceiling as a player?
“Not bad for the 38th pick, huh?” said Kelvin Sampson with a smile. “Chandler’s just a winner. When he’s in the groove that he’s in right now, he’s just riding it. He took some shots tonight that last year if I’d have known he was taking those shots this year I probably would have thrown him off the bus. But that’s confidence, man, and he’s worked at it.
“Chandler has incredible intangibles. Some guys have all this talent and you wonder why they can’t put it all together, well they don’t do any of the little things. Chandler has always been great at the little things but he’s learning how to play off the bounce with size. Out of time outs I run pick-and-rolls for him. He’s not used to that, but we’ve convinced him that he can and he does.”
Parsons’ par game averages following Friday night’s explosion: 15.5 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field and better than 41 percent from beyond the arc. And though the sample size is extremely small, Sampson was serious about the 24-year-old’s ability to operate out of the pick-and-roll; according to Synergy Sports, Parsons has generated 1.125 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler this season – a number that ranks him in the league’s 97th percentile (though again: sample size. Coming into Friday’s game, Parsons had only used 16 pick-and-roll possessions).
Still, it’s his long-range shooting that represents perhaps his most significant offseason achievement. If Parsons can consistently knock down those 3s, he can effectively turbo charge the Rockets’ offense as the Knicks found out much to their dismay Friday night. 131 points is obviously an outlier, and it’s at least worth pointing out that New York’s nonchalance on defense played a role in that number as well, but with Parsons spacing the floor, Harden and Lin wreaking havoc with their penetration and Asik cleaning up the offensive glass while scrambling and otherwise distracted defenders focus their efforts elsewhere, Houston should be able to put points on the board against just about everyone.
And we’ve only just covered the offensive side of the ball. Let’s not forget, Parsons first gained playing time last season because he was one of the Rockets’ best wing and team defenders. Even with the blossoming of his offensive game, the University of Florida product hasn’t forgotten those defensive roots. His Synergy numbers are above average to excellent in terms of his ability to defend pick-and-rolls, isolations and post-ups, and he’s held his opponent to a below average Player Efficiency Rating regardless of whether he’s defending the two-, three- or four-spot, according to 82games.com – and remember, he’s often the one who draws the assignment of defending the opponent’s best wing scorer.
And about those intangibles. Despite his young age and relative dearth of experience, Parsons has rapidly grown into a genuine leader of this team. His positive attitude and easy approachability pair well with his work ethic and diligence on the practice court, and there’s no question he’s one of the true galvanizing forces in the Rockets’ locker room. There’s something to be said, too, for his ability to rise to the occasion against the game’s brightest stars. In fact, it’s almost to the point now that you can pretty much count on a top shelf Parsons performance whenever the Kobes, KDs and LeBron’s of the league come to town.
Keep in mind that all of this is coming from a player who still hasn’t appeared in a full regular season’s worth of games yet. In fact, he didn’t receive his first NBA start until January 7th of this year.
“There’s no doubt he’s one of the real leaders of this team,” said Jeremy Lin of his teammate after the game. “Even in training camp last season I knew he was going to be good, real good – much better than people knew. But even I didn’t know he’d be this good.”
No one did. And after watching him take this latest step, the question now becomes: Just how good can he be?
That subject, however, is best left to the future. Only time can provide that answer. For now, the knowledge of this is enough: When Chandler Parsons sets the tone and lays down the rhythm like he did Friday night, the Rockets can make the sort of music that brings down the house.
(On team's performance) “Our defense was really good the second half. We made some changes on what we were going to do with Carmelo. You're not going to stop a talent like Carmelo. They're certain players in this league that are really good, hard shot makers. Carmelo is good at making hard shots. We did a really good job of staying tight. In the first half we so spread out like a young team will do. We got mesmerized by their 3-point shooting. We tried to stay out on them and Carmelo was hurting us down the lane. But the second half we stayed tighter and made them kick the ball out and we got out and made contested shots.”
Not bad for the 38th pick, huh? Just shows you this stuff aint rocket science now. Chandler’s just a winner. When he’s in the groove that he’s in right now, he’s just riding it. He took some shots tonight that last year if I’d have known he was taking those shots this year I probably would have thrown him off the bus. But that’s confidence, man, and he’s worked at it.
Chandler has incredible intangibles. Some guys have all this talent and you wonder why they can’t put it all together, well they don’t do any of the little things. Chandler has always been great at the little things but he’s learning how to play off the bounce with size. Out of time outs I run pick-and-rolls for him. He’s not used to that, but we’ve convinced him that he can and he does. He’s playing pick-and-roll and he’s passing, and I think the more Jeremy and James and Chandler attack, that opens up our offensive rebounding because when we get in the paint, that means we beat somebody and then somebody’s got to help uphill.
(On Jeremy's play) “I thought that this one of Jeremy's better games. I thought he really played and attacked with a little swagger and that was good to see. He has great teammates that always encourage him and his coaches encourage him. When he plays like that he's fun to watch.”
You kind of get in that rhythm but I never want to force shots. I felt like everything I shot was going to go in, but I didn’t want to settle. I wanted to keep getting to the basket. I should have gotten to that free throw line more but I definitely have a good feeling and my teammates kept doing a great job of finding me and coach Sampson kept running plays for me.
It was extremely comfortable out there. It felt like I had mismatches in the pick-and-roll, I always had a step, they were biting on shot fakes and James and Jeremy were finding me all day on 3s. And transition, that’s what we do best and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing, is getting out, running and spacing the floor. Our spacing was unbelievable tonight so we’ve got to continue to play like this on the offensive end and keep playing defense.
(On the game) “We really needed this one. I think we're 6-7 now and we need to do a better job protecting home court. I think today was a big step in the right direction. In terms of playing defensively and offensively.”
(On playing the Knicks) “The team is pretty different. There are some guys that are still there but for the most part. But it was good to compete with a couple of my old friends.”
(On it being a compete game) “It's up there. The way we moved the ball on offense and spread the floor I think that was huge. That's something we want to build off of. We did give up a lot of points but I think we did a decent job getting contested jumpers.”
(On Chandler Parsons play) “It was awesome. You can't ask for anything more and you can't ask for a better performance at the end of the game.
(On the key to the win) “I think we did a great job, especially at the beginning of the game, of coming out and just being in attack mode. Guys didn’t settle, we made good shots and we made good passes. Defensively we locked in for basically the entire game. They (Knicks) made some tough shots, but during the entire game we stuck with it defensively.”
(On Jeremy Lin playing against his former team) “I don’t think he put that much pressure on himself, it was more about us getting a win. It was about us as a young core growing, just getting better every single day. Jeremy, I’m sure he’s happy on the inside that he got a win to beat the Knicks. But for the most part and for the Rockets organization, it’s about getting the win and playing right way.”
(On how does it feel to get the win with an up-tempo style) “It was good. I think our defense set the tone. So we got the win tonight. We played all four quarters and that's what we need to do to win games.”
(On if this helps build the teams morale) “It's going to help us a lot along the road. We have two good practices coming in before we play on Tuesday against Toronto (Raptors). We will build on the last two wins we have and move forward from there.”
NEW YORK KNICKS COACH MIKE WOODSON
(On teams play) “I saw the same thing you did; nothing. Tonight they beat us in every way you can beat a team. I know throughout the course of the year, a season, you have games like this, but it’s not acceptable. We just weren’t ready to play, and that’s on me.”
(On the Rockets, Harden, and Parsons play) “It was our effort on the ball in a one-on-one position, it’s been awful. It started in Dallas. This was unacceptable and an awful, awful performance on out part. We got the record we have because of the way we’ve been defending. Our defense has held us in, and has created offense for us, now we’re just trying to out score teams, and that’s not good enough. Parsons was fantastic. He is a nice young player that’s probably going to get better as the years go on, but it doesn’t hurt that they have Harden in the backcourt running the team. He’s a pretty damn good player too. Houston played well tonight. I’m not concerned about their team; I’m concerned about our team.”
(On the Rockets) “Their whole team did a great job. We are a team defense and we just didn’t do those things right. Harden is an Olympian and he is a guy that has played on teams that have won and he knows what it takes to win. He is one of the best players in this league.”
(On the teams focus) “We weren’t really focused on (Jeremy) Lin, we were more focused on the two (Parsons, Harden) that got things going. Those two guys (Parsons, Harden) have been playing at a high level and when they play well, they win.”
(On Carmelo Anthony’s play) “He was big. He just couldn’t get anybody to go with him tonight so we let a great performance by him, we wasted one. We expect that kind of game from him but defensively we have to find some answers.”
(On the teams play) “We just had lapses all over the place, but I take responsibility for that. I have to get my team and myself better. Too many breakdowns and we are getting beaten off the dribble and the penetrations are hurting us. We are allowing too many offensive rebounds and easy shots on the perimeter. We are allowing too many easy baskets and earlier in the year, we were making things tough on other teams.”
(On the game) “If I had an explanation, we might have won the game. The biggest thing was we just got out of our principles and didn’t stop the ball like we normally do. We didn’t defend like we normally do. You have those games and I’m glad that it happened early. We are still 8-3 with one of the best records in the league, so we have to put this game behind us. We hate to lose like that, but you have games like that and we just have to get over it.”
(On the teams play) “We haven’t been as sharp as we were early in the season. It’s back to the drawing board and tonight was a good ol’ fashioned ass kicking. You’ve got to except that and take that and roll with the punches. There’s really not much I can say.”
Houston registered another sellout crowd of 18,038 tonight. Dating back to the end of 2011-12, Houston has nine sellouts over its last 19 regular season games at Toyota Center.
The Rockets registered their largest margin of victory this season with a 131-103 win over the Knicks tonight, matching the most points scored by Houston at Toyota Center (131, twice vs. Golden State on 12/5/08 and 3/23/11). It also marked the first time the Rockets hit 130 points in a game since a 131-112 win vs. Golden State (3/23/11).
Houston also set season highs in field goals made (46-89 FG), field goal percentage (.517), 3-point field goals made (14-25 3FG), 3-point field goal percentage (.560), first-quarter points (35) and first-half points (72). The last time Houston scored 70-plus points in a half was 71 in the opening half vs. New Jersey (2/26/11).
The second quarter has favored Houston is recent meetings with New York, as the Rockets once again outscored the Knicks by a 37-25 count in the second tonight.
Houston outrebounded New York by a 49-30 (+19) count tonight, marking the third time this season the Rockets have recorded a double-digit rebounding differential over their opponent.
The Knicks were 17-of-39 (.436) from downtown tonight, matching the opponent record for 3-pointers made of 17 set by the Phoenix Suns at Houston (1/17/07). The 39 3-point shots were the most ever attempted by a Houston opponent, surpassing the previous mark of 37 set by the Warriors in an OT game at Golden State (12/14/05).
James Harden led the Rockets with 33 points (7-15 FG, 3-5 3FG) and a game-high nine assists, as well as hitting a career-best 16-of-16 from the free throw line.
Chandler Parsons surpassed his career high in scoring in the first half of tonight’s game, netting 26 points (11-13 FG) over the opening two quarters. His previous career best for a game was 25 points (8-17 FG, 4-4 FT) vs. Miami (11/12/12). Parsons finished with 31 points (13-17 FG, 4-7 3FG, 1-2 FT), five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
The Last time the Rockets had two 30-point scorers in the same game was on 2/23/11 at Cleveland – Kevin Martin (30) and Chase Budinger (30).
Jeremy Lin posted 13 points (6-12 FG) and seven rebounds against his former team tonight, while former Knicks guard Toney Douglas came off the bench with 11 points (3-4 3FG).
Omer Asik registered 18 points (6-11 FG), 14 rebounds and a career-high-tying three assists tonight. Asik marked his sixth double-double of the season.
Carmelo Anthony notched a game-high 37 points (14-24 FG) on the strength of a 7-of-12 outing from beyond the arc. Anthony became the first Houston opponent with 7-plus 3-pointers made in a game since Jason Richardson (7) with Golden State at Houston (4/4/07).
Raymond Felton added 17 points (6-11 FG, 4-6 3FG) and eight assists tonight. Felton also posted 18 points and a season-high 11 assists at Dallas (11/21/12) for his first double-double of the season.