6th Fan Blogger Recap: Jan. 4 vs Houston

Bucks 101, Rockets 115

James harden
James Harden gets rejected by Ekpe Udoh.
Gary Dineen / NBAE / Getty Images

After the rough outing against the Spurs the Bucks are going to look to rebound tonight against the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are leading the league in points/game coming into tonight’s matchup and are bringing with them one of the most efficient player’s in the league. James Harden is 8th in the league in Player Efficiency Rating (PER). PER is measure of per-minute production for a player that is standardized to 15. Harden is currently at 23.4 according to Basketball-Reference, so basically Harden is 1.5 times as productive as an avg. NBA player, which, based on PER has coincidentally been Beno Udrih. Another interesting point lies within the seven people with a better PER than Harden. Of the seven, only two have played more minutes (fewer minutes have a greater chance of exaggerating the accuracy of the statistic due to a small sample size) so this means that while Harden is theoretically less efficient he has also had more opportunity to regress to the mean of 15 and when said opportunity is presented to the other seven players it is possible they regress at or near the same level Harden has and actualize comparable PERs.

All the above nerdy nonsense is meant to demonstrate that the Bucks are going to have a tough challenge in front of them on the court tonight. This is not to say that the game is over before it is played. The Rockets as a team also have two players that are in the top 15 in the league in turnovers. These players happen to be James Harden and Jeremy Lin. The Bucks have two players in the top 15 in the league in steals. These players happen to be Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. In the words of Lloyd Christmas, “So you’re saying there’s a chance...”

After a pair of free throws and a scoreless first two minutes for both teams, the Bucks and Ekpe Udoh were on the board. But the quarter continued to roll on a little slow. Over the first four minutes the teams looked less like featherweights (the Rockets are number one in points scored and number twenty nine in points allowed) and more like heavyweight boxers. Needless to say, this is not what I imagined when I was heading to the game tonight. At least until Monta Ellis hit a sweet reverse layup midway through the first quarter. The teams again returned to more circling and sizing up than furious flurries or raucous haymakers. Whatever the strategy the teams were employing, it was close after one period of play Houston 23 Bucks 21.

So was period two going to be another feeling out session with each team methodically measuring their strikes on each end? Milwaukee answered that with an emphatic NO. In the first five minutes the team was able to go on a 16-6 run that soared the score to Milwaukee 39 Houston 27. Now, as Emril would say, “We are finally cooking!” The teams started to slow things down trading off free throw attempts. But, much to the chagrin of the Rockets the Bucks weren’t going to let that just sit and simmer. This recipe (and horrible pun) called for some spice. By the end of the first half the Bucks were able to hold Harden to 13 points and took a lead into the half Milwaukee 58 Houston 47.

As period three got rolling, I was starting to wonder if Jeremy Lin was going to outscore Kevin McHale tonight. To be fair, Lin is a young player entering his prime – but he never possessed the deadly drop step of Kevin McHale. For years Big Kev, as I like to affectionately call him, spiraled his defender into a whirlwind of defensive confusion. A God-given gift like that never leaves, perhaps he was even unknowingly doing the same to Lin without leaving his seat. The epic stalemate wouldn’t last, and before long into the third Lin got on the board and the Rockets started to right the train until by the quarter’s midpoint they held a 64 – 60 lead. Harden was going to be held silent no more, going from his 13 first half points to a third quarter and game leading total of 21 to go with 6 assists and 4 steals. Houston managed to pull ahead to a 77 – 72 lead.

What could Milwaukee do to make the beard fear the deer? Skiles appeared to have instructed the team to start hoisting a few deep balls and it was working as the team pulled to within 3 points after the first four minutes. That is until Houston decided to dig a little deeper and begin to pull away. Whether it was the series of miscues by Milwaukee, McHale releasing his death-glare from Lin, or Carlos Delfino’s silky smooth three-point stroke, Houston managed to pull away in the end. Harden led the way with 29 points 7 assists 4 steals. Brandon Jennings led the way for Milwaukee with 16 points and 7 assists. Houston 115 Milwaukee 101.
Remind me to stay on Kevin McHale’s good side.

Colin Booth is the Bucks Fan Blogger. Colin was voted by the fans during the 2012 home opener to writer for bucks.com. His views are his own and do not neccesarily represent the Milwaukee Bucks.