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Rockets Rediscover Mojo In Big Easy

January 26, 2013 12:08 am EST

HOUSTON - The Rockets returned to the scene of the crime Friday night, back in the Big Easy and the site of the place where their two-week slide began. But instead of allowing the Hornets to force them deeper into despair, Houston instead rediscovered the mojo it had originally brought to New Orleans earlier this month, restoring a certain sense of order with a sorely needed 100-82 win.

The Rockets earned the victory by getting back to the building blocks of their success. They defended with intensity and purpose, crashed the glass, moved the ball and resurrected their transition game that had at times slowed to a crawl over the course of their nine-game slump.

It was the sort of total team effort Houston had been searching for, with players up and down the roster contributing in key moments. Jeremy Lin sparked the club early, aggressively creating plays for both himself and his teammates while his swarming defense on Greivis Vasquez, a Rockets killer during the two teams’ previous three matchups, made a massive impact on Houston’s ability to slow New Orleans’ offensive attack. James Harden flashed his All-Star form, shaking off a turnover-filled second quarter to lead the team with 30 points and 8 assists. And Carlos Delfino did what Carlos Delfino seemingly always does, providing a massive boost off the bench with his shooting, smarts and veteran savvy.

Each of those players played pivotal roles in the Rockets win. No one, however, made quite the impact or overall impression than did Patrick Patterson. It’s no secret that Patterson had been slumping of late right along with the rest of his team; the 23-year-old forward entered Friday’s contest averaging just 5.3 points and 3. 6 rebounds per game over the course of his last 10 games while shooting the ball from the field at just a 38 percent clip during that span. In fact, the dearth of production the Rockets have recently been receiving from their power forward position in general has certainly loomed as a hot topic of late, having undoubtedly factored into the team’s two-week downturn in play. 

But Patterson made sure there would be no such issues at the four-spot right from the outset Friday night. His board work was nothing short of a revelation as he tied a career-high with 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. He defended like a demon both along the interior altering shots and out on the perimeter as well where he helped force Hornets’ sharpshooter Ryan Anderson into an 0-5 night from beyond the arc. Patterson’s shooting stroke, meanwhile, was simply sublime. The University of Kentucky product knocked down eight of his 11 shots from the field and his pick-and-pop game was so on point that toward the end of the third quarter he simply started running down the court to get back on defense the moment the ball left his hand; he didn’t need to hang tight to see if the ball was going in – he knew it was good upon release.

“He just played great,” admired Houston head coach Kevin McHale when asked about the play of his starting power forward who finished with his second double-double of the season. “Patrick played phenomenal basketball and that’s kind of what we need from him every night.”

Indeed, this is a different and far more imposing Rockets team when the club is getting quality minutes from the power forward position. It’s hardly a coincidence that the team’s last two wins featured big performances from Patterson and Marcus Morris (21 points in Houston’s 100-94 victory over Charlotte). The Rockets desperately need the spacing those two players can provide but just as importantly, they simply must have the aggression and attention to detail on the defensive end and on the boards that Patterson brought to the Big Easy.

That’s easier said than done, of course. Young talent and inconsistency typically go hand in hand which is a big reason why the Rockets have experienced such a roller coaster ride over the course of the last month. But for this team and for its four-spot to take the next step forward, consistent quality production will be required. And the same holds true for the club’s dedication to unselfish play on the offensive end and activity level defensively.

“We moved the ball,” said Chandler Parsons, who finished with 10 points and three blocks. “We didn’t play selfish. Our defense was great, too. Our help-side was awesome and that allowed us to get out on the break and do what we do best. I think going forward, we have to continue to play with that kind of effort and focus all on the defensive end.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(on the ball movement)

It was a little bit better. We just get boggy sometimes and we just can’t do that. It’s the same thing: We come off a 32-point quarter where the ball is really zipping and moving, then we get a little bogged down. We just have to make sure that our bodies move and our spacing is right – if we do that we’ll usually come up with a pretty good shot if we don’t turn it over.

Normally though, we’re trying to come back at the end of the game, where it’s a two-point game where we’re coming back from seven. It’s a little bit different when you have a lead. We just have to keep on moving the ball. And our defense tonight was phenomenal.

(on Patrick Patterson)

He just played great. Patrick played phenomenal basketball and that’s kind of what we need from him every night.

(on the quick timeout at the beginning of the third quarter)

Where we had one possession where we tried to set the record for the number of dribbles in one 24-second period – we might have tied it. We had another possession where no one passed it so that was not a good start.

JAMES HARDEN

We just came in here and played the right way: sharing the basketball, offensively, defensively just helping each other out.

Guys pushed the ball, got some steals, got out in transition, rebounded the ball really well and got some easy layups.

On not making many turnovers in the second half:

“We were just doing too much (in the first half). Some of them were careless turnovers. Some of them were just bad passes. We shouldn’t be turning the ball over. I had to make sure that I was finding the right person and making the easy pass.”

On the team’s play in the 3rd Quarter:

“Guys found me. We got some shots to fall. This game was probably our best defensive game all year as far as four quarters really locking in. It’s just a good feeling when you play well when you haven’t been playing well on both ends of the floor.”

On free throws:

“We all did a good job of knocking our free throws down, concentrating and going up there and having confidence. For myself, just to be able to concentrate and lock in on each free throw (is a good thing).”

CHANDLER PARSONS

On the win tonight:

“We moved the ball. We didn’t play selfish. Our defense was great, too. Our help-side was awesome and that allowed us to get out on the break and do what we do best. I think going forward, we have to continue to play with that kind of effort and focus all on the defensive end.”

On James Harden’s aggressiveness heading toward the basket tonight:

“We definitely don’t want to settle for jump shots. He can score in many different ways. I think that he just takes what the defense gives him. If he can get to the hoop, I think that he does that instead of just settling for jumpers.”

HORNETS HEAD COACH MONTY WILLIAMS

On not being able to make a run to get back in the game:

“I don’t think it ever happened from the start of the game. We didn’t have the kind of focus that is necessary to play against an NBA team, especially one that has beaten you pretty good. The last time we played them and won, I thought we did some extraordinary things to get back in the game. Roger (Mason) hit some shots, but night in and night out, you need solid basketball, and we didn’t do that tonight. I am seeing this pattern over the last few games, and it started in the Sacramento game where we were kind of messing around and had a good rhythm, and in the second half, Sacramento came back, and we just started messing with the game. When you mess with the game, it has a way of messing with you. We saw that tonight. We gave up a lot of points in transition not being able to guard the ball. There were breakdowns, and that’s on me. I have to get the team ready to play and try to find combinations that are going to go out there and play hard and focus on the game plan. That’s a coach’s problem.”

On limiting Greivis Vasquez’s minutes in the second half:

“That was a coach’s decision. He’s got to play better, and he’s got to understand that it’s not going to be easy every night, and that’s a part of growing up. He’ll be OK, but there comes a time when you have to sit him down and play the guys who are going to play the right way, and he’d be the first to tell you that he’s not playing well right now.”