In less than a week the Houston Rockets have gone from a team that likely would finish in the middle of the pack to a potential underdog contender in the Western Conference. After signing Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik this summer, the Rockets felt that they were still one superstar away from being a complete team. After missing on several trade targets earlier this fall, they found the perfect candidate in the 23-year-old James Harden that would round out an impressively talented backcourt.
Although Omer Asik has played well in his first two games with the Rockets, the real focus is obviously on how well this team really is in the hands of the two dynamic guards. In their first game together against the Pistons they not only brought their team to victory, but they did so in grand fashion.
Harden went 14-of-25, scoring 37 points, as well as providing the team with 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals. It appeared as if playing behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City actually held Harden back from dominating the game the way he did on the first night with his new team.
Lin had a great game as well, providing the team with 12 points, eight assists, four rebounds and four steals while providing great defensive pressure on opposing guards. He made an even greater impact than his stat line by orchestrating the offense and helping the team to fit all of its new pieces into one well-oiled machine.
After the first game it seemed that there was no way the backcourt duo could follow up this performance with as strong of a game against the Atlanta Hawks, but this notion was terribly wrong. The Hawks never really stood a chance as Harden had a career night, pouring in 45 points on 14-of-19 shooting, as well as providing seven rebounds and two assists.
Somehow Lin also stepped up his game hitting on 6-of-16 shots to provide the team with a near triple-double performance of 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists with only three turnovers. Lin and Harden's rhythm together surprisingly appeared to be even better than it was only a few nights before.
Through two games there is really no other team in the NBA that is as exciting to watch as the new Rockets, being led by no other than two dynamic guards that have yet to hit the age of 25. Harden has brought everything Houston could have ever wanted with his high-powered offense that doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon, while Lin is showing up everyone that doubted he could continue the success he had in New York.
In fact the way that Lin is playing is actually the better news for Houston, as he is successfully running the offense and helping every single player on the team, including standout James Harden, to operate smoothly together. If Lin can continue playing at the high level he has shown in the first two games with offensive intelligence that sets up all of his teammates and the strong defensive effort that is helping to slow down opposing offenses, the Rockets may just find themselves playoff bound, and possibly even more success than that.
The success the team can have at the end of the year will likely rest on how well Lin and Harden can get the rest of the team to play as well. There are some encouraging signs already, as Omer Asik was able to pull down 19 boards against the likes of Josh Smith and Al Horford, two very strong bigs that tend to control the paint very well.
In addition the Rockets are getting some solid play out of power forwards Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson. Both players are going to be solid contributors on a team that is beginning to find its true identity in the early part of the season.
It is too early to be sure whether or not this team can really compete against the highest talents in the NBA, but all early signs are pointing in the right direction for Houston fans. However, it does seem fair to conclude that James Harden is going to be a legitimate threat all year, Jeremy Lin is likely to prove all the naysayers wrong with an impressive season, and the Houston Rockets have a legitimate chance to make some noise in the Western Conference this year. All in all the Rockets are going to be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the entire league.