The Houston Rockets were the road team Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, and it was a battle of two teams that entered the contest ranked sixth in their respective conferences. This game proved to be a tale of two halves, and luckily for the Rockets, they were the ones who pulled it together and walked away with a 115-101 victory.
The Rockets came into the contest as the No. 1 scoring team in the entire NBA, but it took them a while before they were able to put the ball in the basket. Fortunately for the team in red, its opponents started slowly as well, as neither team made a field goal through the first two minutes.
Houston was looking to score quickly, and as you might expect, its shots started falling before the quarter came to an end. Milwaukee was able to match the Rockets’ energy, and the first-quarter score was 23-21 in Houston’s favor.
The early part of the second quarter was again quiet for the Rockets, but this time Milwaukee was able to take advantage. It scored 10 points in the first two minutes, and the team began to establish the momentum that it would keep the rest of the period.
Houston was outscored by 13 in the second quarter, which meant it would have ground to make up going into the third. But make up that ground, the Rockets would.
The Rockets entered the third period with a new energy about them, as they were getting up and down the floor on both offense and defense. Halfway through the period, we saw a 17-point swing, and the game was back in Houston’s control.
The fourth quarter began in relatively even fashion, but the story of the second half was Milwaukee’s turnovers. Houston was able to take full advantage of easy opportunities, and as a result, it dominated the final 24 minutes of the ballgame.
It's fair to say that Jeremy Lin has had an up-and-down season up to this point, and that theme would stay true through 48 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Lin played the worst first half of anybody in this game. By halftime, the point guard had zero points on 0-of-4 shooting, he had missed all three of his shots from long range and he had already turned the ball over four times.
Lin bumped heads with a Milwaukee Buck in the third period, and after going to the locker room, he returned and looked like a completely different point guard.
The Rockets began their run with Lin off the court, and they kept things rolling upon his return. The 24-year-old re-entered the game and immediately began having an impact. He was intercepting passing lanes, he was finding his teammates and for the first time all game, he was putting the ball in the basket.
You can't ignore Lin's first half completely, but he played a great fourth quarter, as did most of his teammates.
As we've seen so many times throughout the season, James Harden was most effective when he was getting to the basket. Whether it be in transition or in isolation sets, the 2-guard beat Milwaukee's best defenders off the dribble, and earned himself looks at the rim all game long.
Harden gets a lot of credit for his scoring, but his ability to keep his teammates involved is an underrated quality. Friday was an example of this, as he used the swing pass to help create open looks for other scorers.
It was no secret that the Rockets lost all momentum heading into halftime, but they came out ready to run, and Harden was a big reason why. His scoring was as good as we've come to expect, but it was his defense that was helping create fast-break opportunities.
The 23-year-old finished the game with 29 points, seven assists and four steals.
Chandler Parsons has shown us throughout this season that he's most effective when his jump shot is falling. There's no denying he has other aspects to his game that propel him to success, but if his shot is off, he has to make up for it in other areas.
This was the case Friday night, as his long ball simply wasn't finding the bottom of the net.
Where Parsons made up for his lack of scoring was on the glass. He's proved that he can be a very good rebounder, and he managed to pull down seven on the road Friday.
He also did a good job of helping his teammates when his own shot was off, as he recorded seven assists.
Foul trouble was a problem in this one. Through 15 minutes, the small forward had three personal fouls. He was struggling to keep up on the defensive end of the floor, and while it's tough to argue he was being too physical, the big forwards of the Milwaukee Bucks proved to be too much.
From an offensive standpoint, Marcus Morris was completely invisible in this game. In 25 minutes of play, he missed all seven of his shots, scored zero points and only pulled down one rebound on that side of the floor.
He's not the kind of player you look to for production, but inefficient play is tough to excuse.
Defensively, Morris had a decent showing. He was picking up rebounds, getting his body into the opposing players and even managed to block a shot early in the third quarter.
Despite finishing the game with seven rebounds and a plus-nine in the plus-minus category, he was clearly outplayed by his backup at the 4-spot, Patrick Patterson.
Omer Asik was matched up against a great shot-blocker in Larry Sanders Friday night, but the Milwaukee Bucks' big man didn't have the strength to keep the seven-footer out of the lane. Asik was also defended by John Henson, who had just as much trouble.
When Asik was allowed to get in position, he did just what a center should do. He elevated, he reached as high as he could and he laid the ball in the basket almost every time.
Asik began the game 4-of-4 from the field, and he would go on to finish with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, the big man's defensive game was far less imposing. Like Milwaukee's post players, Asik had trouble bullying his opponents on the defensive end of the floor.
The good news is that a dominant third quarter by the perimeter defense made Asik's life easy, and the center was even able to get in on the fast-break game scoring in transition.
Carlos Delfino made his grand return to the BMO Harris Bradley Center Friday night, and he made it known early that he was going to have an impact on this game.
The former Milwaukee Bucks perimeter player made his first three shots from behind the arc. He kept the defense honest to say the least, and he took nine points with him into halftime.
For Delfino, this game was not a tale of two halves, as he was just as lethal from deep range late as he was early. He finished the game an incredible 8-of-11 from the field, and his three-point shot was an even more impressive 6-of-7.
Delfino scored 22 points on the night, and he was the leading scorer off a bench that put up some incredible numbers.
The Houston Rockets' bench played an extremely efficient game, and they were huge beneficiaries of the turnover-prone Milwaukee Bucks team they saw in the second half.
In the first half, Carlos Delfino, Patrick Patterson and Toney Douglas combined for 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting—including 4-of-5 from behind the three-point line. They were all shooting the ball well, and they helped take the pressure off of the starters with their outside shots.
The second half began with the Rockets forcing turnovers, and no player was able to take advantage as well as Douglas. He had multiple possessions where he finished wide-open lay ins, and he completed better than 57 percent of his shots as a result.
Houston only played three players off its bench in meaningful minutes, but those three players finished the game with an extremely efficient 58 points.