Despite playing at the breakneck pace they normally prefer, the Houston Rockets fell to the Indiana Pacers, 105-95. The loss was Houston's sixth in a row.
The Rockets pushed the tempo all night, forcing the normally plodding Pacers to run with them, but Indiana proved surprisingly capable of matching Houston's pace. And for what it's worth, Houston basically ran into a buzzsaw, as the Pacers hadn't lost a home game in any of their previous 11 tries.
On an individual basis, Paul George was too much for any Rockets defender, as he poured in a game-high 31 points on just 19 shots. David West also had his way with Houston's interior defenders, pumping in 20 of his own.
On the positive side for the Rockets, Omer Asik had yet another double-double, as he led Houston with 22 points and 12 rebounds. He gave a good effort against a much bigger, tougher Indiana front line, but his work inside wasn't enough to offset the Pacers' 41-36 advantage on the boards.
Sloppy play led to 18 turnovers, which combined with 41-percent shooting to doom the reeling Rockets.
Houston fell to 21-20 in defeat, while the Pacers improved to 25-16 at the season's midway point.
The grades in this one are all over the map, as the Rockets played poorly as a whole, but still had a few very nice performances peppered into their disappointing defeat. Let's check them out, shall we?
Jeremy Lin: B
You certainly wouldn't have known that Jeremy Lin has been struggling to stay north of 40 percent from the field this year. The Rockets' point guard scored an efficient 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. But from a starting point guard, the Rockets simply needed more.
In a strange twist, the normally penetration-dependent Lin had an easier time scoring from the perimeter than he did against the long arms of the Pacer defenders. Whenever he got into the lane, Lin met with heavy resistance, resulting in a few blocks, misses and turnovers.
But from long range, he made both of his triple tries and he knocked down a shorter jumper as well. In addition to his 10 points, Lin posted five rebounds, three assists and three turnovers.
It may not be his fault, but the key problem with Lin's game was his disappearance for long stretches. When he wasn't handling the ball, he drifted over to the weak side and simply waited. He'd occasionally receive a skip pass after the shot clock had wound down, but for the most part, he was invisible.
Considering his efficient line despite a limited role, it might behoove the Rockets to get him a little more involved. But, based on what he did tonight, he gets a solid, but unspectacular grade.
James Harden: D+
Well, James Harden technically shot the ball better than he did in his last game, a Jan. 16 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Of course, considering he made just 5-of-23 shots in that one, it wouldn't have taken much to do that.
The Rockets' marquee scorer finished with 17 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
Ball security and an overly aggressive offensive mindset played right into the Pacers' hands. As Harden continued to barrel into the lane, Indiana's big men simply retreated and kept their arms extended, which denied Harden his customary 9.9 free-throw attempts per game. More importantly, it forced him into a lot of wild shots and five turnovers.
His patented split of the double-team wasn't nearly as effective as it usually is, either, which was yet another symptom of Indiana's defensive discipline.
Harden played 41 minutes, so it's no surprise that he stuffed the stat sheet with seven assists, five rebounds and four blocks, but his overall failure to adjust to Indiana's tough defensive pressure earns him a pretty harsh grade.
Chandler Parsons: B+
Parsons had a hard time containing Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George, but there's really only so much an individual defender can do against a player as hot as George was. The Pacers' young star was practically unconscious early on, hitting 4-of-6 threes in the first quarter, and he hardly cooled off after that, finishing with 31 points.
But, we're not here to discuss how brilliant George was; we're here to grade Parsons' night.
George is relevant because the Rockets' small forward was primarily assigned to defend him, but to be fair, a number of Houston's wings tried (and failed) to do that job.
Overall, Parsons had a solid night, shooting efficiently and playing smart basketball. Despite the blowout, Parsons deserves credit for posting a plus-three plus-minus. That's an impressive figure in a 10-point loss, and it was the only positive number among Houston's starters.
And really, considering the incredible bargain Houston is getting from Parsons' ridiculously team-friendly contract, it's basically impossible for him not to represent a good value.
Parsons finished with 16 points, four assists and two rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting.
Patrick Patterson: F
As we did with Chandler Parsons, we have to start our analysis of Patrick Patterson by mentioning his defensive assignment, David West.
The Pacers' veteran big man had little difficulty against Patterson, as he constantly bulled his way into the lane for good looks at the rim. It's a lot to ask of a young player to match the brute force and intensity of a player like West, but Patterson didn't even come close to meeting the challenge.
On the offensive end, things didn't get much better for Patterson, who finished with just three points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Oh, and on the boards, he lost the rebounding matchup with West by a margin of 11-2.
There's no question that Patterson is a nice piece in Houston's puzzle of youthful (or inexperienced) players, as he came in averaging 11.6 points on 50-percent shooting and 4.7 rebounds this year. But Indiana's frontcourt players badly outplayed him.
He'll want to forget this one in a hurry.
Omer Asik: A-
The offseason's biggest bargain continued to pay big dividends against the Indiana Pacers. Omer Asik put up a terrific line of 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks on 8-of-13 shooting and did a fantastic job matching up with Indiana's hulking big man, Roy Hibbert, in the middle.
And hey, his scoring output represented a career high, according to Rockets.com reporter Jason Friedman:
New career-high for Omer Asik tonight. He's got 22 points, Rockets down 12 with 6:06 left. Hibbert on bench with 5 fouls.— Jason Friedman (@JasonCFriedman) January 19, 2013
Good for you, Omer.
Sure, Asik's hands aren't great and it'd be nice if he could finish more consistently around the rim. But in this particular game, he he gave a huge effort underneath, despite little help from his Rocket teammates on the boards. That, alone, is worthy of a solid grade.
A few mishandled passes and some sloppy turnovers come with the territory for Asik, but as a complete package, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. That's true on a large scale, and it was also the case in this one.
Carlos Delfino: B+
If you only paid attention to the box score, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Carlos Delfino had a huge effect on the game against the Pacers. But if you watched the contest, you'd know that the bulk of his 17 points came late in the contest when the outcome was pretty much academic.
Exhibit A: Delfino's back-to-back threes with less than four minutes that cut Indiana's lead from 17 to 11. That's six points in the books, but they really didn't impact the game in a meaningful way.
But Delfino can't really control when he gets his minutes, so it's a little unfair to be too critical of his performance.
There's no question he was Houston's most potent reserve, as his scoring output practically doubled the bench contributions of every other Rocket combined.
It's a little tough to sustain things on the defensive end when Delfino is out there with Jeremy Lin and James Harden, but the Rockets don't seem all that concerned with that end of the floor. Delfino's a good scorer, and he showed that in this one.
Bench Grade: F
There's not a lot to say here, folks. Patrick Beverly scored eight points on 3-of-8 shooting in 17 minutes, and that was pretty much as good as it got for Houston's bench (Carlos Delfino excluded).
Marcus Morris missed all five of his shots, Greg Smith was 0-for-2 and nobody else played anything close to a significant role. Sorry, James Anderson and Donatas Motiejunas, playing just one minute apiece doesn't count for much.
Please excuse the brevity, but unless you're especially interested in knowing that Smith pulled down four rebounds and committed five fouls in 18 minutes, there's not much else to discuss on the topic of Houston's bench.