Despite the big win, D12 and the Bearded One each got off to rocky starts. Harden shot 2-of-10 in the first half and Howard piled up four turnovers in the first quarter. In the third quarter, however, both superstars caught fire and started to show some serious team chemistry.
As Jason Friedman of NBA.com pointed out via Twitter, Harden and Howard combined to score 21 points through the first seven minutes of the third quarter. The Rockets led 72-57 after the big run and didn’t look back. They held a 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and won the game by 17.
Chandler Parsons and Omri Casspi provided additional offense, while Patrick Beverley and Omer Asik solidified the defense.
Although the Howard/Asik frontcourt tandem looked very efficient in this game, the performance should be taken with a grain of salt. While the twin towers did a tremendous job defending the rim, Tim Duncan was left wide open for numerous mid-range shots.
TD usually makes those looks count, but he simply didn’t have it tonight. He finished 2-of-12 from the floor and made the defense of the Rockets' big men look good by default.
The Asik/Howard pairing may still work throughout the season, but Duncan and other skilled big men will hit those open shots more often than not.
So exactly how did each player’s performance stack up in this preseason affair? Here are the game grades for the Rockets.
Patrick Beverley looked shaky on the defensive end to start the game (an uncommon sight). He lost sight of his defensive assignments and got burned on one drive to the basket, but he truly settled in after that.
He was active on defense, swatting loose balls, fighting through screens and playing with a lot of confidence.
A lot of what he did on the court didn't show up in the box score, but he still played a solid game.
The young point guard finished with six points, four rebounds and two assists. He stayed within himself and didn't try to play hero-ball. Honestly, that's all this Rockets team needs out of the point guard spot.
Game Grade: B
James Harden didn't have his usual shooting touch early on, but he was able to influence the game in other ways like any true superstar.
At halftime, Harden had just nine points on 2-of-10 shooting and missed all five of his three-point attempts (including some wide-open looks).
Despite early scoring woes, Harden attacked the basket, got to the free-throw line and set up teammates for scores. He had more than a few beautiful passes, including some dump-offs to Dwight Howard for dunks and an alley-oop feed to Chandler Parsons to end the first half. He finished the game with 11 assists (many of them going to D12 in the paint).
He only had nine first-half points, but he truly turned it on in the third quarter. Harden finished the game with 22 points, the most flashy of which came at the end of the shot clock when he shake-and-baked Marco Belinelli for a masterful step-back jumper.
He struggled early, but he didn't panic, got teammates involved and let the game come to him.
Notching 22 points and 11 assists didn't seem possible after the first half, but that shows the talent Harden possesses.
Game Grade: A
Chandler Parsons had a quiet game, but he did a tremendous job attacking the basket and not settling for outside shots.
Although Parsons is a guy any coaching staff would want to have shooting threes, it was refreshing to see him make the best decision with the ball time and time again.
In addition to getting out in transition for easy baskets at the rim, Parsons was able to keep the defense off-balance by driving aggressively to the hoop instead of simply shooting threes.
The former Florida Gator finished 2-of-6 from long range, 7-of-14 overall for 16 points.
He seemed irrelevant at times on defense, and I mean that as a compliment. Parsons was able to stay with his assigned man and didn't make any defensive miscues throughout the game.
Overall, a solid performance for the youngster.
Game Grade: A-
Dwight Howard opened the game with an explosive, one-handed slam off a pick-and-roll feed from James Harden, but the easy basket didn't ease a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performance early on.
The big man committed four turnovers in the first quarter. Two of those turnovers came off the dribble, so he's clearly still in the learning stages of becoming a more well-rounded big man on offense.
Nevertheless, D12 dominated the glass. He grabbed seven rebounds in the first quarter alone (awkwardly taking a few away from Omer Asik, who was in position only to be muscled out by Howard) and had 12 rebounds at halftime.
His rebounding helped stifle the San Antonio Spurs from getting additional possessions. He finished the game with 16 rebounds in just 30 minutes of action.
Howard added 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with two blocked shots, but he made the biggest impact by protecting the ball. After those four first-quarter turnovers, D12 didn't turn the ball over again the entire game.
He looked extremely comfortable coming off the pick-and-roll and receiving beautiful feeds from Harden for easy scores. He still has work to do in terms of adding moves to his offensive repertoire, but this was a solid performance.
Game Grade: A-
Although Omer Asik's rebounding abilities were overshadowed by the rebound machine that is Dwight Howard, the Turkish big man still finished with a team-leading plus/minus of plus-13.
He didn't make a field goal and had just one point, but he added six rebounds and solid defense around the basket. He thwarted numerous inside looks and used his big frame to his advantage (as he usually does).
Watching this Rockets team, it's easy to tell that Asik and Howard have a lot of overlapping skills. Both are imposing defenders who rebound the ball well, but with D12's rebounding performance tonight, you have to wonder if Asik will stay in Houston past the trade deadline.
Asik continues to be a solid defensive big man, but his biggest asset right now is making Howard look more athletic.
Game Grade: B-
As one of the first players off the bench for the Houston Rockets, Jeremy Lin struggled to find his groove in the early going.
He started 1-of-4 shooting from the floor and looked overwhelmed on the defensive end. Tony Parker played limited minutes, but in his time against Lin, he flourished. The former Harvard standout wasn't able to match Parker's quickness, and was frequently getting beat to bucket as a result.
Luckily for Lin, he has twin towers behind him on defense to cover his defensive shortcomings. Even so, the point guard clearly fits better in a zone scheme where he isn't playing man-to-man against quicker opponents.
Lin finished with 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting to go with six assists, four rebounds and three turnovers.
Don't be surprised if Lin starts the season in a sixth man role behind Patrick Beverley. If his role is to score and distribute off the bench, it may help limit his turnovers (as it did in this game).
Game Grade: C+
After a brick and an air-ball from long range to start the game, Omri Casspi settled in and continued to play at the high level he's displayed all through preseason.
The Israeli forward had 10 points and three rebounds at halftime. For the game, he knocked down four three-pointers and finished with 16 points. His ability to spread the floor on offense will be an invaluable asset for Houston this season.
The only other notable bench player besides Lin and Casspi was Francisco Garcia.
The sharpshooter entered the night shooting a scorching 56.5 percent from three-point land in preseason. He buried two of his six attempts in this one, finishing with eight points, three rebounds and a steal.
Other bench players didn't get in until garbage time, but the only guy who struggled was rookie Isaiah Canaan. He finished 0-of-4 from the field.
Game Grade: B+