Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets: Postgame Grades and Analysis for Houston
Houston ran roughshod over Dallas in the first half after tallying 38 points in the first quarter and 23 in the second, and it held an 11-point lead at halftime thanks to the defensive stylings of Dwight Howard and Harden's steady offensive output.
However, the Rockets struggled with turnovers all night long, totaling 22, and nearly gave the lead away in the third quarter when the Mavs employed a Hack-a-Howard strategy to slow down the pace and slowly chip away at Houston's lead.
Ultimately, the Mavs couldn't find their stroke from the floor, and when Dirk Nowitzki fouled out with 6:11 remaining in the fourth quarter, the game was all but over.
Houston shot 46.6 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from three compared to 38 and 33.3 percent for the Mavericks.
It wasn't pretty, but the Rockets now sit at 2-0. A matchup with the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City is on tap for Saturday.
Point Guard: Jeremy Lin
Starting in place of the injured Patrick Beverley (torn muscle in his midsection, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle), Jeremy Lin was active on both ends of the floor from the jump.
That said, Lin appeared a bit too jittery with the ball in his hands, as he committed five turnovers in the first half and six total on the night. He also dished out four assists and compiled three steals.
On the positive side, Lin looked particularly fresh weaving through the Mavs' forgiving defense en route to easy buckets at the rim, and he finished with 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
He also turned several Dallas turnovers into easy buckets on the other end, outracing Mavs defenders to the cup with ease.
Just as he did last season, Lin is proving that his energetic style of play is perfectly tailored for Kevin Mchale's up-tempo offensive scheme.
Shooting Guard: James Harden
James Harden was not phased by injuries to his knee, back and wrist on Friday night, as he took advantage of a porous Dallas Mavericks defense on the perimeter time and again.
After scoring 21 points in a season-opening win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Harden totaled 12 points in the first quarter against the Mavs, doing so on 4-of-5 shooting, and nearly eclipsed his opening-night total with 17 over the game's first 24 minutes.
Harden's first-half shot chart was indicative of just how efficient the Rockets were in the first half, as all nine of his attempts in that time frame came in the paint or from beyond the arc. As a team, Houston shot 53.5 percent from the floor in the first and second quarters.
Putting the team on his back toward the end of a torturous third quarter, Harden restored order with some brilliant plays in transition and isolation.
Although the Rockets sputtered offensively in the second half, Harden maintained an efficient stat line, scoring a game-high 34 points on 11-of-17 shooting (4-of-8 from three) while also posting three assists, four steals, four rebounds and four turnovers.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons
While Harden stole the show for the Houston Rockets, Chandler Parsons faded into the background a bit, totaling just nine points, seven rebounds and three turnovers over 35 minutes of action.
Parsons was out of rhythm all night long, evident by the fact that he shot 3-of-8 from the field and missed on all five of his three-point attempts.
While he hustled on the boards, Parsons put forth his second consecutive underwhelming performance after scoring a meager 10 points on 36.4 percent shooting on Wednesday against the Charlotte Bobcats.
He'll get back on track soon enough, but Parsons has started 2013-14 in rather disappointing fashion.
Power Forward: Omer Asik
Kevin McHale opted to go with his twin towers in the starting lineup again, but Omer Asik's impact was mitigated slightly after he picked up two fouls in the first minute of play and then two more three minutes into the third quarter.
He would foul out with 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
That said, Asik continued to play strong defense in the face of foul trouble, bodying up Samuel Dalembert while crashing the glass with his trademark intensity.
It was a lunch-pail type of performance for Asik, who contributed six points and 12 rebounds in 15 minutes, and he continued to prove on Friday that the Rockets can make a lineup that features two strong, low-post-oriented bigs work.
With Asik and Dwight Howard two of the league's most stout interior defenders, the Rockets were able to limit Dalembert and DeJuan Blair to six and 11 points, respectively.
Center: Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard followed up a 17-point, 26-rebound performance in the Houston Rockets' season opener by feasting on a thin and undersized Dallas Mavericks front line early.
With nearly 20 pounds on Samuel Dalembert and a massive height advantage over reserve DeJuan Blair, Howard was simply dominant on the boards, evident by the fact that he had seven in the game's first eight minutes, and eight after one quarter of play.
Flashing the form he showed so often prior to playing with the Los Angeles Lakers, Howard was a defensive deterrent all night long, discouraging Mavs players from driving to the rim while altering the shots of those who were brave enough to challenge his length and athleticism.
In the win, Howard gobbled up a game-high 16 rebounds (five offensive) and blocked one shot.
However, Howard was phased out of the Rockets offense as the Mavs transitioned to a zone scheme and managed just 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
He also struggled mightily from the line as the Mavs went into Hack-a-Howard mode and finished the night 5-of-12 (41.6 percent) from the charity stripe.
Sixth Man: Omri Casspi
The Houston Rockets thrive when they can space the floor, and they did that exceptionally well when Omri Casspi was in the game.
Thrust into action at power forward early with Omer Asik in foul trouble, Casspi made an immediate impact, scoring eight first-quarter points on 3-of-5 shooting.
Houston's most reliable three-point shooter on Friday evening, Casspi hit on all three of his attempts from beyond the arc, finishing with 12 points, two rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes.
His plus/minus rating of plus-17 was the third highest of any Rockets player.
An under-the-radar offseason pickup, Casspi has the catch-and-shoot and dribble-drive skills that should make him an invaluable piece of the Rockets' bench mob moving forward.
The Houston Rockets only had 12 players active against the Dallas Mavericks, but Kevin McHale utilized just nine of them when it counted, with Ronnie Brewer, Aaron Brooks and Francisco Garcia all seeing minutes off the bench with Omri Casspi prior to garbage time.
Aaron Brooks played 11 solid first-half minutes, scoring eight points in that span, and finished with 13 points, thanks in part to 5-of-5 shooting from the free-throw line.
However, Brooks also didn't do much to inspire confidence in his defense, as he allowed Gal Mekel to rack up 11 points on a tidy 5-of-7 shooting.
Garcia added eight points (2-of-5 from three) and posted a plus/minus of plus-18, the second highest of any Rockets player behind James Harden.