When you’re about to embark on a long stretch without the league’s most valuable player this season, it doesn’t hurt to start out by facing a team like the Orlando Magic.
Whether they had James Harden or not, the Rockets were far beyond the Magic as they cruised to a 116-98 win on the road, taking their second straight win to improve to 27-9.
“I thought we played pretty good, but we can play a lot better,” said coach Mike D’Antoni. “The more we get used to the group we have, we can do a better job.”
A few thoughts from the game:
- The only question with Chris Paul is his health. Can he stay healthy? That’s the concern. Having said that, I can’t think of a better player in the league to run D’Antoni’s offense, and this is technically Houston’s backup point guard. No, he’s not the insane scorer that Harden is, but he doesn’t have a problem putting points on the board and he’s going to be even better than Harden taking care of the ball. CP3 had 10 of his 13 assists in the first half alone. The Rockets are in a tough spot losing Harden but they have an unquestioned leader here in Paul.
- Think about this — Gerald Green went from working on his LinkedIn profile to securing a significant rotation spot on one of the league’s elite teams in like the span of a week. He hit all four of his three-point attempts in the first half and then cranked it up by hitting three more triples in the second half, finishing with 27 points on 7-10 from beyond the arc.
“Obviously that was a nice find,” said D’Antoni after the game on the signing of Green.
I’m not sure the Rockets planned on keeping him all season but they may have no choice now. D’Antoni doesn’t trust a lot of the other guys at the end of the bench and Green can clearly play. And my goodness, my Houston heart is won over with his post-game comments:
Gerald Green just won me over. "This is what I dreamed about. Putting this jersey on is a straight honor. Me being from Houston… I'm giving it my heart and my everything." #Rockets pic.twitter.com/QBF5qgtwA1
— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) January 4, 2018
- Clint Capela is so key to this team on both ends of the floor — the rebounding, the defensive paint presence, the screen setting, the alleyoops. For some reason, his absence before and during (most of) the 5-game losing streak was overlooked by the national media. He has to stay healthy.
Clint Capela career 20-point games
2017-18: 7 (and it's not even half the season yet) pic.twitter.com/zGys1GYUPN
— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 4, 2018
Unfortunately, as far as tackling challenges go, the Rockets are about to go from facing one of the weakest teams to the very strongest as they’ll play a back-to-back with the 29-8 Warriors coming into town Thursday. That’s one where they will really need Harden.
“We got Golden State tomorrow so ask me tomorrow,” quipped D’Antoni. “But today’s a good day and then we’ll go forward from here and try to hold fort until we get James back.”