The New Orleans Hornets are one of the worst teams in the NBA without their star guard Eric Gordon and he wasn't with them Wednesday night when they visited the Toyota Center. The result was a 104-92 win for the Rockets that was perhaps closer than it should have been at times.
James Harden had his typical game of 31 points and 7 assists while his backcourt mate Jeremy Lin contributed 9 points and 7 assists on only 3-10 shooting. The story in this game was the front court, however. Center Omer Asik had his best offensive output of the season, tying a career high with 21 points, most in the first half. He was followed by the return of Patrick Patterson, who came off the bench for 15 points, 13 in the fourth quarter.
There was some concern Patterson's bruised foot was more serious and that he might even miss the rest of the season, but after getting a second opinion and being without pain, he went back to work and helped bolster the Rockets offense against the Hornets and stifle their young front line, including first pick and unibrow sporter Anthony Davis, who had only 8 points.
Patterson's health does present the team with additional options. Marcus Morris has been starting at power forward and performing admirably, but Patterson has a calming influence and a high basketball IQ. He's even seemed comfortable spotting up for the occasional corner three, something the team has encouraged in all its power forwards, believing the need for what they call a "stretch four" is imperative in a league that is getting smaller and more athletic.
For now, the team seems to be set in its rotation, which is aiding their already powerful offense, but they will need more if they are to compete with the best of the best in their conference. Seven of their next nine games are on the road and the schedule won't be doing them any favors after that, but their cohesion and offensive efficiency have been a pleasant surprise and will continue to allow them to compete with any team on any given night, not to mention make them fun to watch.