The Rockets won one for their coach Tuesday night with a 117-101 victory at home over the Toronto Raptors, but they also climbed back to .500 and continued to demonstrate a cohesiveness born over the past couple weeks, particularly since Coach Kevin McHale left to tend to his ill daughter, Sasha, who passed away on Saturday.
On Wednesday, the entire team will fly to Minnesota to attend the funeral of McHale's daughter before flying to Oklahoma City to play the second of a back-to-back against James Harden's former team, the Thunder. Harden poured on 24 points and a career high 12 assists against Toronto in the warmup for his first game against the team who traded him to the Rockets during the preseason.
Patrick Patterson added 22 points, Chandler Parsons had 17 and Omer Asik continued his torrid play on the glass with 18 rebounds to go with his 13 points. But, it was Jeremy Lin who seemed to break out of his recent slump with 16 points, going seven of nine from the floor and dishing ten assists.
Lin has struggled in the first ten-plus games, looking not as aggressive as the team may have expected given his incredible run in New York last season. But he and Harden attacked the rim and, most importantly, made shots all night to prevent the Raptors from getting just their fourth win of the young season.
Nothing good can be attributed to the horrible death of McHale's daughter, the result of her long battle with lupus. But players have mentioned over and over again the close-knit nature of the team and how it is like family to them. McHale reportedly has been texting players repeatedly during his absence and speaking with interim head coach Kelvin Sampson every day after reviewing game tapes.
There is no word on McHale's return, but the team has certainly taken this loss as a rallying cry and is playing better over the last three games, winning all three after dropping three on the road.
Tomorrow will be a busy and, no doubt, emotional day for everyone, but the win is a good sendoff.