It's never a bad thing when, in one night, you can absolutely destroy a Dallas sports franchise on the floor and, for all practical purposes, ruin their chances of making the playoffs. Given that the Rockets haven't beaten the Mavericks in nine straight tries leading up to last night's win at Toyota Center, there was even more cause for celebration.
Forward Chandler Parsons was nearly perfect, going 12-13 from the floor and scoring a career-high 32 points, his only miss coming on, as coach Kevin McHale described it, "a heat-check three." The Rockets erased a second-quarter deficit by dropping 44 points in the third quarter -- their most in any single quarter all year -- and the rout was on.
Jeremy Lin bounced back from a couple sluggish games (due most likely to an ankle injury), with 21 points and 9 assists, while James Harden, still limping around on his bruised knee, had 21 points and 7 assists. Both got to sit and watch the bench-clearing fourth quarter.
More important, the Rockets continued to chip away at the slim lead Utah and Golden State hold over them in the playoff chase and keep the surging Lakers at bay, who beat Atlanta by 1 with another jaw-dropping Kobe Bryant performance. The Rockets currently stand 2.5 games up on LA, in a virtual tie with Utah (they are one back in the loss column) and only a half game behind Golden State. They play the Warriors this Friday and again in two weeks, followed immediately by a visit from the Jazz. Their last game of the year is against the Lakers.
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There is no question the Rockets have been carried by their offense. They are one of the best offensive teams in the NBA. But they struggle mightily on defense, particularly when Omer Asik, who had another double-double Sunday night, is on the bench. His defense, especially rebounding, makes the team respectable defensively. Without him, they are one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
Fortunately, as they head down the stretch run, they have one of the softest schedules in the Western Conference. They play Phoenix, one of the worst in the conference, four times, and after a three-game road trip this week, will settle into Toyota Center for most of the rest of the season including six straight games beginning this weekend.
Still, they blew a monumental lead last year, and any injury or even brief run of bad losses -- cough, Milwaukee and Washington, cough -- would crack the door open for a Laker team that looks like it has finally gotten itself together and also prop up the Warriors, who have been awful since the Rockets dropped back-to-back beatings on them a month ago.