Rockets 106, Cavaliers 100 - A Win is A Win

So that was an odd game, or maybe it's exactly what people who follow this team have come to expect. The Rockets didn't come to play in the first half against a Lebron-less Cavs. It was clear as day. The first two quarters were filled with bad body language, mental mistakes, and genuine confusion all around. Harden looked exhausted, Beverley got in foul trouble, Dwight looked shaky, the bench was a zero, and Ariza was abysmal. One thing that stood out was the Rockets letting their struggles on offense carry over on defense. When they're struggling to get any good looks while missing the few good looks that they actually do get, it affects the way that they approach defense. Defense becomes a chore, and becomes a less emphasized part of the game. By adapting this mindset, the Rockets came into halftime with an 18 point deficit.

In the second half, the Rockets did a good job of putting their offensive frustrations behind them. Everyone scrapped and swarmed. The defense was on a string. You could see how active everyone was. Even Michael Beasley was hustling on defense. Houston's trapping scheme on Cleveland's pick and rolls worked about as well as it has all year and completely disrupted the flow of their offense. There was decisiveness. There was precision. There was energy, especially from Dwight and Beverley, who are both so essential to the Rockets' success. When 1 of the  2 is playing well, it takes a huge amount of weight off Harden's shoulders. After cutting the deficit to 12 at the end of the quarter, James Harden just took over. He scored 18 of his 27 in the 4th quarter and led the team to a 106-100 victory, with some essential clutch buckets from Ariza, Beverley, and Beasley along the way.

The second half was everything that people loved about last year's team. Scrap and heart. You saw them fight to get rebounds they had no business getting (namely Patrick Beverley who was all over the glass and giving the Rockets extra possessions) and you saw the type of defense that was there all year. Clint Capela came in and did an excellent job coming in and grabbing every rebound in sight during the Rockets comeback run. Dwight did a great job on the boards after getting killed by Tristan Thompson in the first half, and Beasley chipped in on the glass to get some boards in essential moments. Everybody ran to their assignment, there was no jogging, everything on defense was done in a dead sprint. That's what you need in order to have any chance of upsetting a in the first round.

The real story here is James Harden.
(27 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds on 8/16 shooting from the field)

Over the years, Harden has progressively gotten so much better at not letting being down big get to him. A younger Harden would have checked out of that game at halftime and gone with the flow the rest of the way. But Harden having to carry the load for the last couple of years has made him an incredibly resilient player. His legs looked completely dead in the first half, but he forced his way into the middle of that game. Harden puts so much pressure on himself to be the brilliant offensive force that he is. He had every excuse to just fade into the distance and let the game play out, but he didn't. There's something to be said about having a star that doesn't let a bad start change his mindset. Say what you want about Harden, but the guy plays 40 plus minutes every night, doesn't miss a game, and welcomes carrying this team every step of the way, and that's admirable.

So was this comeback really surprising when they've had games like these all year? Probably not, but regardless, a win is a win and when battling to make the playoffs, there's no time to be picky.

After tonight's win, the Rockets now hold a half game lead over the Mavericks for the 8th seed, are just half a game back of the 7th seeded Jazz and are two games back of the 6th seeded Blazers.

In the end, this probably doesn't mean much. After pulling you back in, they'll probably just push you away the next game, because Rockets.

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