Rockets 105, Kings 83 - Defense leads to big blowout over Kings

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Coming off a bad loss in Indiana on Sunday, the Rockets celebrated the Lunar New Year with a blowout win against the Sacramento Kings. Given the Rockets’ play as of late, this blowout was a welcome one and hopefully a sign that Houston will get back to playing contender-caliber basketball.

The game started with a bit of an injury scare to James Harden, who banged knees with Sacramento’s Kosta Koufus. You hold your breath anytime your team’s superstar is slow to get up, but, thankfully, Harden was just fine and the Rockets were off and running.

From an efficiency standpoint, the Rockets got off to a much better start defensively than they had been in recent games (granted, against a Sacramento Kings team playing on the second night of a back-to-back). Houston held the Kings to just 37% shooting in the first quarter, while they shot 50% from the field. The Rockets struggled from the three-point line, however, making just two of eleven attempts. This allowed the Kings to stay in the game, but the Rockets ended the first quarter on a 9-3 run to take a 29-24 lead at the end of the opening period.

Houston built a big lead following a 16-2 run to start the second quarter and never looked back. The Rockets’ improved team defense continued as they forced the Kings to shoot an abysmal 18% from the field. In fact, the Rockets held the Kings to just 11 points in the quarter (Eric Gordon had 11 points by himself), and the Rockets went into halftime with a commanding 19-point lead (54-35).

Houston played a tired Sacramento team that was closing out an eight-game road trip at the Toyota Center. Essentially, this game was over by halftime. The third quarter was fairly even in terms of scoring as both teams shot over 40% from the field. For the Rockets, Ryan Anderson scored 10 points in the period on three straight wide-open threes.

The Kings actually outscored the Rockets in the final period (26-23), but the fourth quarter was inconsequential as the Rockets held a 20+ point lead for the majority of the second half. Houston held the Kings to just 34.9% shooting for the entire game, and 83 points allowed is a season-best for the Rockets. The only real negative was the early foul trouble to both Clint Capela and Nene. If this game had been a single-digit game at halftime, the Rockets may have had a tougher time keep Demarcus Cousins in check without the bodies to try and cover him. Nonetheless, this game was over before it started.

The Rockets will have a very favorable schedule in the month of February, playing seven of nine games in Houston – all against inferior teams. The Rockets return to action on Thursday as Dwight Howard plays his first game in Houston since leaving the Rockets to join the Atlanta Hawks.

Game Ball

This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

Tuesday’s game ball goes to Ryan Anderson.

Ryno was the only Rocket with impressive numbers, which is shocking when you remember James Harden plays for this team. Anderson scored 25 points on 50% shooting from the field AND from the three-point line, and he pulled down 11 rebounds. His activity on the glass is always encouraging because it means he’s contributing in ways that aren’t just launching 30-footers and pulling his defender way out on the perimeter.

In a blowout like this, it’s great to see that a guy like Anderson is capable of. Let’s hope he can be as effective in some of the more difficult contests.

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