Rockets 109, Pistons 114 - Resting Rockets Can't Hold Off Pistons

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With the third-seed in the Western Conference all locked up, these last four games are basically meaningless and Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has said that he’ll use these games to get some of his veterans rest before the Playoffs start next weekend. Clint Capela (who isn't a veteran, but is extremely important to Houston's success) missed Friday’s game entirely, and Nene and Ryan Anderson, who returned after missing six games with an ankle sprain, only played in the first half.

As has been a trend lately, the Rockets came out with a lot of energy in the first period and executed very well. The ball movement was Spursian and it led to plenty of open looks, which Houston had no problem converting (7/14 from beyond the three-point line). And then, just like clockwork, the Rockets went cold and blew a double-digit lead in the second period. Houston’s ball movement disappeared when Harden hit the bench, and the Rockets only made two of their next 12 from three.

Boban Marjanovic proved to be a major problem for the Rockets in the first half, scoring a season-high 17 points on 75% shooting (he finished with a career game of 27 points and 12 rebounds). At one point Boban scored eight straight by just using his height advantage on Montrezl Harrell, who is listed as seven inches shorter (Boban is listed at seven foot three).

Houston held a small lead at halftime (54-52), but managed to extend it back up to double-digits after James Harden found a major scoring groove. The MVP candidate scored 16 points in the period, including hitting four threes and taking a drive coast-to-coast and finishing with his patented Eurostep to close the period with an 87-75 lead.

Once again, the Rockets could not hold onto the lead and Detroit easily cut it down to one with half a quarter left to play. The Pistons went on a 15-4 run midway through the quarter, with Boban continuing to be a problem the Rockets couldn’t totally solve. Stanley Johnson hit a three to tie the game at 99, but Harden responded with back-to-back threes to give Houston a six-point lead with just over two minutes left to play. The Pistons quickly responded with six points to tie the game at 105, punctuated with a Boban offensive rebound and dunk. A Stanley Johnson three gave the Pistons a 110-107 lead, which basically won the game after Harden missed two difficult threes.

That’s how these final few games are going to go, given that some of the veterans will be resting going forward. The Rockets shouldn’t care about this game as a whole, but there are certainly aspects that they’d love to improve on – namely, interior defense and rebounding. The Rockets next play the Kings on Sunday.

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.

Friday’s game ball goes to James Harden.

Harden continues to put up video game numbers, posting a stat line of 33 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds. The efficiency is what needs to be talked about with Harden though, especially after suffering a wrist injury a few weeks ago. Before Houston’s fourth-quarter meltdown, Harden’s efficiency was way up. Unfortunately, three late heaves to the rim and a trio of turnovers (his only turnovers in the entire game) brought down his shooting percentages to 40% from the field and 36.8% from three (he made seven threes).

The Rockets are on autopilot until the Playoffs start, but it’s encouraging to see the ‘Beard’ bring his efficiency back up to his normal standards.

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