Rockets 118, Pacers 95 - The Groove

The Houston Rockets have gotten into their groove. That's the only way to describe the ease and calmness with which they summarily dispatched the Indiana Pacers tonight. In a near carbon-copy of their other recent performances, the Rockets played well on both ends of the floor, took an early lead and never let go. The Pacers managed to carve down the lead for a while, but they never really stood a chance. The Rockets, even when playing a game less than 24 hours since the previous one, are too coordinated and too talented to be cowed by the most teams in the league. This is how a James Harden run team wins games, and this is the rhythm the Rockets need to stay in.

James Harden put on a passing show tonight, focusing on getting his teammates involved early, and to great effect. He ended the night with 15 assists and most of those came in the first quarter. The Rockets shot the lights out, Harden notched a double double in the first half, and the Pacers didn't stand a chance. Harden ended the night with 26 points and 5 rebounds to go with all those assists and looks a little bit more like the superhuman he'll have to be once the playoffs roll around.

For their part, the Pacers weren't completely helpless. Victor Oladipo and Domatas Sabonis looked great out there, both of whom keyed Pacers runs. Oladipo posted a line of 28 points on 11-17 shooting and Sabonis had 17 points on 7-10. These are quality young players on a team that with any luck will bounce back from this rebuild fairly quickly. Those two players represent most of the ridiculed haul when Indiana traded Paul George to the Thunder, but taken on their own are clearly quality NBA players.

Clint Capela continued his excellent play, finishing the night with 20 points and 17 rebounds, as well as more great defensive play. He won't be making the all-star game any time soon, especially in the stacked west, but he's a fantastic fit and is growing every year. In fact, everyone played will, in large part because everyone shot well. Against a fairly green team, the Rockets can find open look after open look, and that's the fate which befell the Pacers tonight. The Rockets shot 36% from behind the three point line, a number which isn't very exciting on its own, but represents a lot of regression to the mean. At least for the moment, the three point shooting slump seems to be over.

The biggest threat to the Rockets right now is Chris Paul, ironically. With the good vibes and smooth operation they have right now, actually adding Paul to the mix is likely to cause a bit of a dip for this team at the top of their game. It will, however be well worth it once they find that team's groove. If they're this dominant right now when they're deep in the cut, just imagine what that groove could look like. With any luck, we won't just be imagining it for very long.

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