Houston Rockets faced off against the Dallas Mavericks in what turned out to be a nailbiting contest on Friday night! Aptly termed as the battle of the dark horses, both teams sent out strong statements as to why they are a threat to every top team in the playoffs.
Trailing by 3 points with just 3.9 seconds left on the game clock, the Houston Rockets looked all but out at one stage. But Robert Convington put back a missed free throw from James Harden to force the match into overtime in the most dramatic of fashions. As the Rockets start their Orlando-journey with a remarkable victory, let's take a look at five key things we learned from this game :
#1 Russel Westbrook is back at his 100%
There were some concerns among the Houston Rockets fans when Russel Westbrook didn't travel to Orlando along with the team. Responding to these concerns, Westbrook sent out a warning to the rest of the league saying "When I'm back at 100%, you'll know".
On his very first game back, Russ made sure the league knew he was back! With 31 points, 8 assists and 11 rebounds, Russell Westbrook was the fastest man on the court and provided the much-needed energy to the Rockets line up. He was in full flow when attacking the paint and exposed Luka Doncic's defensive flaws at times. This is a great sign for the Rockets as we head towards the business end of the season.
#2 Dallas Mavericks is more than just Doncic and Porzingis!
While we all know how good Luka Doncic and Kritaps Porzingis are, the star of the day for the Dallas Mavericks was Trey Burke! For a while, Trey looked like Klay Thompson out on the court as he made 8 of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc! With 31 points and 6 assists, Trey made a huge impact in the game and kept Dallas Mavericks in contention.
Trey's 31 and Tim Hardaway Junior's 24 points provided the pivotal support to the European duo on the offensive end. Despite the loss, this was a confidence booster for the Dallas Mavericks as they now know they have players beyond Luka and Kristaps who can chip in quality minutes when needed.
#3 Eric Gordon's absence hurt the Houston Rockets
Eric Gordon sprained his ankle during a scrimmage and is set to miss at least 2 weeks. This put Danuel House in the starting lineup and the bench had to step up to make up for Eric's valuable minutes. While House had a good night offensively, the Rockets missed Gordon's lethal shooting and defensive stops in clutch moments. P.J. Tucker had an off night with just seven points and the reds could have used Eric's corner 3s towards the end of the game.
While this gives a good opportunity for Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore to step up, Gordon was the 3rd leading scorer this season (behind Russ and Harden) and the Houston Rockets would need his services while facing tougher opponents in the playoffs.
#4 Houston Rockets' rebounding woes continue
Though they narrowly escaped defeat in this game, there were few flaws in Houston Rockets' game that were hard to overlook. Ever since going with the small-ball line up with P.J. Tucker as their center, the most striking concern has been their rebounding. And it showed on Friday night.
The Rockets grabbed a total of 43 rebounds compared to Maverick's 55 (7 offensive rebounds as compared to Dallas' 13). While these numbers don't seem too drastic, it might be a huge disadvantage when they go up against bigger teams like the Lakers or the Bucks in the playoffs. If they have hopes of making a deep run in the playoffs, they should quickly find a way to get more rebounds on both sides of the court.
#5 Fear the Beard
If you watched James Harden play on Friday night, it would have been hard to believe this was his first match after four months! Harden was at the top of his game and imposed his will during crucial moments.
His intentions were made clear when he scored 23 points in just the first quarter to start the match! He single-handedly kept the Houston Rockets in the game as he knocked down 49 points, grabbed 9 rebounds along with 8 assists. He hit a deep three over Luka Doncic in the closing moments of the fourth quarter and made sure they keep the lead by scoring 9 crucial points in overtime.
Published 01 Aug 2020, 11:29 IST