The Houston Rockets played their first preseason game this past Saturday and were welcomed by mixed reviews. The starting five played very well; however the Rockets lost to the Pelicans 116-115.
This game was the premiere of a new look and team with the addition of superstar center Dwight Howard. In Howard’s first game as a Rocket, he scored 19 points on 6-11 shooting and was 7-11 from the free throw line. Along with those stats Howard did get two technical fouls called in the game. Overall, his presence will definitely make the rockets an instant contender.
Coach Kevin McHale was happy with his starting five on Saturday night. Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Donatas Motiejunas and Dwight Howard all played more than 20 minutes and each finished with a good stat line.
“I thought they had a pretty good buzz,” McHale said. “They came out and moved the ball pretty well. I thought for the most part, they got a lot of deflections and were really trying to be aggressive. That group looked really solid.”
While the starters were in the game, the Rockets took their biggest lead of the night for 12 points. Harden finished with 21 points, Howard had 19, and Parsons and Lin had 11 each.
One of the surprises for the Rockets was the performance of Omri Casspi. Casspi signed with the Rockets in July and hit 9-of-10 shots from the field and scored 20 points.He was an offensive spark in the third and fourth quarters when the Rockets needed him. Coach Kevin McHale said that Casspi has to improve on defense, and if he does he could have a role similar to Carlos Delfino’s last season.
“He’s going to have to develop,” McHale said. “He’s going to have to get comfortable with the way he plays. He’s similar to Carlos in that Carlos knew how to get open and was very smart, knew how to read stuff. He knew how to get in the open spot. Omri is the same way offensively. Defensively is where he’s got to get better. It’s where we really have to keep helping him out. He’s a diligent kid. He’ll get better.”
The Rockets had the lead for most of the game but lost in the end. Robert Covington and Isaiah Canaan are two rookies that got to see good minutes near the end of the game.
“We are both from smaller schools (Covington, Tennessee State; Canaan, Murray State) so this is really big for us to be getting to play at this level,” Covington said. “The hardest part is the pace of the game,” Canaan said. “Everything is a lot faster at this level.” The two combined from three turnovers in the final seconds of the game and the Rockets ended up losing 116-115.
“That was a tough situation, but I am glad coach left them in there,” Dwight Howard said. “That is a good learning experience for them and the only way we will be good is if everyone is good. That was a good thing for them to learn right away, how to be in a close game at the end of a game.”
The Rockets left for Manila after their game with the Pelicans and will face the Indiana Pacers this Thursday. When the Rockets and Pacers take the floor at the Mall of Asia Arena, it will be the first NBA preseason game in Manila.
“I am excited to go there, give them their first-ever glimpse of the NBA close up,” Harden said. “They are so pumped about us coming. It’s great to be able to do this for them.”
The time overseas should give the Rockets players time to build a chemistry that is much needed to win a championship. They will return back to Houston to face the Orlando Magic on Wednesday October 16.