It was The James Harden Show on Wednesday night, but the real problem for the Pistons was that it wasn't a solo-act. With 12 assists to go along with his 37 points, James Harden was taking everything the Pistons were giving him in his debut with the Houston Rockets. In only his fourth career start, James Harden lead the Rockets to a 105-96 victory in front of the Pistons home crowd on opening night.
"We would've thought he would have had a tougher time trying to figure out their offense," Pistons small-forward Tayshaun Prince said about Harden's performance.
But rather than trying to figure out the offense, Harden dictated the Rocket's offensive production despite not being with the team for a single pre-season game.
When the Pistons guards decided to go 'low' around a high screen (something that happened way to often) Harden would quickly spot-up and knock down a three. If Harden put it on the floor, the Detroit defense would converge on him and he'd find the open man for an easy jump shot or quick lay-in. Piston guards couldn't handle him one-on-one, and if their help defense didn't arrive Harden charged the lane and finished at the rim. In a word, Harden was 'dominant.'
Going into the fourth quarter the Pistons were leading 81-72. The lead was the product of a third quarter that saw the Pistons put up 11-straight unanswered points with the help of rookie Kim English's back-to-back triples. James Harden had 12 of the Rockets' 17 points in the quarter, and for a moment it looked like the Pistons had figured out how to neutralize the Rocket offense. Then the fourth quarter started.
Despite seeing it all night, the fourth quarter exposed the Pistons transition defense that had plagued them earlier in the game. With 9:22 left in the fourth quarter, the flood gates opened on the Pistons. Led by transition offense that saw Harden and Lin pushing the ball on a slower, backpedaling Pistons line-up the Rockets went on a 17-4 run. Carlos Delfino knocked down four, three-point shots, two of which were set-up directly by Harden, and finished with 15 points off the bench. When the final horn went off, the Rockets had scored 33 points in the fourth quarter and had beaten the Pistons by nine.
The Pistons didn't play a complete game. The offense stopped pushing the ball and went away from what had them up 11 points early in the fourth. With the starting core back on the floor in the fourth, the Pistons offense took on a half-court look in an attempt to slow down the fast-paced, three point barrage the Rockets were throwing at them. With the game still close, the Pistons began settling for poor shots early in the shot clock; shots that only helped start the Houston fast break.
It was a winnable game for the Pistons, and their lack of composure in the face of Houston's fourth quarter run cost them the game. The rookies played well, and Knight and Monroe contributed solid 15 and 14 point efforts respectively. In the end the Pistons lack of defensive maturity killed them. Now, the Pistons travel to Phoenix for a Friday night game that will start a six-game west coast road swing. If the Pistons want to come out with a respectable record they're going to need to figure out how to play for 48 minutes.
Tags: Basketball, Carlos Delfino, Detroit, Detroit Pistons, Houston, James Harden, Jason Maxiell, Kim English, Kyle Singler, NBA, Tayshaun Prince
Rookie Bright Spots:
Rookies Kyle Singler and Kim English had big nights for the Pistons as Lawrence Frank used a 10 man rotation on opening night. In 16 minutes, Singler scored 10 points off the bench and was 2/2 from three-point range. English played 14 minutes and contributed eight points including two, back-to-back three point shots.
Tayshaun Prince scored 12 points playing starter minutes.
Jason Maxiell added 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
Rodney Stuckey struggled to find the basket, but did add nine points to the point column. (mostly from the free-throw line)