The Rockets have been without starting center Dwight Howard for nine of their last 11 games, while he has been recovering from a left ankle strain. They won the first three games he missed, then lost the next three without him and now have again won three straight in his absence. Both his replacement in the middle, Omer Asik, and starting power forward Terrence Jones have picked up the slack considerably while Howard works to return to the court.
Jones scored 33 points in Tuesday night's 145-130 rout of the Lakers, the second-most points he's scored in a game in his two-year career. He's also averaged 17 points per game on 58 percent shooting without Howard in the lineup over the seven games Jones has been healthy. Jones missed all or part of two games during Howard's absence with flu-like symptoms. Jones has also blocked 14 shots in those seven games. For the season, Jones averages 12 points and 1.3 blocks per game on 54 percent shooting.
"I’m just trying to be aggressive when we’ve got guys out," Jones said following the Rockets' NBA season-high 145 point output. "I want to be a big who’s going to be aggressive, make shots and help pick up the slack with such a great player not playing. I just tried to use my versatility to score in various ways and try to be there for guys on pick-and-rolls and knock down open shots when necessary.
"I want to be considered a threat. I consider myself a threat," Jones added. "We have so many guys who are offensive weapons and threats like Chandler (Parsons) and James (Harden) and Dwight (Howard). There are so many guys on the floor with me who can get 30. I’m just trying to do all the little things and when it comes time when guys are out and I get an opportunity to score a lot of points, I try to take advantage of it."
Asik has been a monster on the boards, averaging 12.2 rebounds per game over the last 11 games, good for third in the NBA. Eliminating the two games in that span that Howard started, Asik's average jumps to 13.7 and over his last five games, Asik is tops in the league at 17.6 rebounds per game, including a pair of 23-rebound efforts, setting his new career high. He has also been more than capable offensively, dropping in 11.4 points per game on 57 percent shooting without Howard out of the lineup.