Dwight Howard was in foul trouble. James Harden could not buy a bucket and the Rockets were down by double figures. Yet, the Houston Rockets persevered and won a grind-it-out game over the Memphis Grizzlies, 100-92.
Behind an amazing 27 points from James Harden and tremendous energy and effort from seldom-used Donatas Motiejunas, the Rockets overcame a 13-point second half deficit to finally get a win, following a win for the first time in their last five tries.
“D-Mo won us that game,” Harden said. “He came in with energy, hadn’t really played in a couple of games. We needed somebody to rebound the basketball.
“He did a great job of battling Z-Bo and just competing. His battling gave the guards an opportunity to get the rebounds.”
Motiejunas, who got extended minutes, after Howard picked up his fifth foul with almost 20 minutes left in the game, finished with only three rebounds for the game and none in the fourth quarter. But Harden and Jeremy Lin each had three boards in the final quarter and Francisco Garcia added two.
“D-Mo did a tremendous job for us, I was happy for him,” Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. “He played with energy.”
While accurate, it’s almost hard to believe, since Motiejunas along with Francisco Garcia, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Harden, all played every second of the fourth quarter. Parsons and Harden played the entire second half.
“It was real nice to play in this kind of game when you know you are struggling and nothing is going your way,” Motiejunas said. “(We had) a couple of good defensive possessions and a couple of good defensive possessions and we got on a roll, we started to feel the fans behind us and that was the moment that we understood that we were going to get it.”
The amazing part of Harden’s 27 points is that he amassed that total, while making only two field goals. He became the first player ever to register 27 points on two or fewer field goals made. The next closest was Charles Barkley, who scored 26 points on 2-of-16 from the field and 22-of-27 from the free throw line.
Harden finished a career-best 22-of-25 from the stripe, tying the Rockets single-game record for free throws made set by Sleepy Floyd, who went 22-of-27 at the line vs. Golden State on Feb. 3, 1991.
“I couldn’t make a shot, so I was just trying to get to the rim,” Harden said. “We were kind of stagnant especially in that third quarter, so I just wanted to be in attack mode. We were sluggish. They went up 13 and we were all just looking around and coaches said you have to be aggressive. I had to do something and get to the basket was the option.”