Houston wins 1st NBA pre-season game in PH
Lin leads Rockets in rout of Pacers
MANILA (4th UPDATE) - For the first time, Filipino fans were given a taste of NBA action as they saw the Houston Rockets rout the Indiana Pacers, 116-96, in the first preseason game to be held in the Philippines at the Mall of Asia Arena on Thursday.
A crowd of nearly 13,000 fans started oohing and aahing as the Rockets and the Pacers threw down several dunks before the game, but reserved the cheers - and some jeers - for the biggest stars of the team.
Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American sensation who launched "Linsanity" with the New York Knicks in February 2012, drew the loudest cheers as he scored 14 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists. James Harden led all scorers with 21 points, and showcased his ability to draw fouls as he shot seven of 10 from the line for the game.
The Rockets raced off to a 12-0 start and led by as much as 15 points, 23-8, in the opening period, with Indiana unable to get their big men -- Roy Hibbert and David West -- established early.
"We wanted to get off to a good start defensively," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale after the game. "We had some defensive goals, and I thought the first unit did a good job of establishing us defensively. It really started on defense."
"Our defense was phenomenal in the first quarter," added Harden, who scored 10 points in the opening period. "Dwight (Howard) helped us out in contesting shots. We got stops, created turnovers, got easy points. It was a variety of things."
Houston built a 31-24 lead after the first quarter, but the Pacers got back in the game in the second, with Luis Scola providing a spark. His lay-up at the 7:46 mark of the period brought Indiana to within two points, 37-39.
It was the closest they would get, however, as Aaron Brooks converted a three-point play, and Donatas Motiejunas scored back-to-back baskets to put Houston in control again.
Houston led 61-55 at the half after shooting 58.3% from the field. Indiana, meanwhile, struggled with 12 turnovers, something that plagued them even in the previous season.
In the third period, Indiana established West in the block against Terrence Jones, and the All-Star responded as he scored eight points in the period. But his baskets were quickly answered by the Rockets, especially Harden and Chandler Parsons, as they dissected the Indiana defense en route to shots at the rim.
"I just wanted to get good shots on the offensive end," Harden said. "Find Dwight if he's open, feed him the ball in the post, make easy passes. Chandler, Patrick (Beverley) and even Terrence made some passes to create opportunities for us."
Buckets from Orland Johnson early in the fourth quarter allowed the Pacers to claw their way back in the game, but Omri Casspi found his stroke from beyond the arc and Motiejunas provided inside points as the Rockets went on to lead by as much as 25 in the final frame.
"Tough loss. It's early in the preseason, and our guys struggled a little bit with our transition defense," said Indiana head coach Frank Vogel after the game.
"We did some good things offensively, moved the ball pretty well, but it just wasn't enough," he added.
The Filipino crowd, who had given both NBA teams a warm welcome this week, cheered loudly for Harden, Lin and Parsons, who has been linked to Kapamilya star KC Concepcion. They also cheered for Indiana's Paul George, an All-Star who made a name for himself during the Pacers' exciting seven-game series against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
But they had mixed reactions to Howard, cheering when he was called for offensive fouls and booing him when he shot free throws.
The Filipino fans were at their loudest during breaks in the action, when the Indiana Pacemates danced and the teams' mascots, Boomer of Indiana and Clutch of Houston, threw t-shirts to the crowd.
"We are delighted to be here," NBA Commissioner David Stern told the crowd before the game. "We thank you for your hospitality, and we look forward to coming back."
HOUSTON 116 - Harden 21, Casspi 17, Motiejunas 16, Parsons 15, Lin 14, Beverley 12, Howard 9, Jones 5, Brooks 5, Brewer 2, Canaan 0, Covington 0.
INDIANA 96 - George 17, West 14, Johnson 11, Hill 10, Scola 10, Granger 9, Watson 9, Hibbert 6, Stephenson 4, Armstrong 4, Copeland 2, Mahinmi 0, Sloan 0, Butler 0.
Quarter-scores: 31-24, 61-55, 79-67, 116-96