HOUSTON -- The grit. The muscle. The voice. The soul of the Houston Rockets resides with their 6-foot-1 point guard from Chicago's West Side.
Patrick Beverley is honest, sometimes too truthful for the people who pay his salary, but that’s who he is, what he is.
“Pat is Pat,” interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of his starting guard following a 116-111 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
Beverley promised his team would perform better after a 122-106 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. It was such a bad loss that Bickerstaff cited a lack of intensity attributed to it.
But Beverley, being Beverley, disagreed with the coach. After viewing the tape of the game Thursday morning, he changed his mind and vowed it wouldn’t happen again. Beverley said the next opponent better be careful of the Rockets.
Friday night, that opponent was the young Timberwolves, who continue to display flashes they will become a good team in the future.
“We felt the heat from the coaching staff, we felt the heat for ourselves and we wanted to come out here and have a good game, a good start and we did that [Friday],” Beverley said.
For Beverley and the Rockets, the future is now, given their playoff standing (seventh). Beverley made sure the intensity Bickerstaff was concerned about was there against the Wolves. He made his first three shots, all 3-pointers, in the opening quarter, and when his evening ended, Beverley had a career-high five 3-point field goals, tied a season high with 18 points and 10 assists. Beverley also does the little things like get rebounds, and had five on Friday night, which included an offensive grab while the young Wolves failed to box out. His rebound, off the corner miss from K.J. McDaniels, resulted in a putback giving his team a 95-84 lead in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a spark plug. He’s the fire starter. He makes those plays that kind of make the hair on your neck stand up a little bit,” Bickerstaff said. “Make you pucker a little bit, and get into it a little bit more and I think the guys feed off of that, they feed off of his energy. They feed off of his fight. When he's starting a little mess, the guys feed off of that, it lifts them all up. And they all fight a little bit more.”
Beverley is also not afraid to mix it up. After turnovers with opposing guards, Beverley is quick to snatch the ball out of their hands, only to cause friction from the opponent.
This is what Chicago basketball is: creating havoc, creating plays and showing how tough you are. Beverley says he admires another Chicago native, Kevin Garnett, who was sitting on the Wolves' bench as what could possibly be his final season in the NBA concludes.
Beverley made his 3-pointer in front of the Wolves' bench and as he trotted backward toward the other end, he stared at Garnett. He was looking for approval from the future Hall of Famer.
“I looked at KG, he’s my idol,” Beverley said. “Growing up I wore No. 21 when I was in high school, so they called me KG growing up. This is really my first game playing when he was out there on the court, so I was just ecstatic to see him.”
On the court, the Rockets played with strong ball movement, giving Bickerstaff something to be pleased about, leading to 31 assists on 48 made field goals. James Harden scored 29 points and produced 14 assists. Michael Beasley is continuing his strong play from the bench, adding 17 points and six rebounds in 26 effective minutes.
The chemistry between Harden and Beverley with their teammates is so strong they combined for 24 assists. It’s the most combined assists the pair has had all season.
When Harden is being the playmaker, the turnovers (nine) will drive you crazy. However, you see his assists and the defense cling to his every move, and that opens the door for others. Beverley, when playing the off-guard, takes advantage of this and has been a productive member.
“He’s our point guard, he’s the head of the snake as leading the team,” Beverley said. “Defensively he was in it and he knocked down shots in the first quarter and he played really well, and we had to feed off that energy.”