Rockets lose 121-111, Harden ties Wilt

3-pointers from Rockets loss to Timberwolves

In their final game before the all-star break the Houston Rockets traveled to Minnesota to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. It was a back and forth battle between a T-Wolves team strong in the interior and a Rockets team more comfortable raining shots from distance. Minnesota would turn the tide late in the third with key defensive stops, defeating Houston 121-111 behind an impressive showing from rookie Josh Okogie. Houston is now 33-24, first in the Southwest Division, and fifth in the Western Conference.

Strength versus strength

The Timberwolves are big. The Rockets can shoot. Wednesday ultimately came down to who was the saltiest on defense because very little was done to challenge each other's strengths. Houston fired off 53 three pointers in a contest where they were bludgeoned in the paint 70-36. The difference is that the Rocket's shots weren't falling, shooting a collective 35.8% from behind the line. Poor shooting, coupled with timely defense from the opponent more often results in defeat.

Josh Okogie

The Timberwolves rookie drew one of the most difficult assignments in the NBA when he lined up across from James Harden Wednesday night. Undeterred, Okogie went to work and came up clutch late in the third with five straight points to take the lead. Okogie immediately set up on the other end after burying a three, and as Harden lurched back for his trademark step back 3-pointer, Okogie lunged forward and stuffed the shot before the ball left Hardens hands. Shot clock violation. Turnover. While Harden still finished the night with another eye-popping scoring performance, it was obvious that play was the turning point from which the Timberwolves built their momentum to finish the game with a victory.

Streak watch

These days the first question Rockets fans have is whether or not the team won. Immediately following is whether or not Harden scored 30 points to continue his unreal streak. Harden started the night off slow, scoring only five points in the first quarter. He shook off the slow start to the tune of 15 in the second, 11 in the third, and 11 in the fourth. Harden finished with 42 points on the night, extending his streak of consecutive 30+ point performances to 31. The streak ties Wilt Chamberlain for second most in NBA history, behind Wilt Chamberlain's other unworldly record of 65.

Rockets player of the game:

James Harden: 42 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds

Timberwolves player of the game:

Jeff Teague: 27 points, 12 assists, 3 rebounds

Next up


Nothing for a week. Following the All Star break, Houston travels to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers next Thursday at 9:30 pm.

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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