Houston rallies late, wins 118-113

3-pointers from Rockets versus Hornets

Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets kicked off the first half of a back to back Wednesday night on the road versus the Charlotte Hornets. For the second time this week Houston struggled against an opponent that on paper seemed like an easy victory. The Rockets trailed through most of the game until a late rally and clutch free throws from James Harden sealed their third straight victory. Houston is now 36-25, first in the Southwest Division and fifth in the Western Conference.

Goofy uniform, serious game

The Hornets sported their throwback striped jerseys in celebration of their 30th season, and Kemba Walker made them look good. The three time All Star was disinterested in allowing the Rockets an easy win on his court, exploding for 35 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 5 steals. This marks the second straight game where the Rockets have allowed an opponent to score 35 or more points.

Foul Trouble and Big Boards

Kenneth Faried and Clint Capela have been adjusting to sharing the floor since Capela's return from injury after the All-Star break. Wednesday night provided no such opportunity, as "The Manimal" picked up four quick fouls and was relegated to eight minutes for the night. Capela seized the opportunity and crashed the boards in the sort of fashion fans had become accustomed to prior to his injury. Capela finished the night 10-16 from the field with 23 points and 17 rebounds.

Working through some things

Despite the streak ending Monday, Harden was once again back into 30-point territory, finishing with 30 points even to close out the night. Once again, however, Harden's performance beyond the arc was abysmal. The reigning MVP has acknowledged that his neck is still bothering him since sitting out Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors, and after a 1-11 three-point output Harden has now shot 1-21 on the week. While a slump like this is obviously concerning, it's hard to ignore the fact that he still put up 30.

Rockets Player of the Game

Clint Capela: 23 points, 2 assists, 17 rebounds, 1 block

Hornets Player of the Game

Kemba Walker: 35 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 5 steals

Up next:

The Rockets host the Miami Heat tonight at 7 p.m. central

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After a short turnaround, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to their Mecca at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the famed Coca-Cola 600. Of all the races in NASCAR, after Daytona this race may be the most important race on the schedule. The tradition started back in 1959 when former driver and hall of famer Curtis Turner teamed up with Burton Smith to build the track and upon its completion, they decided to make the first race at the new track on the same day as the Indy 500. In an effort to draw fans, they made the race 100 miles longer and from there the rest was history. This year's rendition will be somber though as no fans will be permitted to enter due to Covid-19, but even in this time of unrest it will be a relief to continue to see our heroes take on NASCAR's longest race.

For the first time, NASCAR pulled off it's first midweek race and it was a doozy. For most of the race there was a wide range of characters who were up front. Clint Bowyer set the tone early as he went on to win the first two stages but after getting caught in traffic he fell back. To make matters worse, Bowyer was involved in an accident that ended any chance of victory. While it wasn't the outcome he would have hoped for, to see how well he ran is a sign of good things to come for the Kansas native. I look forward to seeing how he rebounds.

With Bowyer out of it, the attention shifted to Chase Elliott. All night it seemed like he had the second best car and looked to be on his way to another victory but after the caution for Bowyer, Elliott lost a ton of track position after a bad pit-stop. This left the sports most popular driver stuck in traffic, but he was able to make his way back to second. In the final laps, he was easily the best car and appeared to be on his way past Denny Hamlin to take the victory but Kyle Busch had other ideas. The defending champion made a sudden right hand turn and veered into Elliott sending him head on into the wall.

It was safe to say that Elliott was not pleased as he gave Busch the one finger salute as he drove by under caution. The race was not able to resume as Mother Nature intervened giving Hamlin his second win of the season. Many fans and experts alike were critical of Busch's stunt, Jeff Gordon was quoted as saying "Not sure what that was all about." When the race was over, Busch was confronted by Elliott's Crew Chief Alan Gufston. When it was said and done security had to be called to separate the two. While it might not have been intentional, Busch has opened up a can of worms in the future for retaliation. It will be fun to watch what happens next.

Overall, the response to NASCAR's midweek race was overwhelmingly positive as it was the third highest watched event on television. As NASCAR continues to be fluid, more and more people are becoming interested. NASCAR journalist and reporter Adam Stern tweeted that more than thirty percent of the viewers of Sunday's race were new viewers. Even though we may not always agree with the way NASCAR does things, I have to say they have done an outstanding job at putting this schedule together. I hope that in the future, NASCAR continues this new tradition.

Moving on to Charlotte, The driver I have winning this weekend is Chase Elliott. In every race this season, Chase has been a force to be reckoned but has simply run into circumstances he can't control. At Vegas before the shutdown, he seemed to have the race in hand until a flat tire ended any chances of victory. Two weeks later at Phoenix, he led ninety-three laps until fading to a seventh place finish and with a new-found fire lit under him after Darlington, Elliott will be like a bull in the china shop come Sunday. While he has been great at every track he has run at, he has been especially fast at Charlotte. He currently has a 10.60 average finish there and has consistently led laps. This week, I think Elliott will get redemption and claim his sixth career victory in one of NASCAR's crown jewels. Look for him to take his #9 Napa Camaro to victory lane.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats)

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