NBA PLAYOFFS

Fred Faour: 5 observations from the Rockets Game 1 loss to the Warriors

Steph Curry was not great, but it did not matter. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Rockets lost Game 1 to Golden State in the Western Conference Finals 119-106. Here are five observations on the loss:

So much for home court: The Rockets worked all season to get homecourt advantage, and they gave it away in one night. In reality, this was a game they had to have, and they lost it in a third quarter where they were outscored 31-24. Golden State also was better in the fourth quarter and that was the difference.

No answer for Durant: The biggest concern going in was that the Rockets could match up with the Warriors' Big Three, but did not seem to have a matchup for Kevin Durant, the big fourth. That proved to be true, as Durant dominated with 37 points. James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela held their own with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but Durant was the difference.

Awful a Moute: Luc Mbah A Moute was a serious liability for the Rockets. He took too many shots -- hitting none of them -- and looked like a rec league player. He scored as many points as a dead person. That will not beat the Warriors.

Useless Ariza: Trevor Ariza was almost a zero, getting five fouls and taking bad shots. He scored a whopping 8 points. The Rockets needed more.

No help for Harden: The Beard scored 41 and played well, but got little help. Chris Paul scored 21 but on just 7 of 16 shooting. Eric Gordon had 15 and Clint Capela 12, but there simply was not enough offense throughout the roster. 

The bottom line: The Rockets looked overmatched in a game they had to have. This series could get out of hand fast. A similar effort in Game 2 and the Rockets could easily go full Raptor.

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Hiring DeMeco Ryans would be a good first step. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

The Cincinnati Bengals are heading to its second straight AFC Championship game. After making the Super Bowl in 2022, it’s hard to believe the team is just four seasons removed from being in the bottom of the NFL with a 2-14 record.

The Houston Texans find themselves in a similar position to the Bengals a few years ago. Houston is in a transition stage following the loss of quarterback Deshaun Watson, JJ Watt and the flurry of other talent that defined the Bill O’Brien-led era.

The Texans are currently near the bottom of the league, but here is why they could be not that far off when it comes to turning the corner as the Bengals did over the last few seasons.

In 2019, Cincinnati was still led by Andy Dalton at quarterback. It was the first year under head coach Zac Taylor and the team had a lot of holes to fill.

After finishing with the worst record in the league, the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. They used their second pick in that same draft to take a key playmaker in receiver Tee Higgins and used the third pick in linebacker Logan Wilson, who has started in every game he has played in for the Bengals this season.

In the 2020 season, Burrow showed flashes of being a star QB, but suffered a season-ending knee injury that once again saw Cincinnati picking toward the top of the draft. In 2021, it used the No. 5 overall pick to draft Ja'Marr Chase.

With the key pieces in place added on to other hits they made in free agency and in previous years’ drafts, such as selecting Joe Mixon in 2017 and signing former Houston defensive lineman D.J. Reader, the Bengals quickly became one of the top teams in the league, and Burrow has become the only quarterback not named Tom Brady to have a leg up on Patrick Mahomes.

While it is much easier said than done, the Texans are in position to do just as the Bengals did beginning in 2019. Houston has an abundance of draft capital, even more than Cincinnati had when it went through its rebuild, including six in the first two rounds of the draft for 2023 and 2024.

It will be on Nick Caserio to put together the best roster with those picks to put the Texans back into relevance, and it begins with the hiring of the head coach. Could DeMeco Ryans be the answer in Houston?

The Bengals were patient with Taylor after two seasons of just two and four wins. Whoever Houston hires this go around will need to have stability. Taylor has proven he was the right man for the job even after the shaky start.

The next two drafts will define what the next decade looks like for the Houston Texans. They are at a crossroads when it comes to which direction they will take. Even at its best over the last decade, Houston’s ceiling was the Divisional Round of the AFC playoffs.

Choosing the right quarterback and surrounding him with elite talent on both sides of the ball will be key. No pressure Caserio.

If he plays his cards right, it just might be the Texans competing against Burrow and the Bengals or Mahomes and the Chiefs on Championship Sunday in 2025.

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