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Great result for Rockets, but Harden-Paul pairing will be a work in progress

Off the court, James Harden and Chris Paul have been great. They still have work to do on it. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Last night the Houston Rockets upset the Golden State Warriors 122-121 in a thrilling shootout to kick off the regular season. Free agent signings Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker provided a great spark off the bench with 14 and 20 points respectively, to compliment reigning sixth man of the year Eric Gordon and his 24-point effort. It was a great win, and more importantly it was at least the beginning of the answer to the biggest question surrounding the Rockets all offseason:

How will Chris Paul and James Harden look on the floor together?

Well, the short answer is – at the moment – not great. Not terrible, but not great. Paul and Harden seemed to stick to what they know best, which is a lot of iso ball. If one had the ball, the other seemed to sit off in the corner and let them do their thing. Paul went 2-9 from the field (0-4 from 3-point range) for 4 points to go with 11 assists and 8 rebounds, but left the game near the end of the fourth quarter with knee soreness. Harden, meanwhile, dazzled in his debut, turning in a 27 point, 6 rebound, and 10 assist effort.

They ended the game with a combined 21 assists, but the growing pains were fairly evident. Paul found himself in rather unfamiliar territory by playing off ball the majority of the time the two shared the court.

At the moment it’s very obvious that Paul realizes that this is Harden’s team and seemed fine acquiescing the ball handling duties for the time being while he adjusts. Paul was eventually pulled out of the lineup in favor of Gordon near the end of the fourth quarter because of the knee, and when questioned by reporters in the locker room about the benching showed zero frustration. That was a good sign, because it shows that he realizes how talented the Rockets’ lineup is.

At the moment it’s simply too early to grade the Harden/Paul experiment, especially with Paul playing hurt. Injuries are going to be part of the norm with Paul, as they have been throughout his career, but when he’s healthy, he’s still one of the most dangerous point guards in the league.

I personally don’t expect there to be much of an issue. Harden and Paul are far too talented and basketball smart to not make this work.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans out-Patriot the Patriots

Texans take down the Pats. Photo by Getty Images.

Every dog has its day. A broken clock is right two times a day. All the clichés about it being better to be lucky than good can apply here with the Texans 27-20 win over the Patriots. In a matchup that broke a record for the oldest combined age for opposing head coaches, 141 years old, Romeo Crennel beat his former boss Bill Belichick. There were other narratives at work here, as well as a few things (good and awful) that the coaching staff did.

First thing I saw that I liked was the spread and no-huddle on offense. If you've been following this series of articles, you know I've been on this train quite a while now. This allows Deshaun Watson to find the matchup he likes, exposes the defense because they can't sub, takes advantage of Texans' speed at receiver, and creates a tempo most defenses can't keep up with. Not to mention the spread is the offense Watson operated in at Clemson. 28/37 for 344 yards and two touchdowns of production from Watson was enough for me to say they need to have this as their M.O. moving forward.

Tim Kelly called a great game. He used the short, quick pass game in lieu of the run game. This also helped since Laremy Tunsil was out and Roderick Johnson had to play at left tackle. This offensive line is not very good at run blocking. Hence, why Watson was again the team's leading rusher with only 36 yards. Almost all of those were on scrambles. By going spread and no-huddle, Watson can take advantage of man and zone coverages to extend plays or scramble because most teams won't spy him. Even when they do, he makes them look silly.

Not everything was on the up and up. The defense continued to look like booty juice. Cam Newton threw for 365 yards and Damiere FREAKIN Byrd torched them for 132 of those yards! When I heard the quote from Crennel that defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver is getting the most out of his guys, I found it laughable. To double down on that, Weaver was quoted as saying, "This narrative that's being painted like my guys aren't disciplined and running around blocks, quite frankly and to put it bluntly, is bull---t!" Sorry guys, but you're both wrong. This defense can't fight its way out of a wet paper bag if you gave them knives. The worst part about it is that the offense's best chance at success sets the defense up for failure. Their hurry up scheme leaves little time for this porous defense to catch its wind. If they could get some turnovers or just off the damn field and get stops, it would help the offense.

With six games left, their three games outside the AFC South (Bengals, Lions, Bears) are all winnable. The two matchups against the Colts and the season finale against the Titans will prove to be their biggest tests. However, this is the same team that has four one possession losses. 3-7 could look a lot different if the offense stepped up against the Browns, or the defense made stops against the Steelers, Vikings, or Titans. Let's hope they can build off this win and salvage whatever they can of this season.

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