COUNTDOWN TO LIFTOFF

James Harden and the Rockets are ready for prime time

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

After the last three games, James Harden is averaging 30 points per game and 8.3 assists from the field. Harden has showed his complete readiness in these three games. He was able to score 30 points in the first half against the Boston Celtics Tuesday night.

Harden is in a great shape after an extreme weight loss. He was able to enjoy yoga and a ton of conditioning in Arizona.

"Conditioning, extra sprints after practice and pushing myself to be the best I can be," as Harden told Anthony Duckett from Space City Scoop.

Harden has a grand total of 16 threes in these last three scrimmages. He was able to make contested and step-back threes against opponents. Harden made basketball look easy against tough defenders. He even made sure his teammates were involved the entire game. Harden made sure the ball was rotated to find the correct shot for his teammates. He showcased his court vision by finding PJ Tucker or Ben McLemore for open looks in the corner.

Mike D'Antoni loved Harden's passion for the game against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Rockets were down by seven with the Grizzlies leading 87-79 at the end of the third quarter. D'Antoni wanted to take Harden out, but he refused because they were down.

"I tried to [take] James out with about four minutes to go, but he wouldn't have any of it," D'Antoni said Sunday night. "He wanted to play and win. That's the type of person he is. He's such a competitor."

Harden was able to lead the Rockets to a 119-104 victory over the Grizzlies. He finished the game with 31 points and nine assists.


Harden is more than capable of leading the Rockets to better seed with Russell Westbrook on his side. He is ready for the noise to stop by playing great basketball. He'll have his first opportunity Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks.

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Another tough loss for Houston. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans remain winless as the team comes up short against the Bears in Chicago. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Davis Mills made two costly mistakes with interceptions. The first one took points off the board and the second allowed the Bears to kick a game-winning field goal. These were the first two of the season and they highlight the need for near perfection from the offense.

2. Davis Mills claimed he made the correct read on the second interception. He said the tip is the reason the Bears intercepted it. I disagree. It looks like Roquan Smith read it like a book and might have been there anyway.

3. The other interception from Davis Mills wasn’t a good read either. Mills made a quick decision and rifled the ball to Brandin Cooks but the defensive back basically had his whole body between Cooks and the ball. The Bears made a nice play to come down with the deflection.

4. Davis Mills is not to be trusted in moments where most quarterbacks can move the football. The Texans failed to get into field goal range at the end of both halves. Mills has consistently failed in those spots this season.

5. There were some curious calls from Pep Hamilton. The Texans don’t have much talent, but Hamilton has had some unique moments. There was a screen to Pharaoh Brown on third and long. The team called a screen on third and one. There was a telegraph on third and short in the red zone.

6. Why can’t this team get the wideouts more heavily involved? Rex Burkhead shouldn’t be getting the second greatest number of targets. Brandin Cooks shouldn’t leave a game where he has less than 10 targets. It would be worth scheming the ball to Cooks a few more times than he is currently getting the ball.

7. Kamu Grugier-Hill is not playing well right now. The veteran just bounced right off a Bears running back at one point. He is also a liability in coverage. Christian Harris is hopefully back after next week but it would be worth seeing if Garrett Wallow has anything more to his game than the veteran.

8. The rushing defense was assaulted again. This time by running wideouts and a backup running back. Lovie Smith needs to look at playing time and the depth chart to see if something can get corrected here. This can’t keep happening earlier and earlier in games each week.

9. Jerry Hughes has been one of the best players on this team through three games. The veteran has been consistent and flashed more than a few times. A nice addition by the team this offseason.

10. Jalen Pitre is so damn good. He’s already one of the best players on this team. He had two interceptions today to go along with a sack. He wasn’t fooled on play action and nailed Justin Fields for the sack. When it felt like the Bears were getting whatever they wanted, Pitre darted in for a tackle in the backfield. He’s been awesome.

11. There must be some evaluation from the Texans. The team might need to ask if everything they’ve put together at this point is the right direction. There is a sound argument the team should be 3-0. Instead, the team is winless, and closing in on hopelessness

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