WIZARDS 135, Rockets 131

James Harden puts up 54, but Rockets fall to Wizards

James Harden puts up 54, but Rockets fall to Wizards
James Harden is winless with the headband. Rockets.com

Game 19 found the Houston Rockets staring at a .500 record with the intent of gaining ground in a tight Western Conference. At the end of a three-game road trip, the Rockets faced off against an internally conflicted Washington Wizards team that started the season off poorly much like Houston, but - like Houston - had recently began to recompose themselves.

Houston exploded out of the gate behind an early Eric Gordon 3-point barrage. A headbanded James Harden would back Gordon up with 13 of his own as the rockets exploded out to an early 17 point lead. Sloppy basketball would leave Clint Capela and Marquese Chriss in foul trouble, allowing the Wizards to crawl back. The Rockets would go 1-10 from three in the second and the Wizards would seize the lead late in the half behind a series of John Wall layup drives.

While the score remained close, the Wizards would maintain their lead throughout the third quarter. Harden and Gordon would continue their unconscious assault on the Wizards and as the third quarter drew to a close, the Rockets would seize a 4-point lead. Harden and Gordon poured in 44 points and 27 points respectively.

The fourth quarter would erupt into an all out dog fight with six ties over the final six minutes. Clint Capela would throw down and Harden alley-oop to tie the game at 125 before a PJ Tucker strip on the subsequent possession would give the Rockets the final opportunity to win in regulation. Gordon’s last chance shot would be blocked, however, and for the second time on their three game road trip, the Rockets would head to overtime.

Houston’s thin bench would finally prove to be the difference in the contest, and as fatigue set in, the Wizards slowly pulled away to a four-point victory behind John Wall’s 36 points and Bradley Beal’s 32. Harden would finish with 54 points and 13 assists, while Gordon followed with a season-high 36 points.

Game Notes

The Rockets played without Chris Paul for the second straight night, as he was kept out with what was described as a sore left leg. Gerald Green sat as well with a sore right ankle.

James Harden was the second player this season to score 50-plus points in a loss. Including tonight, Harden accounts for three of the four most recent 50-point losing performances, both of which came last season. Harden is the 6th player this season with a 50-point game.

Eric Gordon’s 36 points are tied for his second highest in his career. Gordon scored 36 points once before in 2010 in a win against the Timberwolves. Gordon also finished with a career high tying 8 three-pointers. Gordon knocked down five 3-pointers in Saturday’s matchup, but prior to that he had gone 15-60 in his previous 7 starts.

Shooting guard Danuel House was called up from the G-League to fill in with Paul and Green both out, and was fed 28 minutes in his first game with the Rockets. The newcomer finished with four points, three rebounds, and one assist.

Clint Capela added his 8th double-double of the season with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks.

Harden currently holds a lifetime winless streak when sporting a headband. He does average 54 points, 13 assists, and 3 steals, though.

Next Up:

Rockets at home versus the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

 

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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