ROCKETS REPORT

Rockets get off to slow start with 1-2 opening week

James Harden and the Rockets struggled in the opening week. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Rockets kicked off their season on Wednesday with an eye-opening thud against a formidable New Orleans team, before a weekend back-to-back series against both of the the Los Angeles squads. Houston was able to squeeze a hard fought victory out of the Lakers, but lost starting point guard Chris Paul to a two game suspension for fighting. Following Saturday’s contest/brawl, the understaffed Rockets would go on to drop a close one to the Clippers. After three games the Rockets are 1-2 and last in the Southwest Division.

Game One: Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans (L, 112-131)

Fans looking for an easy win to shrug off last year’s crushing playoff exit were treated to a rude awakening courtesy of the basketball stylings of Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic. Scoring 32 and 30 respectively, the duo fueled an early game push that the Rockets were never able to catch up to. In a largely uncompetitive game Eric Gordon led Houston in scoring with 21 points, while Harden flirted with a triple-double (18 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds). P.J. Tucker and Chris Paul each added 19 points.

Game Two: Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers (W, 124-115)

There are very few things outside of a championship that are more satisfying that playing spoiler. A year removed from defeating the Golden State Warriors on their ring ceremony night, the Rockets were back at again, this time ruining LeBron James’ highly anticipated home opener with his newest team. James pushed through a slow start to finish with 24 points, while Harden torched the Lakers to the tune of 36 points. If the wildly close game throughout wasn’t entertaining enough, fans were treated to an in-game brawl instigated by Lakers forward Brandon Ingram. The tension boiled over when Lakers guard Rajon Rondo spit in Chris Paul’s face. Paul responded in kind with a less-than-friendly face push, which incite a flurry of Rondo punches. Ingram returned to fray to add a few cheap shots before everyone was separated. Houston would pull away at the end, but it would come at a cost. Paul would ultimately be suspended 2 games, while Rondo and Ingram received 3 and 4 game suspensions respectively.

Game Three: Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers (L, 112-115)

Missing their star point guard Paul due to suspension, the Rockets took to the Staples Center late Sunday evening in a face off against a Clippers team that was seemingly gutted throughout the trade deadline and off-season. What was expected to be an easy win turned into a struggle throughout, and a 39-point third quarter surge and last minute  bench contributions would put the Houston away, dropping them to 1-2 on the season. Harden paced the team with 31 points and 14 assists, while Clint Capela and Gordon added 23 and 21 points each.

Observations

Carmelo Anthony has been the subject of speculation since he arrived in Houston, and through three games he’s not exactly passing the eye test. While averaging over 27 minutes per game, Anthony is only averaging 8.3 points per game, to go with 0.7 assists and 6.7 rebounds. Three games certainly isn’t enough to draw any real conclusions, but it certainly is a little eyebrow raising. Hopefully we get more of a Michael Beasley effort this season and not a Joe Johnson.

Looking Ahead

The Rockets have a light two-game schedule to look forward to next week as they square off against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday and a home rematch against the Clippers Friday. Houston will call on the services of their bench against the Jazz to help fill the void left by Paul’s suspension. The Jazz, now healthy, are one of the tougher teams in the Western Conference, so don’t expect an easy win. The Rockets will return to full strength against the Clippers this friday, and should have no issue dispatching the patchwork squad. I expect a 1-1 week.

 

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Kelvin Sampson has the Cougars rolling. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The final regular season game for the Houston Cougars men's basketball team took place Sunday, March 7th in the Fertitta Center.

There was some controversy as the game was initially scheduled to take place in Memphis, but was moved to Houston due to a COVID-19 related issues. The contest was originally supposed to happen on Feb. 14 in Houston but was postponed due to the aforementioned COVID issues in the Memphis program.

The American Athletic Conference stated that if a game had to be postponed it would be played at the venue of the team that did not have the COVID-19 issues.

Memphis was not happy about the relocation.

"In a year full of challenges, we are greatly disappointed for our players and fans that our final home game of the season could not remain in Memphis," Memphis Director of Athletics Laird Veatch said. "This is especially sad for our senior managers and students in band, cheer and pom, who will not be able to celebrate their last experience in FedExForum.

Although unfortunate for Memphis and their fans, it did give Houston one extra home game, and a chance to have their true senior day.

Seniors Dejon Jarreau, Justin Gorham and Brison Gresham were honored during a pregame ceremony in front of a socially distanced crowd at the Fertitta Center.

There were few dry eyes on the court including head coach Kelvin Sampson who was emotional during the ceremony.

Those emotions quickly changed from bittersweet to confusion as Memphis jumped out to an early lead in the first half.

Head coach Penny Hardaway had his Tigers play trap style defense which lead to many double teams on Quentin Grimes and Jarreau, forcing other players to step up.

This strategy worked as Memphis was able to force the Cougars to make multiple turnovers early on.

Houston had a four point lead at halftime, and the game continued to be a back and forth contest until the end.

Houston was up 64-61 with nine seconds left to go in the game, and Memphis had one shot to tie the game.

Sophomore guard Lester Quinones missed a 3-pointer, but Houston couldn't secure the rebound to put the game away.

Instead, the ball bounced out to Boogie Ellis who hit his lone 3-pointer of the game with 1.7 seconds left to tie it at 64.

Coach Sampson was able to call a final timeout with 1.7 seconds left in the game.

For the final play, he drew up an inbounds play that had been tried in practice, but has never been performed in a game.

"I don't think it's ever worked," UH forward Justin Gorham said.

From the opposite side of the court, Marcus Sasser inbounded the ball via a bounce pass to Tramon Mark near center court.

Mark was double-teamed by the Houston logo and threw up a prayer.

That prayer resulted in a bank shot off of the backboard to win the game 67-64 as time expired.

"To do that on senior day for those guys, that just makes it even better," Mark said after the game on Twitter.

It was a tremendous way to end the regular season for the Cougars as they gear up and head to the AAC tournament in Fort Worth.

Before Houston headed to the locker room to celebrate, Sampson had some final words for Cougars fans.

"Never give up on your Coogs!"

MOVING UP: With this victory, Houston has moved up to the 7th ranked team in the country and are looking to secure a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

UP NEXT: March is in full swing, and the Cougars will be the No. 2 seed in the AAC tournament. They will face the winner of Tulsa and Tulane on Friday, March 12th at 6 p.m CT

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