The Rockets report

Rockets roll through an unbeaten week that includes easy wins over the Spurs and Cavs

Chris Paul had a nice game against the Cavs, Houston Rockets/Facebook

Well this certainly wasn’t the worst week to be a Rockets fan. While all eyes were focused on football’s ultimate conclusion, Houston overcame an early week hiccup in heroic fashion and stormed through the remainder of last week’s games. The Rockets have narrowed the gap in the western conference to two games behind the Golden State Warriors, while expanding their division lead to six games from the Spurs.

Game 49: Houston Rockets vs Orlando Magic (W, 114-107)

The Rockets played the Magic, and two things were assumed: The Rockets would swat the Magic, and there wouldn’t be much to talk about.

Wrong. So very, very wrong.

Houston tipped off without the services of Chris Paul or Trevor Ariza, and soon lost Eric Gordon to an in-game injury. As a result, scoring options were thin, and the game was tightly contested throughout. It would take a historic performance from James Harden to clinch the victory, and he provided just that with the NBA’s first-ever 60-point triple-double.

Harden’s 60-point triple-double was an absolute beauty to behold. Not only was it fascinating to watch the feat itself, but it was also remarkable considering the circumstances that forced the performance. The Rockets were without their second, third, and fourth best scoring options, so Harden did what the greats do: He put the team on his back, and smothered the Orlando Magic. Such a performance warrants a deeper investigation into the numbers, so I played around on Basketball-Reference.com’s stat finder page. Here’s what I’ve found:

46:26: The amount of time Harden was on the court. It was a career high for Harden, who only sat for 94 seconds in the game.

95: Amount of points scored or assisted on by Harden, good for second most all time (behind Wilt’s 100 point game). Harden is also responsible for three of the top five highest scoring outputs in NBA history.

5: Number of currently active players with 60-point games, including Harden after Tuesday’s performance (Devin Booker, Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, and Klay Thompson).

9: Number of players who have scored at least 60 points and recorded a double-double. Harden extended the list that night. Wilt Chamberlain had seven. Harden’s is the only double-double achieved with double-digit assists.

8: Number of 50-point triple-doubles ever. Harden is responsible for 3 of them.

4: Number of games Harden has scored 50+ points this season alone. He has nine throughout his career, which is second most among active players (LeBron James has 11). The Rockets as a franchise have seen 17.

Game 50: Rockets at San Antonio (W, 102-91)

I had my hair cut on Thursday, and my barber is a Spurs fan. That being said, I typically wait until he’s done before we talk Rockets/Spurs so as to avoid any “accidental” slips of the clippers. While we may not root for one another’s team, we agreed that Rockets/Spurs games are typically great basketball. It certainly was last year during the regular season.

This year? Not so much.

Both games this season have been projected as tight contests, and both have been double-digit Houston victories.

Thursday the Rockets tipped off against San Antonio for round two this season and used their defense to put the Spurs away early with a 27-14 first quarter. Houston led by double-digits throughout most of the contest on their way to stretching their division lead to five games between the two clubs. Harden showed no signs of fatigue as he poured in 28 points and 11 assists, while Clint Capela controlled the paint with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Chris Paul was held to 10 points, and Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon both sat due to injuries.

Game 51: Rockets at Cleveland Cavaliers (W, 120-88)

So Thursday was a bit of a dud, but heading up to Cleveland to face LeBron James and company should prove a tougher test than the Spurs did, right?

Nope.

Rumors have swirled all season about the possibility of Houston becoming James’ next landing spot and Saturday night the Rockets stapled their resume in the middle of the court in the Quicken Loans Arena.

The Cavaliers never led, and at one point trailed by as much as 35 points. The score was so out of hand that James didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Cleveland fans booed their own team.

Paul led the way with 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists. Ryan Anderson followed with 21 points, while Harden was held to a pedestrian 16 points on the night. No one on the Cavaliers scored more than 12 points.

Looking ahead:

The Rockets have a four game week ahead of them, with away games in Brooklyn and Miami on Tuesday and Wednesday, before returning home for a Friday matchup with the Denver Nuggets and a Sunday meeting with Dallas.

With the exception of the Heat, who are playing out of their collective minds this season, this might be one of the easiest weeks the Rockets have seen all season. Brooklyn sits 20 games back in their division, and lack any shred of competitiveness. Denver is a middle of the road team that could possibly take advantage of a tired team on Friday after the Rockets finish a back-to-back on the road, but Dallas should be an easy win. For the week I see Houston possibly dropping the Miami game on Wednesday because of fatigue, but finishing strong with at least three wins.

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It's all about Deshaun. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Texans moved to 3-7 following their 27-20 win over the Patriots. They are still without a permanent head coach and general manager. There lies the problem, and those problems will be settled this upcoming offseason. The new general manager and head coach will steer this franchise in the direction it needs to go in. Undoubtedly, Deshaun Watson will be at the forefront of what they do. How can he not be? You don't take a job like this with a quarterback like him and not consider him the centerpiece. What else would make one take either of those jobs? The salary cap hell the team is facing? The lack of draft picks coming off a terrible year? The faith ownership has placed in the NFL's version of Littlefinger?

Watson is the lone attraction to the flaming dumpster fire Cal McNair allowed to occur on his watch. If he's not careful, it could get worse and he'll find it hard to recover from. Watson signed an extension that'll keep him in Houston for another four years. He'll still be in his prime (barring any serious, career-threatening injury), and be eligible to hit the market as a free agent before he turns 30. So who do the Texans hire as head coach that can get the most out of Watson? Who can convince him to stay and re-sign after his extension is up?

The main cast of characters will most likely take better jobs. The Jets job is more attractive because of the cap space and draft picks. If the Falcons job opens up, so is it because of Matt Ryan and that offense. What coach/coaches would be interested in taking on this job that would be viable candidates given that the best of the best would take other jobs? Jayson Braddock and I tackled this topic not too long ago on Late Hits. Here are a few guys off the beaten path we felt were contenders:

Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator: Daboll is a guy who, according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, is openly campaigning for this job. The work he's done with Josh Allen has been remarkable. Allen has gone from a raw prospect with all the physical tools to an MVP candidate. Who wouldn't want a guy like that in Watson's ear guiding him over the foreseeable future?

Greg Roman, Ravens offensive coordinator: Roman has done wonders for Colin Kaepernick and Lamar Jackson. He helped Kaepernick reach a Super Bowl with the 49ers and turned Jackson into last season's league MVP. Given his history with athletic quarterbacks, he should be a natural fit and given full consideration.

Tony Elliott, Clemson offensive coordinator: Here's where it gets interesting. Elliott has been the OC (or co-OC) at Clemson since 2015. He has an established relationship with Watson and a proven track record as a coordinator of high-powered offenses in college. He's the type of hire that won't cost as much as some big names will, but might be able to provide the same spark.

Note that all three of these guys are offensive coaches. I fully understand that the defense is an issue and needs help desperately. I also understand that the previous two coaches were offensive guys as well. But Watson is your franchise quarterback and the most attractive piece in a pile of flaming dung that resides on Kirby. If anyone is going to take this job, it'll be because of number four. I know these aren't the sexy names most folks would want to hear, but these names are more realistic as candidates. None of them has head coaching experience. That fact cheapens their price tag and lends itself to them being long shots. A lot of this depends on the general manager hire. We'll get into that in another articel. For right now, dwell on this and let me know what you think.

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