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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The Houston Texans seem to be focused on repairing their image. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

"It's a new day, yes it is!" That's how the theme song from one of my all time favorite wrestling tag teams/groups starts. One of my favorite lines says "Can't change the past/Gotta let it unfold." If this doesn't apply to the 2022 Houston Texans, I don't know what does.

Over the last few years, the Texans have been a laughingstock. From a comedy of errors under Bill O'Brien, to Cal McNair's reputation as Tommy Boy, Jack Easterby was once thought to be some sort of Boogeyman, to the fans finally having had enough and fighting back with their wallets. Things haven't been smooth sailing on Kirby Drive. It started to look like a never-ending rainy day for a while. Then it happened. Nick Caserio came in riding his white horse and the weather started clearing up.

Initially, some were still skeptical, yours truly included. We had every right to feel that way. He was yet another in a line from New England. "Patriots South" was beginning to look like a real thing, even though Cal denied it. Before he could get settled, his franchise quarterback wanted out and was also found out to be an alleged pervert. That's when Caserio started to push all the right buttons.

Some people thrive under pressure. Some crumble worse than a dry ass Popeye's biscuit. Caserio is one of the ones that has managed to make coals into diamonds. Armed with a bad cap situation, devoid of draft picks in his first draft, a talented QB who wants out, and an owner trying his best to do the right things, he navigated it all masterfully so far. He traded Watson for a nice haul and used those picks in this past draft to address some concerns. Knowing the QB talent was better in the upcoming draft, he's giving Davis Mills an opportunity to show what he's got. Their collective appearance on The Pat McAfee Show recently was to show the national media something we here in Houston see every day: there are new faces of this franchise, and it's headed in the right direction.

While Mills still has to prove he can be the franchise QB, Caserio has done a good job of putting talent around him to place him in a position to succeed. If Mills is a hit, the team can use the draft capital to improve other areas of the team, and Caserio has another feather in his cap. If Mill isn't "the guy", the team will draft one of the top prospects and move on. Third round QBs that don't work out aren't seen as failures per se because expectations aren't as high. However, I believe Mills' floor is a career backup and he still holds value even if he isn't seen as a starter. Besides, who wouldn't want a guy who went to Stanford in the QB room?

Easterby has faded into the background after being thrust into the spotlight. He seems to have been thrown in the ring with a grizzly bear and come out unscathed. Lots of us were wrong about him. I now believe he was forced into a situation he wasn't prepared for, made the best he could out of it, and is now settling back into the role he originally sought out, which is the owner's right-hand man and a team/player development type of guy.

The person who deserves just as much, if not more, credit than Caserio is Cal. He went from Tommy Boy to Boss Hog in the matter of a year or so. The story of him playing video games sitting on the floor of his office fed into the perception of him being a doofus. Now, he's literally kissing babies, handing out shorts, and grilling for the fans. He's been seen at the forefront of food/water drives, as well as being very visible and accessible to fans at training camp.

These are the new faces of this franchise moving forward. Look for newer players to take some of their places when their play starts to equal wins for this team. "Get us back on the right road/On the right track/On the right flow (That’s right)/Live in the future that we all know."

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