ROCKETS 98, PACERS 94

Rockets stymie Pacers for third straight victory

James Harden and Clint Capela had big games. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Houston kicked off the first week of November with a matchup against the Indiana Pacers Monday night. As healthy and unsuspended as the team had been all season, Monday provided a perfect opportunity to prove whether or not Houston's woeful start would persist, or their struggles were in fact a result of an unfortunate, injury-riddled start to the season.

First quarter

Signs were encouraging as Houston exploded out of the gate offensively. Shades of last season were evident as Capela crashed the glass and slammed down alley oops, while Harden poured in from three. Of note would be just how much trust has been given to the two rookies Gary Clark and Isaiah Hartenstein, both of whom hustled hard. Pacers guard Victor Oladipo kept it close, but Harden's 11 points helped to keep the Pacers at bay. Rockets led 29-22 at the end.

Second quarter

Harden continued to do Harden things, but unfortunately he was virtually the only offense Houston was able to reliably muster. Oladipo refused to be stopped, and with help from Domantas Sabonis the Pacers reclaimed the lead. Chris Paul, Gerald Green, and Carmelo Anthony were held to a total of zero points for the half, yet Houston only trailed by two, 55-53. Harden with 18 points, Oladipo matching with 16.

Third quarter

The Pacers began to clamp down on defense, forcing a slew of Rockets turnovers. A continued woeful performance from Houston beyond the arc provided zero relief as the Pacers continued to assert themselves. The Rockets would slog through a 20-16 Pacers-led third quarter to push the lead to 75-69.

Fourth quarter

The thing is, Houston's defense never really slumped throughout their matchup with the 7-3 Pacers. The problem rested solely in their complete ineptitude to convert wide open three-point looks throughout the contest. The narrative finally changed in the fourth quarter, that is, as the Rockets ignited from three while simultaneously ratcheting down on defense. The 29-19 fourth would prove to be enough for Houston to escape the late game foul/free throw game with a victory. Harden finished the game with 28 points and 6 assists, while Oladipo matched for the Pacers with 28 points and 6 rebounds.

Takeaways:

Rookie confidence: Coach Mike D'Antoni has opted in the past three games to lean on his rookie tandem over more experienced players and the result can be seen directly in the win/loss column. During the current three-game winning streak, the Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark rookie combo has trounced Michael Carter-Williams and Marquese Chriss by an 82-6 minutes distribution. Let the kids do work.

Extra Capela: Clint Capela finished the night with a respectable 18 points and 10 rebounds. The effort marked his sixth straight double-double, which is the longest streak of his career.

True test: The Rockets are suddenly riding a three-game winning streak, but the rest of the week will be a true litmus test as to whether Houston's rough start was merely an aberration. Thursday Houston clashes with the Oklahoma City Thunder before a Saturday Spurs match and a Sunday Pacers rematch. If Houston can string together a winning week, it will do wonders to assuage a rightfully nervous fan base.

Next up:

Houston at Oklahoma City, Thursday


 

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Many of the games have been hard to watch. Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

They say that breaking up is hard to do, then comes the rebuilding, and that's where the real pain happens. Last week, the 4-9 Rockets lost a tough game, 103-91, to the very average San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center. That night, Ben McLemore scored 21 points, while P.J. Tucker contributed four points.

Every other point for the Rockets was scored by a player who wasn't on the team last year. That's no way to build a fan base of young people, or older people, or anybody. Because of COVID restrictions, the Rockets can sell only 3,000 tickets to games, and they're still having to offer special deals like four tickets and four drinks (soda, water, wine or beer) for $79.

The night the Rockets fell to the Spurs, DeMarcus Cousins was out with an ankle injury (surprise), John Wall was out with a sore knee (shock), and Eric Gordon sat with a lower leg injury (stunning). They were not sidelined by COVID protocol, it was age creakiness. All three are on the other side of 30. All have a history of missing games because of injuries. Danuel House also missed the game because of a bad back and COVID protocol.

The Rockets took to the floor with able-bodied Mason Jones, David Nwaba, Rodions Kurucs, Kenyon Martin Jr., Jae'Sean Tate and Christian Wood. They're nice players, for sure, they're on an NBA roster. But the NBA is a megastar-driven operation. How many of them would you recognize if they were standing behind you at Costco? The way the Rockets sign, trade and cut players, many or most of the current roster won't be around next year. Becoming a fan of a current Rocket is like falling in love with the Rug Doctor you rented for the weekend at a supermarket. It's going back Monday.

Last year, the head coach was Mike D'Antoni, the general manager was Daryl Morey. Both are established and respected figures in the league. Would you recognize the Rockets new coach Stephen Silas? Can you even name the Rockets new general manager?

And that's how you sink to 14th place in the Western Conference standings, inevitably a lottery team, the end to the Rockets' eight-year run of making the playoffs … the longest current streak in the NBA. The 2021 Rockets aren't just a lousy product, it's worse, they're a boring team. Gordon and Tucker, maybe the two most popular Rockets veterans, are rumored to be traded soon. Fans will have abandonment issues.

Maybe the Rockets should offer something stiffer than beer on "Guys Night Out" next Thursday when the Portland Trail Blazers visit Toyota Center. Good seats available.

That's not what you want to see

Did you see where the New York Mets fired their general manager Jared Porter because he sent explicit, uninvited, unanswered text messages to a female reporter?. Porter absolutely deserved to lose his job. What he did was awful and cruel. More than just losing his job, he should be committed to a home for the terminally stupid. Who does something that moronic? So unconscionable and abusive, on top of being job-killing.

But not all junk shots are meant to be hurtful – here's one that's actually funny, and totally inadvertent and innocent. Several years ago, a local sportscaster not only took a photo of his naked, anatomically correct body, he posted it on Facebook for all of his friends, indeed the world, to see. I won't name the local sportscaster because he was the victim of his own innocent lack of focus. It could have happened to anybody. Not me, thankfully, but anybody else.

Here's how it happened. The sportscaster was taking a shower, and when he emerged, he noticed his kitten curled up in the bathroom sink. Aw, isn't that cute? The sportscaster grabbed his phone and took a photo.

And posted it on Facebook. He didn't notice that, in the background of the photo, in the mirror, was his naked body. You can't say he was butt naked because it was full frontal nudity. You can't say it was a wardrobe malfunction because there was no wardrobe involved. Fortunately his wife noticed the mishap and told the sportscaster to delete the photo.

Here's the real problem, and his solid alibi. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put huge, wide mirrors in the bathroom, especially opposite the bath tub? There's a good look, you're naked, dripping wet, with patches of soap you missed rinsing off. This should be a fleeting disturbing image, not one to be preserved on film or online. Solution: don't bring your phone, or any photographic equipment, into the bathroom. We've all taken accidental photos. Nobody needs to see a photo of your disgusting body. You are not Michelangelo's statue of David. I don't let my dog watch me take a shower or any other business conducted in the bathroom. There is a reason that bathroom doors have locks. Use them.

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