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


 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

This is a tasty burger. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

If a person isn't a real Houstonian until they have favorite places for staple foods like burgers and Tex-Mex, then Astros pitcher Justin Verlander has officially embraced his new home.

In an interview that occurred during the Thursday, August 11 broadcast of the Astros game against the Texas Rangers, YouTube announcer Scott Braun asked Verlander if he found any food in Houston that he couldn't get in Detroit.

"I like Nancy's Hustle's burger," the pitching ace replied.

Indeed, what's not to like? The Nancy's burger — a double patty cheeseburger with chopped onions, pickles, and aioli on a housemade brioche English muffin — has been a staple since the restaurant opened in late 2017. Here it is, as captured by Houston food influencer Abbas Dhanani.

Beyond its deliciousness, Verlander's affection for the burger makes a certain amount of logistical sense. The EaDo restaurant is only about a mile from Minute Maid Park, and it stays open until 11 pm, making it a perfect post-game treat.

Nancy's co-owner Sean Jensen tells CultureMap that he and chef-owner Jason Vaughan consider Verlander and his wife, supermodel Kate Upton, to be regulars. "They have always been supporters and super nice when they visit," he writes in an email.

Continue on CultureMap to learn more.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome