FIRST TAKE

Stephen A. Smith says Rockets can knock off anybody

Thursday on First Take, Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman talk about the Rockets' big win over the Clippers on Wednesday night.

​Max still wants to see more from James Harden in the playoffs, but Stephen A. thinks the Rockets are the biggest threat to the Lakers and Clippers.

Check out the video above and see who you agree with most.

The Rockets have had a number of must-win games this season, but this was one was at the top of the list. Having had two team "discussions" going into tonight, Houston's team morale going into this one was questionable at best. A win over the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers could have certainly helped spark some momentum that they desperately need right now.

Houston actually started this game the appropriate fear, but that seemed to dissipate as the game went along, particularly in the third quarter where things went completely arry for the Rockets. In addition to poor shooting (1 of 11 from three-point range), the Rockets turned the ball over 6 times, made silly fouls to compound their mistakes, and could not seem to defend the Lakers in transition.

"We just didn't make plays," said Mike D'Antoni after the game. "Then we turned it over a couple times, they got out on the break. We ran them the first half and they upped their pace and ran us the second half."

The Rockets had as many turnovers (20) as assists tonight. This is the worst team to do that against as the Lakers are 10-0 when forcing 20+ turnovers this season.

There's little doubt that this was a make-or-break game for the Rockets given that they lost 3 out of their last 4 before tonight, but it is up to them on if they'll actually break. Publicly, they've kept a brave face, but talk is cheap. There needs to be concrete improvement they can to point to and aside from the first 24 minutes of tonight's game, that's been hard to find.

Star of the game: Despite the poor team play, Russell Westbrook has held his own as of late. Tonight, Westbrook had 35 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals on 15 of 23 shooting from the field. Westbrook has had at least 30 points and 5 assists in each of the Rockets' last four games.

Honorable mention: His defense wasn't great tonight, but James Harden did find a way to also fill the stat sheet in Houston's loss. Harden was dealing with an aggressive Lakers trap all night, but still managed to get 34 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 1 block on 60.9% true shooting tonight. Again, I'm sure Harden himself wouldn't put this among his proudest performances however.

Key moment: The Rockets were playing really great in the first half on both ends. James Harden was deferring because of Los Angeles' traps, Russell Westbrook was rolling (22 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field), and Clint Capela was playing very well defensively (9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and a +/- of +9). Things completely for turned for Houston in the third quarter, however. Technical fouls were flying, offensive fouls were being drawn on both ends, and the Rockets lost the lead in the chaos of the opening minutes. Offensively, the Rockets were atrocious in the third quarter (17 points scored on 1 of 11 shooting from three-point range) and defensively, the Lakers ran the ball down Houston's throat.

Up next: The Rockets play the Oklahoma City Thunder in Houston at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday.