Taking care of business
The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets blowout Minnesota in Houston 139-109
Tonight, the Rockets showed what they could be capable of when they reach their peaks as a team. In a night without Clint Capela (right heel soreness) and P.J. Tucker (hurt his shoulder in the middle of the first quarter), Houston really turned it on defensively. The Rockets only allowed 95.4 points per 100 possessions and outscored the Wolves by 26.3 points per 100 possessions. For the first time in a long time, the Rockets completely destroyed a team they were supposed to beat.
In terms of noteworthy items, obviously P.J. Tucker's injury in the first quarter was brutal and very scary for a Rockets team that was already struggling to keep it together defensively. Tucker took a hard screen that he wasn't expecting from Gorgui Dieng in the first quarter and was completely laid out for a good four minutes before he walked to the locker room with the Rockets' training staff. Tucker never returned, but according to head coach Mike D'Antoni, he will be fine and possibly ready to go on Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Another noteworthy development is D'Antoni opting to insert guard Ben McLemore into the starting lineup and moving Danuel House to the bench as a backup power forward. According to D'Antoni, this was a move designed to bring more minutes to players like Austin Rivers and ease the burden for P.J. Tucker at the power forward position. House had also been struggling to shoot the ball as of late so this also may be a way of rewarding the hot hand in McLemore. It's unclear if McLemore will continue to start this season, but D'Antoni left the possibilities open-ended.
It's hard to talk about this game without discussing how well Isaiah Hartenstein played tonight (17 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 2 steals on 8 of 9 shooting from the field). Hartenstein was given the start at center tonight and took good advantage of the opportunity he was given. Although he won't be receiving "star of the game" or "honorable mention" tonight, Russell Westbrook and James Harden both raved about him as a clear consolation prize.
This was a really solid win for Houston and there's really not much else to say here.
Star of the game: James Harden broke out of the mini-slump he was on, tallying 32 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals on 8 of 17 shooting from the field, 6 of 11 shooting from three-point range, and 10 of 13 shooting from the free-throw line. Harden had 11 turnovers, but a lot of these were collected during his poor start to the game (4 points, 5 turnovers, and 1 of 6 shooting from the field). He was incredible and since the Rockets were up so big early on, Harden got the opportunity to rest for the entire fourth quarter, only playing 28 minutes.
Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook was the main reason Houston was able to gain the early lead. Although he had a particularly bad shooting stretch in the middle of the game, he corrected it in the fourth quarter and finished with 30 points 10 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 stals on 10 of 23 shooting from the field and 9 of 10 shooting from the free throw line.
Key moment: The Rockets really took advantage of the Timberwolves in the second and third quarters, where they outscored them 80-56. Harden had a poor first quarter, but really got it going in the second quarter where he logged 18 points and 7 rebounds on 5 of 5 shooting from the field and 4 of 4 shooting from three-point range. Minnesota never recovered from that and failed to make a run in the fourth quarter.
Up next: The Rockets travel to Memphis to play the Grizzlies at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday.