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.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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