Scrappy Victory

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets beat Pelicans in New Orleans 122-116

It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't ugly either. That just seems par for the course whenever the Rockets play the Pelicans. Regardless of injuries on either side, these two teams just always manage to play each other competitively, whistle to whistle. Houston pulled out ahead tonight, but it wasn't without a fight.

Jrue Holiday and Josh Hart in particular, did an excellent job defending James Harden tonight, forcing him to shoot 3 for 11 from deep. The Pelicans often swarmed Harden and forced him to give up the basketball. It helps the Eric Gordon is starting to find a rhythm from three-point range (4 of 7 tonight and 3 of 7 Saturday against Chicago). Westbrook was also forceful offensively to help pick up for Harden's early struggles.

Clint Capela has really stepped it up for Houston these past four games (11 points, 20 rebounds, and 2 blocks tonight on 5 of 6 shooting). Capela has managed to grab 13 or more rebounds in Houston's last four outings. Capela had struggled greatly to start the season, forcing head coach Mike D'Antoni to rely on smaller units with P.J. Tucker at center. However, the Rockets aren't going to go as far as they want in the postseason if they aren't getting a strong 30 minutes a game from Clint Capela, so it's encouraging that he's starting to play well.

The Rockets took a 7-point lead after a surge from Westbrook to end the first quarter and for the most part, held that lead for the duration of the game. New Orleans made a strong push in the fourth quarter the battle back, but at that point it was too little too late.

Star of the game: James Harden didn't have a the best three-point shooting game, but still managed to log 39 point, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block in the process on 62.6% true shooting. He was effect at driving to the rim, drawing fouls, getting floaters, and finding shooters. Harden scored 19 of his points in the 4th quarter, effectively dragging Houston to victory despite a strong late push by New Orleans that cut the lead from 17 at one point down to as low as 6.

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook was dialed in from the first quarter, particularly from mid-range where he scored 12 of his points on 6 of 8 shooting. In a night where Harden was really struggling to gain a rhythm, Westbrook really helped pick up the slack for Houston especially in the units without Harden. Westbrook finished the game with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals on an efficient 57.1% true shooting. It's unlikely Westbrook will shoot that well from mid-range this season, but on nights where he's on like this, the Rockets will gladly take it.

Key moment: Russell Westbrook's stretch to end the first quarter gave the Rockets a 7-point lead and the Pelicans were never able to capture the lead from that point forward. Westbrook scored or assisted on the final 6 points of the quarter (within 56.8 seconds) and was forceful defensively.

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston to play the Los Angeles Clippers at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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Things are quickly changing. Composite photo by Jack Brame

Proving that things can always get worse, the Houston Texans(1-6) hit rock bottom losing to the Green Bay Packers 36-20 Sunday at NRG Stadium. The Packers (5-1) extended their winning streak at NRG stadium to 6-0.

All phases of the Texans defense failed to stop the Packers' marching orders. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was good for 23-34 throwing for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those scores went to Davante Adams, who had a career day with 13 receptions for 196 yards.

With Gareon Conley still on the IR, defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver moved cornerback Lonnie Johnson to safety. The move did not pan out. The Texans played man coverage instead of zone, which led to Adams having his big day. Houston's corners stunk up the joint, too.

The offense wasn't anything to brag about, either. Quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to struggle with a lack of talent surrounding him. Is there a less effective running back tandem than David Johnson and Duke Johnson? While DeAndre Hopkins was having his 34th career 100-yard game for the Arizona Cardinals, running back David Johnson, who the Texans received in trade for Hopkins, delivered another lackluster performance, rushing for 42 yards on 14 attempts. Johnson is making $12 million this year and averaging less than four yards per carry. Meanwhile, Kenyan Drake (Arizona), Antonio Gibson (Washington), and James Robinson (Jacksonville) all are averaging more than four yards, and all three of their salaries combined are less than Johnson's. Sorry Houston, you won't see a return on the David Johnson investment.

Looking forward

The Texans franchise is clearly foundering. Former multi-untalented general manager and head coach Bill O'Brien didn't just leave a 0-4 record, he left a dumpster wildfire that may take the Texans years to extinguish. While other losing teams may be "Tanking for Trevor," the Texans are bereft of first and second round picks next year.

Last season, the AFC South saw the emergence of the Tennessee Titans and the division is even stronger now. If the New York Jets are in position to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and that plays out, current Jets' quarterback Sam Darnold could be heading to the Indianapolis Colts. The years of winning empty titles in a weak division are over for the Texans. Davante Adams' performance Sunday made one thing painfully clear to Texans fans: second-tier coaches directing third-tier players is a recipe for disaster.

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