Bad call. Worse loss.

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets blow giant lead and lose to Spurs 135-133

The Rockets could come up with a bunch of excuses for why they lost this game, but at the end of the day, that's all they will amount to - excuses. Houston had every opportunity to close this one out and they didn't.

Houston actually started the game out decent, to their credit. They had a 63-59 lead at halftime and 97-81 lead heading into the third quarter. This is where shot-making and defense absolutely killed the Rockets to close out the game. They posted a 109.2 defensive rating (good for bottom 10 in the league), shot 42 of 112 from the field (38%), and 15 of 51 from three-point range (29%).

The Rockets allowed Bryn Forbes and Lonnie Walker to combine for 53 points on 20 of 31 shooting from the field and 9 of 13 from three-point distance. Walker had been struggling mightily to get going for the Spurs before this game (2.5 points per game on 41.6% true shooting) and Houston allowed him to have a career game.

This will go down as one of the few games of the season where neither James Harden or Russell Westbrook will receive the star of the game or honorable mention honors, despite Harden scoring 50 points. Harden and Westbrook combined for 18 of 68 shooting from the field and 5 of 26 shooting from three-point range. They were both Houston's only negative plus/minus players in the starting lineup (-3 and -8 respectively).

Star of the game: Clint Capela returned from the illness that kept him bed-ridden for a week to log 22 points, 20 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal on 9 of 9 shooting from the field and 4 of 6 shooting from the free throw line. Capela defended well for taking a week off and had the team's second highest plus/minus in this loss (+16).

Honorable mention: After shooting the ball dreadfully before this game (28.6% from three-point range), Austin Rivers had one of his better games of the season, scoring 19 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field (5 of 6 shooting from three-point range), grabbing 5 rebounds, and playing excellent individual defense down the stretch for Houston.

Key moment: With a 13-point lead and 8 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Rockets let a blown call get to them and proceeded to play some of the worst defense they've played all season.

It was obviously inexcusable for the officiating crew to completely miss a basket like that, but the story of this game was and should continue to be how poorly the Rockets played following that call. Their decision making and shot-making also cost them dearly in the overtime periods.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Toronto at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday to take on the surging Raptors.

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How about the Texans land Sean Payton and keep their 1st round picks this year? Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.

Former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton caught the attention of a lot of Houston Texans fans on Monday with comments he made on The Herd with Colin Cowherd.

Payton said he is absolutely considering the Texans’ gig citing the team’s draft capital, the AFC South and casual relationships with owner Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio as reasons for it, which cast a different light on the Houston job.

Whether Payton and the Texans ultimately wind up together, only time will tell, but if both sides were to agree that they are the right fit for each other, what would it take to land Payton in Houston?

Payton’s situation is a bit unique in that the Saints still hold his contractual rights because he signed a five-year extension with the team in 2019 before he retired in 2022. In order for the Texans, or any other team, to land Payton, they will likely have to give up a significant draft choice. Payton alluded to it during his conversation on The Herd.

New Orleans is likely looking for a mid-to-late first-round pick. A hefty price to pay in the NFL, but is there a way for the Texans to get a trade to work if they were to become convinced he is the right man for the job?

Like Payton said, Houston has put itself in a position where it owns a lot of draft picks, and a good portion of them come from the Cleveland Browns courtesy of the Deshaun Watson deal.

For 2023, the Texans have two first-round picks — the No. 2 overall pick and No. 12 from Cleveland. In 2024, Houston has two first-round picks as well, its own and that of the Cleveland Browns.

Looking at other teams across the league that are also reportedly interested in Payton, the Texans clearly have the edge over them. The Denver Broncos have only one first-round draft pick in this year’s draft, and it comes from the San Francisco 49ers, meaning it will be a late draft pick.

The Arizona Cardinals have the third overall pick in 2023. It's their only first-round draft pick this season. It would not make sense for them to part ways with that pick. The Carolina Panthers have the ninth overall pick in the 2023 draft. Similar to Arizona, it's their only pick in the first round and it would not make sense for them to part ways with it for Payton.

The Los Angeles Chargers are an intriguing team following the collapse in the Wild Card round last weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

LA has the 21st overall pick in the 2023 draft. With Justin Herbert and various weapons across both sides of the ball, the Chargers are one team that could afford to trade its first-round pick in exchange for a head coach that could take them over the top. At the moment, it does seem like Brandon Staley will stay for at least one more season.

Lastly, come the Dallas Cowboys. Head coach Mike McCarthy’s seat cooled off tremendously following the team’s stellar performance against Tampa Bay in the Wild Card, but an abysmal performance against San Francisco this weekend could heat it up in a heartbeat.

The Cowboys will have a late first-round draft pick regardless of how they perform against the 49ers. No price will be too big to pay for Jerry Jones if he believes Payton is the final piece to a championship puzzle.

When it comes down to the Texans, outside of the Chargers and Cowboys, whom both appear to be long shots for Payton, there is no incentive to trade a first-round pick this year for Payton if both sides agree to work together.

For a team that has holes across various positions, trading away the No. 12 pick is not a wise move, even if it does land the most qualified candidate on the market. Houston could offer next year’s Cleveland first-round pick, which with a full year of Watson will likely be a later first-round pick.

Could adding a fourth-round pick this season on top of next year’s first be enough for the Saints? The thing about this scenario, which favors the Texans, is that in the event both sides agree they are the right fit for each other, there is not really much leverage New Orleans can use to increase the price.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis wouldn’t send Payton, the 15-year leader of the organization, to a team he does not want to coach for just because they are offering a greater draft pick, or a first-round selection this year.

At the end of the day, it comes down to Payton and what he wants. If Houston is his landing spot, then there is a good chance the Texans could get him for a lesser price than this year’s 12th overall pick.

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