Rockets capture first season win over Pelicans
The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets capture first win of the season over Pelicans 126-123
In a game thought to be uneventful, as shown by the Vegas spread (Houston -12.0), the Rockets hung on to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans in a close one, 126-123. Despite missing Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday and coming off a back-to-back, the Pelicans pushed Houston to the brink and came very close to coming out on top. For the Rockets, it's become increasingly clear that their defense is a point of concern that needs to be corrected as quickly as possible. Even head coach Mike D'Antoni, who said Thursday that he felt good about where Houston was defensively, changed his tune Saturday night.
"Things have changed," said D'Antoni, chuckling. "We just weren't into them again. I mean we have that tendency, but they were superfast, they kept coming at us. We would go up 10, and then we would relax, but you can't do that. You know, we're not real sharp right now and you have to gut these things out."
The Rockets allowed Brandon Ingram to log one of his best games of his career, chipping in 35 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists for the Pelicans on a ridiculous 72.3% true shooting. Houston just didn't have an answer for the 22 year old, nor did they have one for Josh Hart, who scored 23 points of his own on 64.3% true shooting (5 of 12 from three-point range).
What turned it around for the Rockets is the same man who nearly stole them their first win on Thursday, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook's fingerprints were all over Houston's second half turnaround as he pulled in 18 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds all in the second half alone.
"It's something I think my team needed from me at the time," Westbrook said after the game. "I was there to be aggressive and find ways to better make an impact on the game."
A storyline that continued on from Thursday's loss is James Harden's poor shooting. Although he scored 28 points, Harden shot 8 for 29 from the field and 2 for 18 from three-point range. Harden is now 3 for 27 for the season from behind the arc.
"He's lost his rhythm a little bit," said D'Antoni. "Nothing to worry about. There's no way it's going to last this way."
Harden expressed a similar lack of concern.
"I'm going to take as many shots as they give me," said Harden. "I was in [the gym] yesterday working on that same shot and this morning on that same shot. Tonight, it just didn't fall."
Star of the game: For the second straight game, Russell Westbrook will take home these honors. Tonight, Westbrook pulled in 28 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds, and 1 steal on great efficiency (65.4% true shooting). His timing is now there with all of his teammates, including Clint Capela, his pace has dictated what the Rockets are doing offensively, and he has willed Houston through all of their dull moments so far this (short) season.
Honorable mention: Danuel House's development is one of the more under the radar storylines of Houston's season. Not only is he hitting his three-pointers at over a 40% clip - something he carried over from last season - his ball-handling and decision making is really starting to come together. House scored 15 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and was 4 of 5 from three-point range.
Key moment: Westbrook's dunk in transition capped off what was one hellacious stretch for the 30-year-old point guard.
Up next: Chris Paul returns to the Toyota Center to face his former team on Monday, 7:00 p.m.