Rockets capture 2nd win of the season

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets climb back to defeat the Thunder 116-112

It was ugly, it was unconventional, but the Rockets managed to climb out of a 62-52 halftime deficit to escape the Toyota Center Monday night with their second win of the season. It's clear the Rockets still have a lot to clean up, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, but they'll take these close wins in the meantime. As Houston continues to struggle to hit their jumpers, head coach Mike D'Antoni believes this stems from their overall defensive effort.

"If you don't have energy on defense, then you usually don't on offense," said D'Antoni after the game. "In my experience, if you don't play hard defensively, then your shot is short and you don't roll into it. To me, it's a fact that one leads to the other."

The Rockets shot 22.7% from beyond the three-point line and without the heroics of Russell Westbrook and P.J. Tucker, it's unlikely they walk out with the narrow victory that they got. James Harden and Eric Gordon could shake their early shooting slumps as they both combined to shoot 4 for 21 from beyond the arc. Harden's scoring mostly came from his ability to get to the foul line and convert (21 of 22). To try and make up for the three-point disparity, the Rockets scored 56 of their team points from the paint.

Star of the game: While Harden scored 40 points tonight, Russell Westbrook will be taking home this honor for the third straight game. Putting up 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists on 9 of 16 shooting from the field, Westbrook absolutely carried the Rockets over the finish line. His rebounding and playmaking in particular were crucial as the Rockets could not buy a basket from long-range.

"It's up to me to be able to make sure my guys are ready to go and not just ready, but to compete and play hard, because playing hard is not an option for me," Westbrook said after the game. "That's something we have to take pride in. To get to that level, we have to do that every night."

Honorable mention: P.J. Tucker was fantastic tonight, and he's been one of Houston's only reliable three-point shooter to start the season. Tucker chipped in 17 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, and shot 5 of 7 from three-point range. Tucker was active defensively, asked to play small ball for much of the game, and hit a huge three pointer for the Rockets in the fourth quarter off a Westbrook assist.

"I would imagine if he didn't do what he did, we probably would've lost," D'Antoni said. "He also allows us to go small and I thought that helped us in the second quarter when [Nerlens] Noel was in there."

Key moment: The aforementioned dish to P.J. Tucker had to be the play of the game for Houston. It was just such a momentum shifter and again illuminated the kind of chaotic energy that a Westbrook can bring to this Rockets team.

Up next: The Rockets will go on the road for the first time this season to play the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, October 30th at 7:00 p.m.

4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

When it comes to Houston sports, believe the hype

Tim Warner/Getty Images

I'm not going to stop you if you want to keep listening to everyone trash Houston sports. It's pretty easy to find at this point. I'm also not going to spend another week complaining about it or defending it. It's becoming repetitive and lazy.

While all of this is going on, people are forgetting that there is plenty to be excited about with the Houston sports scene.

Small ball with big promise

The Rockets are looking poised to make another strong second half push for the second season in a row, but the difference this time is just how much it's going to bother basketball purists. The past two seasons prior, the Rockets made respectably deep runs in the playoffs on the heels of James Harden, reliable three-point shooting, and a center that was faster than any other traditional center.

So what did the Rockets do? They replaced the fast center completely and pushed all their chips into a full time small ball rotation the likes of which the NBA hasn't really ever seen.

Small ball lineups are nothing new. Complete dedication to a small ball lineup as your primary starting five is. It's weird. It's different.

It's working.

The last time former Rocket center Clint Capela took the floor was a January 29th loss to Portland. Since then, the Rockets have lost two games. TWO. One was a beat down against a short-handed Rockets team, and the other was lost on a last second buzzer-beater. In the last four games since the All-Star Break, the Rockets have won by 30, 10, 11, and 28 respectively.

This small ball approach is built solely with the post season in mind. It would take a crazy turn of events for the Rockets to find themselves outside of the playoff picture, so it shouldn't alarm anyone if the catch a few losses here and there while they finish ironing out what few wrinkles are left. The postseason teams Houston are likely to face rely on one big man or another, and all would be rendered virtually unplayable in a seven game series because they just wouldn't be able to keep up.

The days of Harden dribbling the air out of the ball are over. This is a team that has completely evolved to play through Russell Westbrook and has become infinitely more watchable as a result.

Roughnecks are a tough out

Let's shift our focus to a team that has never lost a game in its entire existence. Yea, it's a corny dad joke, but it's also fun, and true, and I'll wear it out until I can't.

Hyperbole or no, the brand new Houston Roughnecks are 3-0 to start their season and look like the team to beat in the XFL. The last time the Texans started a season 3-0, Matt Schaub had yet to be run out of town, Arian Foster hadn't even considered a professional career in rap, and Andre Johnson was only two years removed from serving Courtland Finnegan a three piece knuckle sandwich.

2012. The year was 2012.

In the XFL, defense just is what it is. The rules are designed to make scoring easier, so it really just depends on the day. From a betting perspective, it's best to take the over until further notice.

On offense though, the Roughnecks are obscene. Houston leads the XFL in offense, with 13 touchdowns scored in the first three weeks. All of this is behind the arm of PJ Walker, who is currently averaging roughly 250 passing yards per game and has accounted for 11 of the aforementioned 13 TDs (10 through the air, 1 rushing). The "MVPJ" shirts are already available to find on the internet.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Cam Phillips is looking more and more like a "one and done" XFLer, especially after last weekend's 8 reception, 194 yard, 3 TD performance. Phillips currently leads the league in receiving yards and touchdowns.

It doesn't matter what league we're talking about, those are fun numbers to watch guys put up. If you STILL haven't given the XFL a chance, you should. It's way too much fun, and they play Dallas this weekend.

This weekend in Houston

It's PACKED.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest (Cook off) - Vegetarians can skip ahead. If you're a real Houstonian, you know that the real party at the rodeo is Cook off. Your Facebook is about to be flooded with friends either searching for or offering wristbands. They're referring to cook off and they're as good as gold if you can get your hands on them. Most of the time a wristband equals all you can eat and, more importantly, all you can drink. If you're invited, get there.

Overwatch League - For the first time since its inception, the Blizzard smash hit video game Overwatch brings their entire e-league into Houston for a weekend of season play. The tournament takes over Revention Center downtown on Saturday and Sunday, and wristbands can be purchased for single day or weekend passes. This is Houston's first opportunity to see their hometown Outlaws take on the competition live without leaving the city. Houston's first match is Saturday vs London, and Sunday vs Toronto.

Houston Dynamo vs LA Galaxy - It's the season opener, and LA is bringing in their latest big name soccer import in Mexico's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. Expect a huge crowd for both reasons.

What to watch this weekend

Rockets at Celtics, Saturday, 7:30 pm (ABC)

Roughnecks at Dallas Renegades, Sunday, 3:00 pm (FS1)

4 Downs of the Week


1st down - A unicorn flying over a double rainbow. Actually, something we all assumed was even less likely:

I could cry right now.

2nd Down - Flat Earther proves that natural selection is a thing


3rd Down - I'm mad, but I want one


4th Down - Apples are (for) good

In a recent interview with Rian Johnson, the Hollywood director provided an interesting bit of trivia to IndieWire. According to Johnson,

"I don't know if I should say this or not, not because it's lascivious or something, but because it's gonna screw me on the next mystery movie that I write. But forget it, I'll say it, it's very interesting. Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies, but, and this is very pivotal, if you're ever watching a mystery movie, bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera. Every single filmmaker who has a bad guy in their movie that's supposed to be a secret wants to murder me right now."

That's right. I've never, ever seen a bad person use an iPhone.

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