Helter skelter

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat 76ers in Houston 118-108

This game was the definition of back and forth in terms of the amount of momentum changes that occurred, particularly in the third quarter. Russell Westbrook had a signature "This is the Russell Westbrook experience" game tonight, scoring 20 points on 9 of 22 shooting from the field and turning the ball over 4 times.

Early in the first quarter, Philadelphia's length and physicality seemed to bother Houston, as evidenced by their 20 points scored on 30.8 percent shooting from the field. However, the Rockets, particularly James Harden, seemed to figure things out in the second quarter as they rallied back from score 40 points on 68.4 percent shooting and 42.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Harden scored 14 points on 4 of 5 shooting from the field and 2 of 3 shooting from three-point range in the second quarter and the Rockets outscored Philadelphia 29-16.

The Sixers made several efforts to come back and Westbrook's third quarter performance nearly gave it to them, (4 points, 2 of 7 shooting from the field, and 3 turnovers), but Houston managed to stay in it until the end. Tonight gave another glimpse to how good the Rockets can be on both ends when fully healthy. Houston posted an offensive rating of 114.9 (good for second in the league) and a defensive rating of 105.2 (would be good for 12th in the league) against a pretty good Philadelphia team. It'll be interesting to see if their momentum from the Nuggets game and tonight carries over to the rest of the season.

Star of the game: What James Harden did tonight was truly a work of art. The 76ers, a team with plenty of length and defensive versatility, had no idea what to do with him. If they trapped, Harden broke the traps with crisp passes. If they single coveraged, Harden drained a step-back three or drove by his defender (either Ben Simmons or Josh Richardson for most of the night). Harden had 44 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block on a ludicrous 75.1 true shooting percentage.

Honorable mention: Clint Capela had his best game in a long time tonight against a tough match-up in Joel Embiid. Capela, still in pain from the right heel injury, used his speed to outrun Embiid down the court several times tonight and was available for dump-off passes when Embiid would step up to defend Harden. Capela finished with 30 points 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block on 76.8 percent true shooting.

Key moment: To start the second quarter, the Rockets opened with a 29-16 run to give them an 8 point lead with 4:24 remaining in the half. Harden led the Rockets this quarter with 14 points on 4 of 5 shooting from the field and 2 of 3 shooting from three-point range.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Atlanta to play the Hawks at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

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The Rockets may be the smartest guys in the room. Or the cheapest

The Rockets have their new head coach. Composite photo by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Rockets' coaching search had come to an end finally. The front office tabbed Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas as the successor to Mike D'Antoni, beating out former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy and current Rockets assistant John Lucas.

Knee jerk reaction?

I'm not mad at it. I expected Jeff Van Gundy to be the next hire, but maybe that was just nostalgia clouding my judgment. Either way, the Silas hire should be viewed optimistically. He's been highly regarded for some time around the league as an inventive mind that comes from basketball pedigree and has worked with big-name guards in prior stops around the league. If the Rockets didn't grab him, it was only a matter of time before another team gave him a shot.

Now there are two very distinct ways to look at this hire:

The first is that the Rockets, in spite of being one of the last teams to fill their coaching vacancy, are the smartest kids in the room. Every team is looking for the next version of what the Celtics found in their current head coach, Brad Stevens; a young brilliant coach that just needed a team to give him a shot. Hired at 37 from the college ranks, Stevens endured one losing season (his first) and has since guided the Celtics to six playoff appearances, to include three conference finals appearances. Not bad, considering he was up against LeBron James for most of those.

That is what it looks like the Rockets are trying to go for. Now at 47, Silas probably won't be mistaken for a wunderkind, but compared to 69-year-old D'Antoni, he might as well be announcing his hire on Tik Tok. If it works out, the Rockets will have once again been one step ahead of the league with the hiring of their innovative new coach.

The other way to look at the Silas hire is a little less rosy.

While Silas is only 47, he's also been an assistant in the league since he was 27. The positive spin on his resume is that he's worked with star players the likes of Kemba Walker, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. The reality is that he worked with them while they were very young in their careers, and worked on teams like the Cavaliers, Bobcats/Hornets, Wizards, and Warriors (when they were bad). Until the last two seasons working with Luka Doncic on the Mavericks, there hasn't been a lot of success following Silas. That's not necessarily an indictment since he was an assistant, but it's not exactly a sparkling pedigree.

So while this could be a brilliant hire, at the moment, it has all of the markings of the cheaper hire. As I've mentioned before, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has been quite vocal about the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on his portfolio. Clips and quotes moaning and groaning about losing money are not typically precursors to an owner gearing up to make a big financial investment in the front office of a sports team that he can't sell tickets for anyone to come see. If in fact, money factored in more than fit, it would make sense that the Rockets would forego a coach like Van Gundy, whose previous head coaching experience would automatically command a higher starting price. We'll, of course, have to wait and see what the actual contract figures are once released.

It could be one. It could be the other. It could be both. Hopefully it translates into wins either way.

One thing that's for certain though is that Silas needs to take some pointers from Russell Westbrook and James Harden before he steps out courtside in any more of those TJ Maxx suits, circa 2000. Big boy job means big boy suits.

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