Strong win

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Celtics in Houston 116-105

If you were to pick two NBA teams that were well equipped to match Houston's micro-ball lineups, it would be the Celtics and the Clippers. With Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward in-hand, the Celtics are built to play Houston's style of play as well, if not better than them. However, tonight Boston never adjusted defensively to match with Houston and it cost them.

"They're trying to force the ball in places where they think they have an advantage," said Mike D'Antoni after the game. "And when you start doing that, if we're active and if we have hands, it makes it easier jumping out in the passing lanes."

D'Antoni is referencing the first quarter where Boston had a few possessions posting up Enes Kanter on P.J. Tucker to no success. Not only did it get the Celtics out of their traditional offense, it tempted them, besides their better judgement, to take an inefficient shot against a really strong post-defender in Tucker.

"I thought they forced us into being stagnant offensively with their physicality, with their switches, and that hurt us," said Brad Stevens. "Then [James] Harden was great in that stretch and [Russell] Westbrook was great. Those guys are two of the best in the world and they showed it again tonight."

Harden and Westbrook combined for 48 points on 22 of 42 shooting from the field, and 27 for 31 from the free throw line.

"Well I think [small ball] helps both of them," said D'Antoni. "I mean, it should. It opens the floor up for them. Both of them are great drivers and finishers, especially Russell [Westbrook]. That's his game."

Star of the game: After a relatively quiet first half (11 points, 3-6 from the field), James Harden absolutely exploded in the third quarter, scoring 19 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the field and 3 of 6 shooting from three-point range. Not only was Harden finally making his threes after an extended cold streak, the Celtics could not keep him off the free throw line (17 of 18). Harden finished with 42 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists on 67.9% true shooting.

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook continued his excellent stretch tallying 36 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals on 13 of 23 shooting from the field and 10 of 13 from the free throw line. His scoring become particularly useful down the stretch when Harden was laboring with some sort of lower leg. Westbrook scored 13 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds on 5 of 7 shooting from the field in the 4th quarter.

Key moment: Houston's best quarter was definitely the 3rd quarter where they outscored Celtics 31 to 22. They earned that discrepancy when Rockets opened the third quarter with a 10-1 run. Their defensive communication on their switches were fantastic, Harden and Westbrook were taking advantage of the spaced floor on offense, and they looked their best as a unit since the Robert Covington trade.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Golden State to play the Warriors at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday.

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Not my job: Texans outmatched when it counts against Steelers

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Another game, another loss for the Texans. This time it was only a seven point loss to the Steelers as they fell 28-21 in Pittsburgh. This time around, Bill O'Brien looked to be on his game as far as decision-making was concerned. However, there is still room for improvement.

One thing that I did appreciate that O'Brien did was have trust in the offensive line. The Steelers pass rush could be problematic, but their defense overall is very stout. That's how they were able to nearly make the playoffs last year with a Duck at quarterback. While the Texans did give up five sacks, they weren't all due to poor offensive line play. The Texans lost 33 yards on those five sacks. Tytus Howard and Zach Fulton handled themselves fairly well after looking like turnstiles the first two games. O'Brien called longer developing pass plays and play action in spite of this and it paid off with Deshaun Watson and his receivers putting up 264 yards in the air.

There also wasn't an instance of Bumbling Bill this game. At the end of the first half, there was a minute and fourteen seconds left. The Texans were down 17-14 and had all three timeouts with the ball on their 25-yard line. Classic Bumbling Bill situation right? Wrong! Not only was the play-calling on point, but the players executed and the timeout situation was handled perfectly. First timeout was used after getting to midfield with 47 seconds left. Timeout number two was used after a 20 yard gain after the previous play. A 15 yard gain later to the Steeler 14-yard line and timeout number three was used with 28 seconds left. This set up perfectly for them to call a multitude of plays. They only needed one as Watson found Will Fuller in the end zone on a jump ball in which Fuller rose up and was physical enough to grab the ball over the defender. They went up 21-17 at the half.

Bill O'Brien's teams were 37-3 when leading at halftime. I say "were" because they lost this one after not scoring a single point in the second half. This was more on the defense not being able to fight its way out of a wet paper bag, and a lack of execution by the offense. Specifically, the run defense has been atrocious and Watson either needs quicker reads or to stop holding onto the ball so long by making quicker decisions. That's on coaching to put players in positions to succeed, but also the players to execute.

Ultimately, this was on O'Brien the general manager more than O'Brien the coach. This roster is woefully outmatched. The only time an outmatched roster can compete consistently is in college football with a wacky offense. It just doesn't happen in the NFL. Hey, at least Bumbling Bill didn't rear his butt chin today. Today's Culture Map play call menu was brought to you by Pour Behavior. I suggest getting over there and checking out their daily specials.

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