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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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at and, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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