Quality win

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Grizzlies in Memphis 107-100

While not the most exciting or noteworthy game, the Houston Rockets entered the FedEx Forum on Monday after an embarrassing blowout loss to Miami the night before and redeemed themselves with a quality win. Behind a strong James Harden performance (44 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals) and without Russell Westbrook, the Rockets finally put a few things together defensively and had the good fortune of their three-pointers fall at an average rate of 34% (17/50) after struggling so mightily from behind the arc the first 6 games of the season.

The biggest thing Houston could draw from this game is the defense they played in the second half. Houston allowed a combined 410 points over their past three games and were finally able to put together some stops, particularly in the third quarter. In defense of the Rockets, they've had a pretty staggering shooting disparity with their opponents to start the season, specifically from three-point range. Houston was shooting 30.7% from three-point range (27th in the NBA) in their first 6 games and their opponents were shooting at an unsustainable 40.4% (highest in the league). Some of that mellowed out on Monday as the Grizzlies shot a putrid 12% (3 of 25) from three-point range.

Eric Gordon and Clint Capela both showed signs of life, which is a development the Rockets have sorely needed. While Gordon didn't shoot the ball exceptionally well, he relentlessly attacked the basket, scoring 16 points and grabbing 5 rebounds in the process. Capela, while not great, was present on defense and tallied double digit rebounds (13) for the first time since October 30th in Washington. Houston needs both Gordon and Capela to build off of the energy they brought tonight if they want any chance of attaining a top seed in the Western Conference.

The Rockets still have a lot to work on as they try and climb out of the hole they've created for themselves early on defense. Their transition defense still needs a lot of work, they're still allowing entirely too many back cuts, leading to wide open layups, and their energy to start games hasn't been up to par. Make no mistake though, this was a good win for Houston, especially when you consider they are coming off a back to back and lacked their second best player. Ideally, the Rockets can build off of this and try and string together similar wins in the weeks ahead.

Star of the game: While James Harden looked miserable defensively in the first half, he more than made up for it in the second half and was a consistent offensive performance throughout the game. Harden logged 44 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals on 61.2% true shooting. The notable development though is that he excelled from three-point range tonight (7 of 16 from deep) and that's been a point of struggle for him early on this season. Nobody was expecting Harden to continue shooting so poorly, but the Rockets badly needed him to bounce out of it soon.

Honorable mention: Danuel House shot the ball poorly, but his energy was there for the Rockets all night. House scored 15 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, blocked 3 shots, was active in transition, and maintained his impressive steadiness from the first 6 games of the season. It's really become cliche to talk about how good he's been for the Rockets early on.

Key moment: Houston's third quarter stretch may be the best defense they've played all season. They limited the Grizzlies to 16 points on 8 of 23 shooting and only allowed 6 three-point attempts (no makes). The Rockets would be really well served if they can play two quarters of every game like they played in this third quarter. The energy and effort was present from start to finish.

Up next: The Rockets will return home on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. to play the depleted Golden State Warriors.

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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