Another proper blowout

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Knicks in Houston 123-112

One of the biggest issues with the Rockets at the beginning of the season was entering the season without the appropriate amount of fear against bad teams. Houston would let teams like the Cavaliers stay in it and often blow the game late. However, since the Rockets have resorted to micro-ball, they're 9-2 and they've beaten the bad teams they're supposed to beat (except Phoenix) by considerable margins.

The Rockets are 3-0 since the All-Star break and two of those wins have come against the Warriors and Knicks, two teams well below .500, but also teams that the Rockets may have lost to in January. In fact, they did lose to the Warriors in a high profile matchup on Christmas Day. As Houston continues to strive for a top three seed in the West, this was an important element they were struggling to nail down in the first half of the season.

After attending NBA legend Kobe Bryant's memorial in Los Angeles just a few hours prior to tip-off, this was a tough night for James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and P.J. Tucker. Westbrook missed his pregame warmup and ended up being a late scratch due to left thumb soreness, Harden hadn't returned home in three weeks, and Tucker had just lost a loved one a few days prior. Though the opponent was weak, this was undoubtedly an impressive win for the Rockets, considering the circumstances.

Star of the game: James Harden cut through the Knicks defense like a hot knife through butter in the first half (31 points and 5 assists on 12 of 16 shooting from the field). It was really surprising that the Knicks never thought to throw a double team at Harden the entire time he was getting easy drives to the basket for layups. Harden ended the game with 37 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals on 14 of 25 shooting and was 4 of 11 from three-point range.

Honorable mention: Ben McLemore has been on an unbelievable hot streak from deep ever since the All-Star break and he continued it tonight. McLemore had 17 points 4 of 9 shooting from three-point range. As Harden continually collapsed the defense with his drives, McLemore was wide open for three-pointer after three-pointer and the Knicks defense unbelievably kept giving him open shots. Micro ball has helped almost every Rocket on the team, but McLemore certainly looks to be one of the primary beneficiaries.

Key moment: Behind three ball handlers in the offense, Austin Rivers hasn't had the same chance to shine in the offense as he had last year. However, tonight without Russell Westbrook, Rivers had one of his signature stretches of the season at the end of the third quarter where he scored 14 points on 5 of 5 shooting from the field in five minutes after going scoreless up until that point.

Up next: The Rockets take on the Memphis Grizzlies at 7:00 p.m. in Houston on Wednesday.

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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 driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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