The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Nuggets in Houston 121-105
Against a depleted Denver Nuggets squad, the Houston Rockets attained their first team victory since January 11th. Although Denver was missing Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., this was an important win for the Rockets. They kept their spirits high throughout this losing streak, but it wasn't hard to see that they were spiraling.
"God I hope so," responded Mike D'Antoni when asked if the Rockets could build off this win. "We had energy and it starts on the defensive end. We were able to run."
The Rockets were able to sustain a consistent effort on the defensive glass after struggling for a while in no small part due to Russell Westbrook (10 defensive rebounds, 16 total). Apparently, Westbrook had been downplaying his effort on the glass and allowing Clint Capela to grab them in an effort to better acclimate to the team. However, the Rockets talked as a team and Westbrook voluntarily said he would return to his old rebounding ways to try and resolve the growing defensive rebounding problems.
"I've been BS'ing, kind of leaving it up to Clint [Capela] when that's a huge part of my game and I'm going to stay locked in on that for sure," said Westbrook postgame. "This whole process has been big for me. I'm trying to figure out where I make the most impact when my team needs it. Coach emphasized that rebounding was down and that's a huge part of my game and I feel like I'm the best at that in my position."
If the Rockets can consistently get this version of Russell Westbrook (28 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals), James Harden (27 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals), and Eric Gordon (25 points, 6 of 8 shooting from three-point range), this team could be in a much better position than where it's at right now and they know that.
Star of the game: James Harden's statline may not pop off the boxscore, but it was pretty darn efficient. Harden tallied 27 points, 5 rebound, 5 assists, and 2 steals on 6 of 13 shooting from the field, 13 of 15 shooting from the free throw line, and 2 of 6 from three-point range. This was a statline you'd see from Harden in 2015, not 2020. Knowing his own shooting struggles, Harden kept his head down and attacked the basket for most of the night, limiting his attempts from beyond the arc.
Honorable mention: If Russell Westbrook were more efficient tonight, he'd be the star of the game. Westbrook logged an impressive 28 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block, but it was on 11 of 25 shooting from the field. Nevertheless, Westbrook's energy kept Houston firmly in the lead for most of the night and he found guys like Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker for open three-pointers all night (combined 8 of 14 from three).
Key moment: The Rockets really took this game by the throat in the second quarter, limiting Denver to a measly 14 points on 7 of 19 shooting from the field (36.8%). It was by far the best quarter of defense the Rockets have played in January.
Up next: The Rockets travel to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves at 7:00 p.m. on Friday.