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The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets destroy Grizzlies in Houston 140-112
Tonight's game, buzzer to buzzer, was an idealized version of the Rockets. Houston showed what they could be when they're clicking on both ends of the floor and having appropriate fear of their opponents every night. Defensively, they were locked in in a way that's been rare for them this season. It's probably what Daryl Morey envisioned for the team when he made the bold swap of Clint Capela for Robert Covington at the trade deadline and you got to give him credit for it - this team looks damn good since.
Austin Rivers was phenomenal tonight for Houston off the bench, pulling in 23 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field and 4 of 7 shooting from deep. There was a point tonight, where Rivers hadn't missed a three-pointer, a field goal, or a free throw, but the quest for a perfect game was quickly ruined with a missed three-pointer. However, since the All-Star break, Rivers has been playing at a different level on the offensive end and it may just be due to his shots finally falling for him at the perfect time.
Robert Covington extended his streak of games with at least three blocks to five tonight. His ability to get weakside blocks and tower over people in the paint is a skillset that was overshadowed when he played small forward for other teams. It's more than made up for the paint presence Houston misses without a traditional center and helps clear up why they made it in the first place.
Mike D'Antoni on if he was expecting Robert Covington to be the shot blocker he's been for Houston: "Probably not… https://t.co/mvs37czNfH— Salman Ali (@Salman Ali)1582775972.0
Houston believes they can play much better defensively as a unit and so far, they're not wrong.
Austin Rivers: "Defensively, during huddles - it's the most talk we've had since I've been a Rocket, period. It's t… https://t.co/MtsTGd2Y9G— Salman Ali (@Salman Ali)1582778180.0
Star of the game: Russell Westbrook was in strong contention for this tonight, but James Harden's efficiency put him over the top. Harden tallied 30 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steal on a ridiculous 80.4% true shooting. Harden seemingly would not miss on his step-back jumpers, particularly in the second and third quarters where he hit 6 of 9 three-pointers. Harden would only go on to play 28 minutes and sit for the entire fourth quarter.
Honorable mention: I think it's become insulting to refer to what Russell Westbrook is doing as simply a hot stretch of games at this point. He's returned to the levels he was at 4-5 years ago, dominating the NBA alongside Kevin Durant, but this time, it's with James Harden. Tonight, Westbrook tallied 33 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals on 65.2% true shooting. He was an amazing team-high +37 and consistently surged the Rockets on their greatest runs as a team tonight.
Key moment: Houston's 35-17 first quarter was something to behold. The Rockets essentially played their version of perfect basketball on both ends of the floor and it was an advanced stats conocer's wet dream. It wasn't even like the Rockets shot the ball particularly well (4 for 11 - 36.4%), they just executed at a high level. It showed what this team could be on defense at it's peak.
Rockets in the 1st quarter: OffRtg: 129.6 DefRtg: 63.0 NetRtg: +66.6 So, not bad.— Salman Ali (@Salman Ali)1582767863.0
Up next: The Rockets travel to Boston to take on the Celtics at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.