In a game that made the history books for several different reasons, the Houston Rockets held on to barely defeat the Washington Wizards 159-158. The game will go down in the record books for having the third-most points scored in regulation in NBA history. From the start of this helter-skelter matchup, it became apparent that defense was optional and scoring was not. Neither team could seemingly string together two stops in a row which made for some exciting, but chaotic basketball.
For the Rockets, it was James Harden leading the charge, 59 points in all. Harden had struggled with his shooting through the first three games, but caught his rhythm tonight, hitting 6 of his 14 attempted three-pointers. For the Wizards, Bradley Beal could not seem to buy a miss even after Houston threw multiple looks and bodies at him. Beal managed to finish the game with 46 points on a staggering 91.0% true shooting.
The Rockets have a lot to clean up defensively, but through 4 games, it's clear they have an offensive identity that has works. For the fourth straight game, Houston also outrebounded their opponent - something they struggled mightily to do last season. This was ugly, but as the Rockets learned last season, a win is a win and this one counts just as much. Houston will be grateful they got this one later in the season as they joky for positioning in the unforgiving Western Conference.
Star of the game: James Harden seemed to shake away his shooting struggles Wednesday night with a 59-point performance on a scorching 73.9% true shooting. Though his defense left much to be desired, Harden refused to let the game get out of reach for Houston and ultimately won it by getting fouled on the last possession. He also seemingly intentionally missed his last free throw of the game in order to let the clock run out and secure the victory for the Rockets.
James Harden just dropped Isaac Bonga. https://t.co/OMxKoiHllo— Salman Ali (@Salman Ali) 1572486334.0
Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook. Westbrook started the game dishing the ball to his teammates at a ridiculous rate, snagging 10 assists through the first quarter and a half of basketball. His consistent rim penetration was also a huge factor in the Rockets reclaiming the lead in the 4th quarter. Westbrook ended the game with 17 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds 2 steals, and 2 block. He was forceful, consistent, and has thus far proved to be every bit the valued addition he was lauded to be this offseason.
Westbrook ties the game up 155-155. https://t.co/aFiCj2Pk8v— Salman Ali (@Salman Ali) 1572489253.0
Key moment: While it may have been a play brushed off by many, Russell Westbrook finding James Harden cutting backdoor for the dunk is a sign of significant progress for the two. Harden, not known for cutting baseline, did so willingly in this instant and a few other instances this season and the same has been true for Westbrook. The glimmers of chemistry between Harden and Westbrook are becoming smoother and more frequent and for many who worried about Houston's floor spacing this summer, this is an encouraging sign.
Russell Westbrook finds James Harden cutting baseline for the dunk. https://t.co/QFRqkGOuzi— Salman Ali (@Salman Ali) 1572484274.0
Up next: Houston travels to Brooklyn on Friday, November 1st at 6:00 p.m. to face off against the Nets.
As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.