Ugly, but a win is a win

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets escape with narrow victory over Wizards 159-158

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.

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.

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.

Up next: Houston travels to Brooklyn on Friday, November 1st at 6:00 p.m. to face off against the Nets.

With no James Harden, Russell Westbrook, or Clint Capela, the Utah Jazz were justifiably favored to win this game by 14 points. However, through creativity and relentless attack from Houston's backup guards, the Rockets managed to win an unwinnable game on the second half of a grueling Denver/Utah back-to-back.

Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers showed how helpful they could be for Houston off the bench by combining for 71 points on 21 of 43 shooting from the field and 8 of 19 shooting from three-point range. The Rockets went small with P.J. Tucker at center and strangely, the Rockets were able to keep his minutes to only 32. Houston took advantage of their quickness matchup and relentlessly targeted Rudy Gobert on the perimeter.

Danuel House played a ton of minutes due to the lack of guard depth behind Gordon and Rivers and the positional versatility he has, being a 6'7" player. It'll be interesting to see if House or Gordon return to Houston's starting lineup soon. Ben McLemore's minutes have been tracking down and both House and Gordon have been playing much better as of late.

Whatever the case, this was a huge win for the Rockets. Houston's now won 3 out of their last 4 games after losing 4 games in a row. This was supposed to be an automatic loss and the Rockets managed to pull it off. It's the kind of win that could spark a run for a struggling team.

Star of the game: The journey Eric Gordon's gone through since he's been drafted has been a long one. From being traded to dealing with injuries, Gordon's career hasn't been easy by any means. To see him have the night he did tonight was nice. Gordon had a career-high 50 points on 14 of 22 shooting from the field, 6 of 11 shooting from deep, and 16 of 20 shooting from the free throw line.

Honorable mention: Danuel House started the season by earning his way into Houston's starting lineup and has since been in a bit of a slump. Tonight, however, House was integral to Houston's victory. In addition to playing a staggering 46 minutes, House tallied 21 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 assists on 6 of 14 shooting from the field, 2 of 5 shooting from distance, and 7 of 9 shooting from the free throw line.

Key moment: After starting the game down 0-4, the Rockets went on an impressive 11-0 run and never looked back. On the backs of Eric Gordon (50 points), Danuel House (21 points), and Austin Rivers (21 points), Houston led a balanced offensive attack throughout the course of the game and never really waivered.

Up next: The Rockets finish off their road trip on Wednesday by traveling to Portland at 9:00 p.m. to face the Trail Blazers.

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