The Rockets opened their season with a crushing 117-111 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets fall in opener to Bucks 117-111

It was exciting, it was promising, but ultimately it was unfruitful as James Harden and the Houston Rockets fell to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks for the third straight time in two seasons Thursday night in their home opener. What was particularly disappointing on Houston's part is they held a commanding near-double digit lead over the Bucks for most of the night before being outscored 39-24 in the fourth quarter. The Bucks' unique defensive strategy managed to stifle James Harden again, limiting him to 19 points on 2 of 13 shooting from the field.

"I didn't play well offensively tonight," Harden said after the game. "This one's on me. I wasn't aggressive enough."

The Rockets as a whole, struggled mightily from behind the arc, only making 5 of their second half 27 three-point attempts. Eric Gordon had a particularly poor night, missing all six of his fourth quarter three-point attempts.

"You got to make shots to beat teams like that," head coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They made the big ones. We didn't."

Star of the game: Russell Westbrook, despite the loss, showed the kind of energy and athleticism he could provide to Houston, pulling in 24 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals on 54.9% true shooting. Whether it was a fast break, and-one-layup or dish outs to Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker in the corners after out-running Giannis Antetokounmpo on the break, Westbrook was an absolute blur. His true command of the game came through with the second unit, where Westbrook ran rough-shot on the Bucks at seemingly a million miles per hour. It's completely antithetical to the slow, calculated way James Harden and the Rockets have run things in recent years, but Westbrook showed tonight the kind of unnerving chaos and variance he can bring to Houston's offense.

Honorable mention: P.J. Tucker, steady as always, provided some quality shooting for Houston on a night where they badly needed it, scoring 17 points on 5 of 8 three-point shooting. Tucker also grabbed seven rebounds and was asked to guard everything from Giannis Antetokounmpo on the break to Brook Lopez in the post.

Key moment: In the midst of fighting off Milwaukee's second half run, James Harden and Russell Westbrook showed a flash of their potential possibilities as a duo, in an exciting transition lob sequence. This pairing is still very much clunky, but in this moment (and a select few other ones tonight), Harden and Westbrook showed the kind of dynamism they could be with some sacrifice from both players.

Houston plays their second game of the season Saturday, October 26th against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Today was a obviously a really tough day for the NBA with the untimely passing of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. As the world prepared to mourn, NBA players across the country were placed in the difficult position to play a game that felt secondary and unimportant given today's events.

Unfortunately for both the Rockets and the Nuggets, this was a game with high stakes and the show had to go on. A very important tiebreaker was on the line and positioning in the Western Conference. On a human level, what both teams were able to do tonight was truly unbelievable. Every player on the court tonight grew up with Kobe Bryant in their life in some way, shape, or form and the same goes for coaches, media, and game officials. In a game like this, compliments and hat tips rule the day as it's criticisms are almost impossible to muster.

Frankly, with all the emotion and energy sucked out the building pre-game, it's surprising the game was as competitive as it was. Maybe it was the stakes, maybe it was the players knowing what Bryant would have wanted, maybe playing hard was a coping mechanism, or maybe it was some combination of the three. Whatever the case, this game was fantastic and it's unfortunate that it couldn't be enjoyed under happier circumstances.

Star of the game: Russell Westbrook continued his excellent streak of games by logging 32 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 14 of 29 shooting from the field and 4 of 5 shooting from the free throw line. As with previous games, Westbrook stuck with attacking the basket or attempting mid-range jumpers and largely avoided the three-point line (one attempted). Westbrook will not play in Utah tomorrow due to rest.

Honorable mention: Eric Gordon had 19 points off the bench for Houston on 55.6% true shooting. Despite being only 2 for 10 from three-point range, Gordon was aggressive in attacking the basket (seven free throws attempted and made) and found a way to be an efficient contributor for the Rockets.

Key moment: If there was a moment the Rockets could have caught up and took the lead back from the Nuggets it was midway through the fourth quarter. Houston was down 93-94 at the 9:15 mark and allowed an 11-4 run which ended with Ben McLemore not closing out on Michael Porter Jr. before Mike D'Antoni ultimately called timeout. Houston was never able to recover from that.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Utah tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. to take on the Jazz.

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