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.