Unfortunately, the show must go on

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets fall to Nuggets in Denver 117-110

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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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