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.