Gut punch

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets fall to Thunder in Oklahoma City 113-92

This is one of those games you try to forget about quickly otherwise it'll eat you alive. The Rockets, on a second half of a road back-to-back, looked absolutely gassed and lethargic against a really good Oklahoma City Thunder team. Defensively, they were lethargic (114.8 defensive rating), allowing 37 points in the first quarter alone. Offensively, they couldn't hit a shot if it was gifted to them on a silver platter (34 for 89 from the field, 11-40 from distance).

This was a bad loss and there's no excusing it. Yes, the Rockets were tired, but it shouldn't be overlooked that the Thunder had also played 4 games in 6 nights.

James Harden's struggles from the field carried over from the Hawks game into tonight as he only scored 17 points on 5 of 17 shooting from the field and 2 of 9 shooting from three-point range. Harden's only made seven field goals in his last six quarters of basketball. He'll likely bounce back Saturday against the Timberwolves, but he was no help for Houston tonight.

Clint Capela also had a rough night, logging only 8 points, 11 rebounds, and 1 block on 3 of 8 shooting from the field. Head coach Mike D'Antoni revealed after the game that Capela is still dealing with a heel issue and may possibly miss Saturday's game in Houston.

In this end, this game did manage to provide a touching tribute to Russell Westbrook as Thunder fans greeted him with applause and 'MVP' chants every chance they could. Westbrook stated after the game how much it meant for him to return and the emotions he felt returning to his former team.

Star of the game: Fittingly, Russell Westbrook was the only Rocket who played well tonight, logging 34 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds, on 14 of 26 shooting from the field and 5 of 6 shooting from the free throw line. It was obviously an emotional night for Westbrook, but he handled himself well buzzer to buzzer and tried to keep Houston within striking distance.

Honorable mention: This was tough. I suppose Chris Clemons (14 points in 12 minutes of garbage time on 5-9 shooting from the field and 3 of 6 shooting from deep) was the least bad of the non-Westbrook group? The bottom line is nobody had a particularly positive impact outside of Westbrook tonight. On the second half of a road back-to-back, the Rockets were gassed and it showed.

Key moment: The game was essentially over after the first quarter. The Thunder took a strong 37-21 lead and the Rockets never recovered. Oklahoma City shot 56.0% (14 of 25) from the field and 60.0% (6 of 10) from three-point range and Houston didn't have any energy to defend or hit jumpers. The Rockets shot 38.1% (8 for 21) from the field and 27.3% (3 for 11) from three-point range and the tone was set for the rest of the night.

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston to play the Minnesota Timberwolves at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome