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.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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