Sluggish effort

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets fall to Trail Blazers in Portland 125-112

After winning three out of their last four games, it really started to feel Houston was started to turn it around as a team. However, Wednesday night's effort in Portland showed otherwise. It's not just that the Rockets lose, it's how they lost. Porous transition defense, not closing out on shooters, and lazy fouling lead to a defensive rating of 117.5 for the Rockets tonight.

The Trail Blazers are not a good enough basketball team to make the Rockets look this lost defensively on national television. Effort starts from the top and works it's way down and that's probably the best place to begin with this: James Harden. In addition to continuing to look out of it offensively (18 points on 5 of 18 shooting from the field, 6 turnovers), Harden has reverted to levels of defense he was mocked for five years ago.

This really started before the thigh injury he suffered last week and has continued after the injury. Perhaps it's fair to give Harden some more time to get back into rhythm and feeling like himself after missing two games, but if things continue in the direction they've gone, Houston is in real trouble of playing their first round playoff series on the road.

Star of the game: In addition to being one of the few Rockets who gave a strong effort tonight, Russell Westbrook was really the only reason this wasn't a 30-point blowout. Westbrook had 39 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block on 16 for 29 shooting from the field. Westbrook took the reigns of the offense while Harden was mostly non-aggressive.

Honorable mention: After moving back to the bench, Ben McLemore had a fantastic outing, scoring 17 points in just 22 minutes. McLemore as 5 of 8 from three-point range and looked very comfortable in his new role. With a neon green light to shoot and no pressure to defend at a high level off the bench, this is ultimately the best role for for McLemore. The Rockets lost, but he was very good as a seventh man.

Key moment: It really started to pour down against the Rockets in the second quarter where they were outscored 41 to 24. The star players for both teams told the story as while James Harden greatly struggled (4 points, 1 for 3 from the field), Damian Lillard torched the Rockets (9 points, 2 of 4 shooting from the field). The Rockets also greatly struggled from beyond the arc (5 for 15 from three-point range).

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston at 6:30 p.m. on Friday to take on the Dallas Mavericks.

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After another poor performance from former Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns' season is starting to look like an uphill climb. Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb is out for the year, and Cleveland fans aren't too pleased with the way Watson is playing, especially considering the massive contract extension he signed with the team. And we didn't even get to the off the field drama that comes with Watson.

However, Houston fans are invested in the Browns' season outcome as well, with the Texans holding the Browns' first round pick in 2024, and having sent their own first rounder to the Cardinals in the Will Anderson trade.

So each loss for the Browns, means a better draft pick for the Texans!

For Houston, it looks like they have their QB of the future in CJ Stroud. And he'll be on a less expensive rookie contract for the next several years, giving the Texans more cap space to upgrade the roster.

With all of this in mind, is it fair to question if the Texans dodged a bullet when Watson demanded a trade?

DeMeco Ryans vs. Lovie Smith

Plus, we're only two games into the season, but Lovie Smith's defense was much better (with a similar roster) than what DeMeco Ryans' defense has shown thus far, and DeMeco has the benefit of Will Anderson rushing the QB.

Are the struggles on defense more about the roster GM Nick Caserio has put together, or does this slow start fall on DeMeco?

Don't miss the video above as we break it all down!

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