Low energy game

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets get pummeled by Mavericks 137-123

"It's one of those games where you have to force yourselves to have the juice to start," said Mike D'Antoni after the game. "We were flat and they weren't. They punched us good and we fell all the way back and a lot of times when you do that, you run out of gas."

You can find reasons for why the Rockets didn't have it tonight - 2:30 p.m. start time, coming off an emotional game in Los Angeles a couple days prior, etc... However for a team that's trying to win a championship this season, all of these reasons would qualify as excuses. The Mavericks are a young, good team that's on the rise, but considering Houston's dry spell against contenders going into this game, this one was a must-win. The Rockets have now lost three games in a row and have only two wins against teams above a .500 winning percentage.

"We allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do (offensively) from the beginning of the game," said James Harden. "When you give a team like that comfort and the ability to do whatever they want, they gain confidence and that's what they did."

Luka Doncic continued his MVP-worthy play against the Rockets, tallying 41 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 blocked shot. P.J. Tucker did as good as job as you can against Doncic, but to no avail. Kristaps Porzingis also did a fantastic job at detering drives for Houston and defending at the rim. To go along with the defense, Porzingis logged 23 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 9 of 17 shooting from the field and 2 of 5 shooting from three-point range.

"Listen, Porzingis this whole week has been phenomenal," said Maverick head coach Rick Carlisle. "His all-around game, his defensive rim protection, rebounding outlet game, and then he's backing it up with a great offensive game."

All of the attention will be on the shooting disparity (Houston shot 10 of 44 from three-point range and Dallas shot 17 of 44) and even D'Antoni alluded to it, but there were a ton of things defensively Houston could have done to win this game.

"We got a lot of work to do, but I've seen flashes of it being good," said D'Antoni about Houston's defense. "Tonight wasn't one of them. It's just one of those things where we got a little skid going and we have to right the ship and get back."

Star of the game: Despite the 3-game winning streak, Clint Capela continued on with his slate of awesome stat-lines. Capela logged 21 points and 22 rebounds on 10 of 16 shooting. A big reason for Houston's run were Capela's follow-up dunks off of Russell Westbrook missed layups in transition.

Honorable mention: P.J. Tucker was particularly great defensively to end the third quarter and to start the fourth quarter. Tucker's physical defense on the low-block is partially the reason Houston was able to come back to make it a 5-point game in the fourth quarter. Tucker tallied 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 7 of 10 shooting from the field and 2 of 5 shooting from three-point range.

Key moment: Houston's first quarter put them in a hole that felt insurmountable. They allowed 45 points and only countered with 29. They made mini-runs sporadically throughout the game, but the Rockets were never able to fully recover after that.

"Our defensive was not where it needed it to be from the beginning of the game," said P.J. Tucker. "We knew they were one of the best first half teams in the league. We had to assert ourselves early and we didn't."

Up next: The Rockets continue their homestand and play the Miami Heat at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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