Rock Bottom

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets get trounced in Miami 129-100

There is nothing redeemable about this game for Houston. Absolutely nothing.

The best course of action after an embarrassing loss like this is to put your head down and pray you win the next one because that's the only way to cleanse your aura. In possibly one of the more humiliating losses in franchise history, the Rockets went to Miami, dropped a complete dud, and made a mockery of the word 'defense' in the process.

The story of the game will forever be the first quarter, where the Rockets allowed the Heat to score 46 seemingly unimpeded points and only put up 14 themselves. Houston allowed Miami to get a series of backdoor cuts, uncontested three-pointers, and transition opportunities. The onslaught felt endless and it forced Mike D'Antoni to make some drastic substitutions early in the game after introducing his new starting lineup, featuring Eric Gordon at small forward.

While Houston did a much better job at containing the Heat in quarters 2, 3, and 4 (83 points allowed combined), it was already too late. The first quarter deficit was just too much to climb back from and the Rockets could never get their offense rolling. The shooting struggles continued on for Houston as they a putrid 29% (14 of 48) from 3-point range while the Heat were shooting at a combined Stephen-Curry-like clip of 44% (18 of 41).

It's unclear whether or not the shooting struggles and opponent shooting percentage will balance out for the Rockets, but that's beside the point for Houston at the moment. Their defense in transition and off the ball needs to get to a passable level before they begin to point the finger at shooting disparities.

Star of the game: While he wasn't sharp defensively, especially off the ball, James Harden's scoring and drives to the basket are the only reason Houston didn't lose by 60. Harden logged 29 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal in 26 minutes. This included 14 trips to the free throw line where he was a perfect 14 of 14. Due to his poor effort defensively, Harden finished the game a -17.

Honorable mention: While he's not the star of the game, Chris Clemons was the only Rocket you could say with a healthy conscience played well. Clemons posted 14 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block on 4 of 9 shooting from 3-point range. Clemons was a part of the stretch that helped get the Rockets from "unwatchable" to "simply embarrassing" distance. D'Antoni said he'd been trying to find spots to play Clemons and this game may have earned him time on Monday against the Grizzlies.

Key moment: Houston's first quarter was one for the books, literally. The Rockets allowed the Heat to score second most points in franchise opening quarter history and the 32-point differential was the third-largest deficit posted in NBA history after the 1st quarter. Houston allowed 18 points in the paint, 6 second chance opportunities, and turned the ball over 5 times that led to 8 fast break points. It was truly stunning how bad they looked defensively.

Up next: Houston travels to Memphis on Monday at 7:00 p.m. to take on the Grizzlies.

It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't ugly either. That just seems par for the course whenever the Rockets play the Pelicans. Regardless of injuries on either side, these two teams just always manage to play each other competitively, whistle to whistle. Houston pulled out ahead tonight, but it wasn't without a fight.

Jrue Holiday and Josh Hart in particular, did an excellent job defending James Harden tonight, forcing him to shoot 3 for 11 from deep. The Pelicans often swarmed Harden and forced him to give up the basketball. It helps the Eric Gordon is starting to find a rhythm from three-point range (4 of 7 tonight and 3 of 7 Saturday against Chicago). Westbrook was also forceful offensively to help pick up for Harden's early struggles.

Clint Capela has really stepped it up for Houston these past four games (11 points, 20 rebounds, and 2 blocks tonight on 5 of 6 shooting). Capela has managed to grab 13 or more rebounds in Houston's last four outings. Capela had struggled greatly to start the season, forcing head coach Mike D'Antoni to rely on smaller units with P.J. Tucker at center. However, the Rockets aren't going to go as far as they want in the postseason if they aren't getting a strong 30 minutes a game from Clint Capela, so it's encouraging that he's starting to play well.

The Rockets took a 7-point lead after a surge from Westbrook to end the first quarter and for the most part, held that lead for the duration of the game. New Orleans made a strong push in the fourth quarter the battle back, but at that point it was too little too late.

Star of the game: James Harden didn't have a the best three-point shooting game, but still managed to log 39 point, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block in the process on 62.6% true shooting. He was effect at driving to the rim, drawing fouls, getting floaters, and finding shooters. Harden scored 19 of his points in the 4th quarter, effectively dragging Houston to victory despite a strong late push by New Orleans that cut the lead from 17 at one point down to as low as 6.

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook was dialed in from the first quarter, particularly from mid-range where he scored 12 of his points on 6 of 8 shooting. In a night where Harden was really struggling to gain a rhythm, Westbrook really helped pick up the slack for Houston especially in the units without Harden. Westbrook finished the game with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals on an efficient 57.1% true shooting. It's unlikely Westbrook will shoot that well from mid-range this season, but on nights where he's on like this, the Rockets will gladly take it.

Key moment: Russell Westbrook's stretch to end the first quarter gave the Rockets a 7-point lead and the Pelicans were never able to capture the lead from that point forward. Westbrook scored or assisted on the final 6 points of the quarter (within 56.8 seconds) and was forceful defensively.

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston to play the Los Angeles Clippers at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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