Gutsy victory

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets gut out win over Clippers 102-93

The Rockets came home into the Toyota Center Wednesday night against a strong LA Clippers squad without two of their six most important rotation players, got into foul trouble early, lost a man late in the game (Clint Capela), and still managed to come out with a victory. Considering all of that, this was by far Houston's best win of the season and there's not even a close second. It's become clear that the Rockets have found their groove, particularly on the defensive side of the floor.

From the start of the game, the Rockets took command of the contest (13-3 Houston lead in the opening minutes) and only let up for a brief moment in the fourth quarter. Chippiness and unorganized chaos was really the story of this game. For instance, Russell Westbrook finished the first quarter with a staggering four fouls and could play real minutes again until the second half. This forced James Harden to play nearly 44 minutes total and carry to brunt of the offense. Harden impressively held up defensively for most of the game and really only struggled when defensive stalwart Patrick Beverley was defending him (1 for 7 from the field).

The Rockets had several of their key players in foul trouble and it forced head coach Mike D'Antoni to use players like Chris Clemons and Thabo Sefolosha for 11 and 12 minutes respectively and Austin Rivers finished the game with 34 minutes logged himself. Westbrook, Ben McLemore, and P.J. Tucker all finished the game with at least 4 fouls each.

It really looked like the Clippers would pull away with the game in the fourth quarter and then James Harden took complete control of the game. At the 6:52 mark of the 4th quarter, the Clippers took their largest lead of the game (84-80), before Harden scored 17 of Houston's next 22 points to give the Rockets a 102-91 lead with 24 seconds remaining. It was the stretch that sealed the game and possibly the stretch that cemented that Harden will indeed be competing for another MVP honor this season

Star of the game: James Harden logged 47 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals on 70.2% true shooting. Those numbers are crazy enough, but when you factor in that Harden played 44 minutes while maintaining that efficiency, it becomes absurd. This was a masterful performance all around. Of course, the three-point shooting is what sticks out (7 for 13), but Harden manufacturing buckets for the Rockets by getting to the free throw line (16 of 17) and getting floaters up was also quite impressive. There were moments of slippage defensively, but overall, he was also good there.

Honorable mention: His night got cut short tonight, but it should be noted just how well Clint Capela was playing before he sustained a head injury that forced him out of the game. Capela left the game with 12 points, 20 rebounds, and 2 blocks on 6 of 7 shooting in only 32 minutes. If it wasn't for the injury, there was a possibility that Capela would've broken his own personal rebounding record (25) that he achieved last season against the Nuggets.

Key moment: James Harden stealing the ball from Kawhi Leonard and getting a lob pass to Tyson Chandler out of it is really what put the game away for Houston. To get a steal in that sort of moment on a player like Leonard, who's having an excellent season in his own right, is what wins basketball games when you're as short-handed as the Rockets were tonight.

Up next: Houston continues their homestand by facing the Indiana Pacers at 7:00 p.m. Friday night.

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After big wins over the Mavericks and Bucks, the Rockets led by James Harden and Russell Westbrook look like contenders. Be sure to watch the video as we examine why the break and the NBA Bubble both play in Houston's favor.

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