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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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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