The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets let one slip against the Kings 119-118

On Saturday, Las Vegas had the Rockets favored to beat the Suns by 11 points. They won by 6. Tonight, the closing odds had Houston favored to win by 12. They lost by 1.

The story for this game will obviously be the crazy final few possessions of the game and specifically the last one where Nemanja Bjelica hit a walk-off-three-pointer to give Sacramento the victory. However, there's a worrisome pattern emerging about this Rockets team in that they may very well be a good team that goes on to win 50 or more games, but the jury is still out as to whether they can be the bonafide title contener that they were just two seasons ago. The Rockets should not have been in a one-possession game with the Sacramento Kings (who were coming off a back to back) in to end the game in Houston to begin with. In a year where Houston's defense needs to be at least top ten, if not top five to truly compete with the best of the NBA, they've trended average (15th in the NBA).

"We didn't challenge ourselves," Russell Westbrook said after the game. "It's not about them. We're playing for a bigger goal."

Again, it's more likely than not that the Rockets will be a very good team this season. The problem is with teams like the Lakers and Bucks (both 21-3), very good isn't good enough. We'll see if Houston turns it around defensively, but until then, it's very possible that this team has a ceiling. Of course, until we see the Rockets' fully healthy roster at the end of the season, all of this is to be determined.

Star of the game: It's unfortunate for Houston that Russell Westbrook's best game as a Rocket came in this loss, but it doesn't diminish how well he's played as of late. Westbrook had 34 points, 8 assists, 3 rebonds, and 2 steals on 13 of 17 shooting from the field, 2 of 4 shooting from three-point range, and 6 of 7 shooting from the free throw line. He was simply brilliant tonight and nearly had the game winning layup before Nemanja Bjelica delivered Houston a heartbreaker.

Honorable mention: This was the furthest thing from James Harden's best game this season, but he did manage to log 27 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals on 8 of 19 shooting from the field and 8 of 8 shooting from the free throw line. Harden's just looked a step off as of late (16 of 46 from the field and 6 of 27 from three-point range these past two games). It could be that seemingly Houston's entire locker room is suffering from a bad illness, but without an admission from Harden (which he won't give), we'll never know for sure.

Key moment: It may come off as unsophisticated to put the final possession of the game here, but it perfectly illustrates why it's hard to buy Houston as a tier one title contender right now - their defense. Here, the Rockets, specifically P.J. Tucker surprisingly, allowed a wide-open three-pointer from Nemanja Bjelica to end a game they should have won by double digits in the first place. Houston will continue to tell you that they have high aspirations this year (and they do), but if they continue to be just average as a defensive team, it's hard to buy.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

WWE's Royal Rumble arrives this Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Paul Muth

I'm not a big sign guy.

You know sign guys. The people who write puns on posters. The ones who carry the letter "D" in one had and a cutout of a literal fence in the other. The "Houston, YOU have a problem" sign guys.

I tried it once when I was 14, was punched in the face, and sort of lost my appetite after that.

Let me explain.

It was April 1, 2001. Wrestlemania 17. I won't ask my parents how much it cost them, but my aunt and uncle scored floor seats to the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment in no better confines than the Astrodome herself and I got to tag along.

It was a hell of a show. Some say it was one of the best Wrestlemanias ever. The card was stacked, including a Triple-H match against the hometown hero The Undertaker that set the stage for the main event.

At precisely two hours and forty-eight minutes into the event, Undertaker sent Triple-H flying over the barricade and "INTO THE STANDS!"

"Holy crap," 14-year-old Paul thought. "They're headed right down my aisle."

Now I'm not sure how it works these days, but back then it was totally customary to bail on your seat and follow the fight as they weaved up and down the aisles. I wasn't about to miss the chance so I grabbed my poorly scribbled wrestling poster, glanced back and my Aunt for the OK, then darted after the action.

The fight snaked its way up to some scaffolding with a camera perched atop. There, the fight would stall as they battled their way to the top. Oblivious to anything but the action in front of me, I threw my sign up as high as I could, probably screamed at the top of my lungs, and my voice probably cracked in the process. I was 14.

Suddenly someone pushed me in the back of my shoulder. I turned around and there was an old lady, maybe five feet tall, standing on her chair. She had the quintessential cowgirl big hair and enough costume jewelry on to short-circuit a metal detector.

"GET THE @#$% OUT THE WAY, BOY," she commanded in the most east Texas accent you've ever heard in your life. I ignored her and turned back around.

Then she pushed me again.

I turned around again and before I had any clue what was happening, this knockoff mini Dolly Parton had already connected a stiff left hook to my temple. She then grabbed my sign and ripped it in half. Stunned, I retreated to my seat while tending to a now bleeding eyebrow thanks to what I assume was a Wal-Mart engagement ring.

Haven't really been a big sign guy since.

But this weekend the WWE takes over Minute Maid Park for their annual Pay-Per-View event known as the Royal Rumble. It will be the first time since that fateful night in the Astrodome 19 years ago that I've returned to a high profile wrestling event.

Now am I looking forward to this weekend as an opportunity to retake the dignity that was ripped away so long ago? Probably not. I'll most likely just drink a bunch of beer and yell at wrestlers with my friends. But I'm not ruling anything out.

Now instead of a power rankings this week, I figured that in the spirit of the Royal Rumble we could rehash some of the best sports fights Houston's served up:

#5 Charles Barkley throws man through window

Now I know this one didn't happen on a court, but the story is just too good. In a classic case of "play stupid games, win stupid prizes," a 5'2" Floridian by the name of Jorge Lugo decided to harrass the 6'6" then-power forward for the Houston Rockets at an Orlando bar . Barkley ignored and avoided the issue until a Lugo-thrown glass intended for Barkley missed and struck a nearby woman. Bad move. When judge presiding over the ensuing case asked Barkley if he had any regrets, The Round Mound of Rebound replied "Yeah, I regret we weren't on a higher floor."

#4 Chris Paul serves a two-piece to Rajon Rondo

This one is actually fairly recent and adds to what I discovered was a hefty list of Rockets throw downs. After breaking up a stare down between Lakers forward Brandon Ingram and James Harden, Paul and Rondo began a heated chest-to-chest exchange. From all replay indications it appeared as if Rondo then spit on Paul, which triggered a disrespectful finger push to Rondo's face, which then descended into a good old fashioned knuckle sandwich exchange. Paul was suspended for two games.

#3 Derrick Lewis verifies amateur of amateur status

Some dude actually had the nerve to walk in to UFC Heavyweight fighter and Houston native Derrick Lewis' gym and pick a fight. The amateur claimed that he would knock Lewis out because he was an MMA fighter, and not a real boxer. "The Black Beast" was more than happy to oblige, and swiftly teleported the no name into the shadow realm.

#2 Vernon Maxwell fights Portland man

Sometimes people forget that sporting events are intended to be family friendly. Some also forget that players are people with actual feelings. Maxwell claims that aside from general harassment, a Portland fan decided to bring Maxwell's wife's recent miscarriage to light as well. Maxwell stood up from the bench, calmly walked up the stairs, and knocked the crap out of the dude. Maxwell was suspended 10 games.

#1 Andre Johnson baptizes Courtland Finnegan

It had been seasons in the making. Finnegan had built a reputation out of adding cheap shots here and there, ripping helmets off at the end of plays, and various other dirty tactics. In late November of 2010 Johnson had reached the end of his rope. Schadenfreude was the flavor of the day for all Texans fans as Johnson manhandled Finnegan, reigning down fists of righteous justice.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome