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.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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