Gut-punch

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets narrowly lose to Jazz in Houston 114-113

If this the definition of a heartbreaking loss, I don't know what is.

The Rockets legitimately looked like a top tier contender with the way they competed with Utah in the first half. Russell Westbrook and James Harden both took advantage of a spaced floor by getting to the rim at will, Houston's rotations on switches looked much crisper, and shots were falling (23 for 46 from the field).

The second half is where things fell apart. The Rockets got out-rebounded 26 to 20, their defense fell apart at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter, and Houston couldn't hit a three-pointer for long stretches of the second half. On the whole, however, the Rockets competed pretty hard against a really good Western Conference team, but lost. The Jazz just played better in the moments that mattered.

Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker gave the Rockets gave the Rockets a chance with two late three-pointers, but Bojan Bogdanovic hit a really hard three-pointer over two outstretched defenders in less than 1.6 seconds. Houston played a really good team, played hard, and showed some encouraging signs defensively, but they lost on a tough game winner. Sometimes it can really be that simple.

Star of the game: The Rockets struggled offensively in the second half, but it was to no fault of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook logged 39 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal on 18 of 33 shooting from the field and 1 of 2 shooting from three-point range. Like the Lakers game, Westbrook attacked straight one-on-one coverages brilliantly with a spaced floor. The Jazz, rather smartly, placed Rudy Gobert on Westbrook in the first quarter. After the first timeout, the Rockets used Westbrook as a screener as a decent counter.

Honorable mention: It'll go unnoticed, but James Harden actually finished this game with a triple double, logging 28 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal on 11 of 23 shooting from the field. Harden was horrible from three-point range, missing 11 of 13 from deep.

Key moment: The Rockets lost this game midway through the fourth quarter, specifically the 5:56 mark where the Jazz went on a 9-0 run to give them a 107-100 lead at the 3:00 mark. Houston recovered from that and nearly won the game off a P.J. Tucker buzzer beater, but having to recover from that put them behind the 8-ball.

Up next: The Rockets play the Boston Celtics in Houston at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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