It's how you finish

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets rally back to beat Spurs 109-107

Much like Houston's win over the Cavaliers last week, this game could have gone in an entirely different direction had the Rockets not responded to the Spurs' run with appropriate fear. The Cavaliers lept out to a 27-12 run to start the first quarter and didn't look back for the entire first half. The Rockets ended the first half down 73-59.

Harden really struggled in the first half scoring only 9 points on 4 of 17 shooting from the field. The third quarter is really where he turned it on, scoring 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting from the field and making 2 of his 3 three-pointers. The Rockets followed suit, outscoring the Spurs 30 to 17 in this period.

"My confidence is never gone," said Harden. "No matter if I go 0-for-20 or whatever. Like I'm going to always shoot the basketball and be aggressive."

I think it's huge. James didn't have a great first half," said D'Antoni." Just a lot of good things happened. A lot of guys contributed and it was a good win. All wins are good, but that was a really good win."

Star of the game: Thought the Rockets were utterly lost in the first half, it's anyone's guess where they would be without Russell Westbrook's 25-points on 10-16 shooting from the field.

"He held us in there," said D'Antoni. "His points gave us a chance."

Ironically, Westbrook had the team's lowest plus/minus (-10), but finished the game with 31 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block on 53.5% true shooting. To his credit, Westbrook has answered the bell every single time James Harden has had an off night. He may not be having a career season, but the games he does perform at a high-level are important for this Rockets' team.

Honorable mention: After worries about how he'll perform off the bench, Ben McLemore has proven he can be every bit the reserve that Gerald Green was for Houston before broke his foot.

"it's not just making adjustments," said McLemore about coming off the bench. "It's just playing free, you know, not thinking too much and just going out there and just playing the game. That's what I've been doing over these last few games."

McLemore poured in 17 points on 6 of 11 shooting from the field and 4 of 9 shooting from three-point range for Houston. With Danuel House struggling with

Key moment: The Rockets had to come out of the half on fire if they had any chance

Up next: The Rockets travel to Los Angeles at 9:30 p.m. to take on the Clippers

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The Coogs play Miami on Friday night. Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images.

Number one seed University of Houston is favored by 7.5 points over No. 5 Miami, and No. 2 University of Texas is favored by 4 over No. 3 Xavier Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals in Kansas City.

Talk about opening acts. If both UH and UT win, they’ll meet Sunday in a good ol’ WWE-style Texas death match for a berth in the Final Four at NRG Stadium in Houston. Thank you, Mr. Schedule Maker.

How much do you think Cougar fans would love for UH to get their hands on the Longhorns with so much at stake?

For one example, let’s go back to the future, Oct. 21, 2023, when Big 12 rivals UH and UT meet in football at TDECU Stadium on the Houston campus. The game already is a lock sellout with tickets in the upper deck commanding $141 per ticket on the secondary market. It will be UH’s first year in the big boy Big 12 and UT’s last go-around before heading to the SEC.

One last opportunity for lasting bragging rights.

That’s for a UH football game. At home. Where the Cougars typically have trouble packing half the house. For example, the Cougars will be hosting the Sam Houston Bearkats at TDECU Stadium a month earlier. Tickets for that game, the same exact seat going for $141 against UT, can be had right now … $17.

Yeah, there’s something special about UH getting the opportunity to face UT. In anything. Anywhere. And it’s been a long time since the two teams, once co-members of the Southwest Conference together, have met on the basketball court. A full decade, in fact. The last time they played was March 20, 2013 with the Cougars prevailing 73-72 in something called the College Basketball Invitational. The UH coach was James Dickey. UT was coached by Rick Barnes. Joe Young led the Cougars with 18 points. The Horns’ leading scorer was Julien Lewis with 28. UH finished that season with a 20-13 record. UT limped home at 16-18.

That was then, this is now. The UH-Miami game will air at 6:10 p.m. Friday on CBS with UH grad Jim Nantz calling the play-by-play. The game will alsO stream on Hulu +++. ESPN’s BPI (basketball power index) gives the Cougars a 90 percent chance of winning. We’ll take it.

The UT-Xavier game will follow at 8:45 p.m. on CBS. The Horns have a 70 percent chance of beating the Musketeers. If both chalks come through, they’ll meet Sunday afternoon with the game on CBS.

The Cougars have made six Final Four appearances: 1967, 1968, 1982, 1983, 1984, 2021. The Horns have made three Final Fours, the last time two decades ago.

Here’s the only sure bet if UH and UT meet Sunday - get to your sports bar early if you want a seat. This could be memorable.

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