It's one win, but sometimes that's all it takes to make a statement. Houston entered Staples Center Thursday night with the need for a big win. Though they were 7-3 in their last 10 games, but the Rockets haven't exactly racked up convincing wins to say to least. This was their chance; the stage was big and they took advantage of it.
The impact that Russell Westbrook can have on his best nights really stood out in this game. Westbrook isn't going to be a steady ship night in and night out - that's not the player he is. However, his peaks as a player are so tantalizing that it's easy to understand why a team would trade as much as Houston did to acquire someone like him. Chris Paul, even in his best nights last season, could not provide Houston with what Westbrook did tonight. Even as a skeptic of the trade, it's only fair to give Westbrook this.
All season the Rockets have exhibited signs of a tier two title contender; a title contender that needs x, y, and z to go right to truly win at the highest levels. This is the kind of win that shows you they have the ability to reach a tier one contender, but it will require more nights like this and consistency on defense to earn that status. This was a nice step in the right direction though.
For a player like Danuel House to perform at the level he did on a night like this is huge. House had missed the prior two games against the Clippers due to injury and this is significant because the Clippers are the ultimate proving ground game for a player like him on this specific team. The Rockets are going to ask him to guard players like Paul George and occasionally Kawhi Leonard, and it was encouraging to see him tread water.
The Rockets still have plenty of moments of inconsistency - notably, the entire first half. However, the fact that they can have stretches like they had in the 3rd quarter are why it's hard to completely dismiss Houston as a bonafide title contender. This win obviously doesn't paint to full picture for Houston as a team, but it could be a nice point to turn the corner if they choose to do so.
Star of the game: This wasn't Russell Westbrook's most efficient game as a Rocket, but it was definitely his best considering the opponent and the moments in the game where he got most of his points. All season, the Rockets have gone into droughts when James Harden has sat on the bench and not only did that not happen tonight, Westbrook was instrumental in getting Houston their first lead of the game. Westbrook logged 40 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal tonight on 54.5% true shooting. He was hitting shots, getting to the rim in transition and in the halfcourt, and overall, led a tight ship.
40-piece for Russ 💥 https://t.co/fTdl3r9kuY— NBA on TNT (@NBA on TNT) 1576821932.0
Honorable mention: James Harden wasn't as aggressive as he normally was in the first three quarters (16 points, 9 assists, and 5 turnovers), but he more made up for that in the fourth quarter (12 points on 3 of 5 shooting from the field and 2 of 3 shooting from three-point range). Harden finished the game with 28 points, 10 assists, 2 steals, 1 rebound, and 1 block on 8 of 16 shooting from the field and 5 of 11 shooting from three-point range.
Key moment: Houston won this game in the third quarter, outscoring the Clippers 36 to 18. Westbrook led the charge (11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists) and the Rockets followed roaring back from their 15-point halftime deficit in monsterous fashion.
Up next: The Rockets travel to Phoenix at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday to play the Suns.
Rockets' Alperen Sengun recently was a guest on Paul George's podcast and spoke about a conversation he had with James Harden.
He said Harden told him he was proud of him. This led George to saying he thinks this means the torch has been passed from Harden to Sengun.
Which made us wonder, is this now Sengun's team? Or is that a little premature and the true leader of the team is head coach Ime Udoka or Fred VanVleet?
Plus, Jalen Green has responded positively from being benched. Is this proof that Ime Udoka has the team taking more accountability and heading in the right direction?
Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down!
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