Unlikely blowout

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Short-handed Rockets team trumps Timberwolves 125-105

This was a game the Rockets were supposed to lose. Missing four out of your top six rotation players on a back-to-back is the definition of a "schedule loss". However, the Rockets persevered through and came away with their seventh straight win and probably their second most impressive win of the season (the Clippers win being the first). From the start, it was clear that James Harden's intentions going into this game was to put the team on his back and pray that he finds contributions from any of the remaining role players.

Harden took 41 shots - the most field goals attempted since Kobe Bryant's retirement performance (50 field goal attempts, 60 points).

Fortunately for Harden, young players Isaiah Hartenstein and Chris Clemons came to play, with team highs of +26 and +32 respectively. Hartenstein wasn't an offensive threat, but he grabbed a monster 16 rebounds, hustled on the offensive glass (5 offensive rebounds), and played hard enough to replace some of the production the Rockets missed with Clint Capela being out with a concussion. Clemons, the sharpshooter from North Carolina, didn't shy away an inch, scoring 19 points on 55.6% shooting from beyond the arc.

The Rockets also got solid contributions from Ben McLemore (20 points on 4 of 11 shooting from three-point range) and Austin Rivers (19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block on 8 of 17 shooting from the field). Top to bottom, this was a fantastic team performance for the Rockets. It's the type of character win that will come to define their season.

Star of the game: It may not have been his most efficient performance, but James Harden was certainly effective and led a team lacking four out it's six best players to victory. Harden logged 49 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds on a pedestrian (for him) 53.4% true shooting, but was 8 for 22 from three-point range and a +16 in the 39 minutes he played. It was more Harden's command of the game and his leadership that showed through than his scoring.

Honorable mention: Chris Clemons has proven to be useful in every game he's played for the Rockets this season and this was no different. The 5'9" point guard tallied 19 points and 2 steals on 7 of 11 shooting from the field and 5 of 9 shooting from three-point range. Clemons was also a team-high +32 in 28 minutes. When healthy, Houston's guard rotation is too deep for him to find playing time. However, it's games like this that Clemons can prove to be useful to the Rockets until they find a permanent role for him in the future.

Key moment: There was a point in the first quarter where the Rockets looked like they were going to fold. Down by 11 and lacking firepower, nobody would have blamed them for doing so. Then, the Rockets went on a 11-2 run, in which James Harden scored 8, to cut the lead to 2.

Up next: The Rockets go back home to Houston to play the Portland Trail Blazers at 7:00 p.m. on Monday.

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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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