Fun game. Predictable ending.

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Shorthanded Rockets fall to Pelicans 127-112

Despite missing James Harden and Russell Westbrook, this was a fun basketball team to watch. I'm not sure you'll find one Rockets' fan that disagrees with that after how hard they battled against the Pelicans for three quarters. It's also not hard to imagine a world in which a team like this scraps for an eight seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket. However, the Rockets have bigger goals in mind which is why they prefer to have it business as usual with Harden and Westbrook.

Nonetheless, Houston put up a strong, balanced offensive attack against the Pelicans. The ball moved, half court flowed better, and the team played less predictable. The young player trifecta of Danuel House, Isaiah Hartenstein, Gary Clark, and Chris Clemons combined for 63 points, 25 rebounds, and 18 assists on 27 of 48 shooting. Every player got a chance to showcase their talents after rotting on the bench in favor of veteran players.

Eric Gordon returned against his former team after missing 22 consecutive games (arthroscopic knee surgery). You'd expect Gordon to have rust, but he seemed completely comfortable, scoring 20 points on 6 of 12 shooting from the field and 4 of 7 shooting from three-point range. Gordon did miss 4 of his 8 free throw attempts, but the Rockets ultimately ended up losing by so much and in so many other ways that it didn't end up mattering.

As a whole, the Rockets shot an impressive 52% from the field (42 of 81) and 15 of 39 from three-point range (38%) which kept them in the game. However, without Clint Capela and Tyson Chandler protecting the rim, their defense cratered, especially in the fourth quarter. Houston finished with a 129.3 defensive rating and allowed 41 points in the fourth quarter, ultimately leading to their demise tonight.

Star of the game: With Clint Capela missing his second straight game with a right heel contusion, Isaiah Hartenstein stepped up big time for the Rockets. Despite the loss, Hartenstein raked in 19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks on 9 of 11 shooting from the field. Hartenstein has an important contract date coming up in early January, so these two games without Capela could mean huge for his financial future. It was important for him to play well on this back-to-back and to his credit, he did.

Honorable mention: It's become clear that after James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Danuel House has become Houston's third best ball handler - even better than Eric Gordon who returned tonight and had a nice game. House had 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists on 10 of 18 shooting from the field and 2 of 5 shooting from three-point range. It's not just how well House plays night in and night out that makes him stand out. It's the confidence level he has within himself to make plays on a veteran-laiden contender at just 26 years old that makes him an important role player for this team.

Key moment: The bottom really fell out for the Rockets in the fourth quarter where they allowed the Pelicans to outscore them 41 to 19 after leading for the first three quarters. Closing games like this are where players like Harden and Westbrook make their max contracts earned. We learned tonight that the team without Harden and Westbrook can be pretty good and scrapy, but much like the late 2000s Rockets' without Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, they have a firm ceiling in the NBA. Still, this was a fun game to help confirm that.

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday to play the Denver Nuggets.

WWE's Royal Rumble arrives this Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Paul Muth

I'm not a big sign guy.

You know sign guys. The people who write puns on posters. The ones who carry the letter "D" in one had and a cutout of a literal fence in the other. The "Houston, YOU have a problem" sign guys.

I tried it once when I was 14, was punched in the face, and sort of lost my appetite after that.

Let me explain.

It was April 1, 2001. Wrestlemania 17. I won't ask my parents how much it cost them, but my aunt and uncle scored floor seats to the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment in no better confines than the Astrodome herself and I got to tag along.

It was a hell of a show. Some say it was one of the best Wrestlemanias ever. The card was stacked, including a Triple-H match against the hometown hero The Undertaker that set the stage for the main event.

At precisely two hours and forty-eight minutes into the event, Undertaker sent Triple-H flying over the barricade and "INTO THE STANDS!"

"Holy crap," 14-year-old Paul thought. "They're headed right down my aisle."

Now I'm not sure how it works these days, but back then it was totally customary to bail on your seat and follow the fight as they weaved up and down the aisles. I wasn't about to miss the chance so I grabbed my poorly scribbled wrestling poster, glanced back and my Aunt for the OK, then darted after the action.

The fight snaked its way up to some scaffolding with a camera perched atop. There, the fight would stall as they battled their way to the top. Oblivious to anything but the action in front of me, I threw my sign up as high as I could, probably screamed at the top of my lungs, and my voice probably cracked in the process. I was 14.

Suddenly someone pushed me in the back of my shoulder. I turned around and there was an old lady, maybe five feet tall, standing on her chair. She had the quintessential cowgirl big hair and enough costume jewelry on to short-circuit a metal detector.

"GET THE @#$% OUT THE WAY, BOY," she commanded in the most east Texas accent you've ever heard in your life. I ignored her and turned back around.

Then she pushed me again.

I turned around again and before I had any clue what was happening, this knockoff mini Dolly Parton had already connected a stiff left hook to my temple. She then grabbed my sign and ripped it in half. Stunned, I retreated to my seat while tending to a now bleeding eyebrow thanks to what I assume was a Wal-Mart engagement ring.

Haven't really been a big sign guy since.

But this weekend the WWE takes over Minute Maid Park for their annual Pay-Per-View event known as the Royal Rumble. It will be the first time since that fateful night in the Astrodome 19 years ago that I've returned to a high profile wrestling event.

Now am I looking forward to this weekend as an opportunity to retake the dignity that was ripped away so long ago? Probably not. I'll most likely just drink a bunch of beer and yell at wrestlers with my friends. But I'm not ruling anything out.

Now instead of a power rankings this week, I figured that in the spirit of the Royal Rumble we could rehash some of the best sports fights Houston's served up:

#5 Charles Barkley throws man through window

Now I know this one didn't happen on a court, but the story is just too good. In a classic case of "play stupid games, win stupid prizes," a 5'2" Floridian by the name of Jorge Lugo decided to harrass the 6'6" then-power forward for the Houston Rockets at an Orlando bar . Barkley ignored and avoided the issue until a Lugo-thrown glass intended for Barkley missed and struck a nearby woman. Bad move. When judge presiding over the ensuing case asked Barkley if he had any regrets, The Round Mound of Rebound replied "Yeah, I regret we weren't on a higher floor."

#4 Chris Paul serves a two-piece to Rajon Rondo

This one is actually fairly recent and adds to what I discovered was a hefty list of Rockets throw downs. After breaking up a stare down between Lakers forward Brandon Ingram and James Harden, Paul and Rondo began a heated chest-to-chest exchange. From all replay indications it appeared as if Rondo then spit on Paul, which triggered a disrespectful finger push to Rondo's face, which then descended into a good old fashioned knuckle sandwich exchange. Paul was suspended for two games.

#3 Derrick Lewis verifies amateur of amateur status

Some dude actually had the nerve to walk in to UFC Heavyweight fighter and Houston native Derrick Lewis' gym and pick a fight. The amateur claimed that he would knock Lewis out because he was an MMA fighter, and not a real boxer. "The Black Beast" was more than happy to oblige, and swiftly teleported the no name into the shadow realm.

#2 Vernon Maxwell fights Portland man

Sometimes people forget that sporting events are intended to be family friendly. Some also forget that players are people with actual feelings. Maxwell claims that aside from general harassment, a Portland fan decided to bring Maxwell's wife's recent miscarriage to light as well. Maxwell stood up from the bench, calmly walked up the stairs, and knocked the crap out of the dude. Maxwell was suspended 10 games.

#1 Andre Johnson baptizes Courtland Finnegan

It had been seasons in the making. Finnegan had built a reputation out of adding cheap shots here and there, ripping helmets off at the end of plays, and various other dirty tactics. In late November of 2010 Johnson had reached the end of his rope. Schadenfreude was the flavor of the day for all Texans fans as Johnson manhandled Finnegan, reigning down fists of righteous justice.

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