Rockets blow lead, lose 117-111

Three pointers from Rockets loss to Bucks

James Harden.

The Rockets kicked off the 2019-2020 season Thursday night at home against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Rockets jumped out to a massive 16-point lead and controlled the game throughout the first three quarters. Fueled by a Giannis Antetokounmpo triple-double, the Bucks would lead a furious comeback in the fourth quarter to eventually knock off the Rockets.

Tyson Chandler kicks down the door

Tyson Chandler was one of the later additions to the roster this off-season but took very little time making his presence known. In his first seven minutes on the floor in a Rockets uniform the backup big man crushed multiple alley-oops to the tune of 8 points and 4 rebounds. In the first half it looked as though father time had turned back the clock 11 years and slid him into a hornets uniform. Chandler brought a fiery energy on the court in starting center Clint Capela's absence, as well from the sidelines.

New parts need oiling

The Rockets were in control throughout the first three quarters, but the growing pains were apparent. Bobbled passes from Russell Westbrook to Clint Capela, slightly mis-timed alley oop lobs from James Harden to Chandler, and an overall lack of synchronization contributed to Milwaukee climbing back into the game in the fourth quarter. It will take some time for all of the new faces to get on the same page, so there's no reason for concern yet.

Welcome Westbrook

If Chandler knocked the door down, Westbrook drove through it with a tank. Brodie brought the same patented relentlessness he became famous for in OKC straight to his first start in Rockets Red. Westbrook carved up Milwaukee inside all night long, in addition to flying over everyone on the court for unreal rebounds. Look for Westbrook to push a much faster tempo all season than previous years.

Rockets Player of the Game

Russell Westbrook: 24 points, 7 assists, 16 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block

Bucks Player of the Game

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 30 points, 11 assists, 13 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't ugly either. That just seems par for the course whenever the Rockets play the Pelicans. Regardless of injuries on either side, these two teams just always manage to play each other competitively, whistle to whistle. Houston pulled out ahead tonight, but it wasn't without a fight.

Jrue Holiday and Josh Hart in particular, did an excellent job defending James Harden tonight, forcing him to shoot 3 for 11 from deep. The Pelicans often swarmed Harden and forced him to give up the basketball. It helps the Eric Gordon is starting to find a rhythm from three-point range (4 of 7 tonight and 3 of 7 Saturday against Chicago). Westbrook was also forceful offensively to help pick up for Harden's early struggles.

Clint Capela has really stepped it up for Houston these past four games (11 points, 20 rebounds, and 2 blocks tonight on 5 of 6 shooting). Capela has managed to grab 13 or more rebounds in Houston's last four outings. Capela had struggled greatly to start the season, forcing head coach Mike D'Antoni to rely on smaller units with P.J. Tucker at center. However, the Rockets aren't going to go as far as they want in the postseason if they aren't getting a strong 30 minutes a game from Clint Capela, so it's encouraging that he's starting to play well.

The Rockets took a 7-point lead after a surge from Westbrook to end the first quarter and for the most part, held that lead for the duration of the game. New Orleans made a strong push in the fourth quarter the battle back, but at that point it was too little too late.

Star of the game: James Harden didn't have a the best three-point shooting game, but still managed to log 39 point, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block in the process on 62.6% true shooting. He was effect at driving to the rim, drawing fouls, getting floaters, and finding shooters. Harden scored 19 of his points in the 4th quarter, effectively dragging Houston to victory despite a strong late push by New Orleans that cut the lead from 17 at one point down to as low as 6.

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook was dialed in from the first quarter, particularly from mid-range where he scored 12 of his points on 6 of 8 shooting. In a night where Harden was really struggling to gain a rhythm, Westbrook really helped pick up the slack for Houston especially in the units without Harden. Westbrook finished the game with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals on an efficient 57.1% true shooting. It's unlikely Westbrook will shoot that well from mid-range this season, but on nights where he's on like this, the Rockets will gladly take it.

Key moment: Russell Westbrook's stretch to end the first quarter gave the Rockets a 7-point lead and the Pelicans were never able to capture the lead from that point forward. Westbrook scored or assisted on the final 6 points of the quarter (within 56.8 seconds) and was forceful defensively.

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston to play the Los Angeles Clippers at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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