Rockets win 118-110

Three pointers from Rockets versus Suns

Tim Warren/Getty Images

Houston travelled to Phoenix Monday night for their first matchup if the season against the Suns. Sloppy ball handling and poor interior defense turned the contest into a track meet as both teams sprinted up and down the court. It was Houston, however, that would come out on top as they were propelled once again by a prolific performance from James Harden.

Points in the paint continues to be a problem

With all the talk about Houston searching for another wing to trade for in the beginning of the season, the target has seemingly shifted toward more rim protection. Clint Capella's absence from the paint has exposed Houston as woefully undersized and practically incapable of defending interior penetration. The Suns focused on that weakness as forwards Josh Jackson, and Kelly Oubre Jr. slashed their way to 25 and 23 points respectively. DeAndre Ayton continued his impressive rookie campaign as well, adding 15 points of his own inside. Once again the Rockets were outscored 62-50 inside the paint.

The Chris Paul conundrum

While still clearly the best option the Rockets have at point guard, Paul is definitely not the version of himself that helped guide Houston to a franchise-best 65 win season just last year. At least not at the moment. Coming off an extended absence due to injury, Paul has seemed slightly off while trying to find a rhythm in an offense that has been dominated by James Harden. Paul capitalized on the lack of experience from the young Suns team with 5 steals, but his 6 turnovers were hard to ignore. Hopefully it's simply a matter of acclimating to the styles of new teammates and not a sign of something worse.

Harden continues to soar

With 44 more points, Harden extended his streak of consecutive 30-point games to 27, inching closer to the second longest streak of 31 set by Wilt Chamberlain. It was also his 20th 40-point game, a feat matched only by Wilt, Michael Jordan, and Rick Barry within the first 50 games of a season. He also added 8 rebounds and 6 assists and 3 steals in the effort.

Rockets player of the game

James Harden: 44 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals

Suns player of the games

Josh Jackson: 25 points, 5 rebounds

Next up:

Houston travels to Sacramento to take on the Kings at 9 central on Wednesday.

The winner of the contest will be announced at a Rockets game in early April. Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

This article originally appeared on InnovationMap and was written by Natalie Harms.

Houston startups have a chance at $10,000 thanks to the Houston Rockets and BBVA Compass' LaunchPad Contest. The application process begins on February 19 and concludes on March 5.

In its third installment, the contest is doing things a little differently this year. Previously, small businesses had to respond to questions about their organization and what they would do with the prize money. This year, with a special focus on startups, applicants are also being asked about using new technology to increase productivity.

"BBVA Compass is in a unique position and we want to leverage that to help elevate entrepreneurship through digital capabilities," says BBVA Compass Houston CEO Mark Montgomery in a release. "We are a leader in the financial industry's digital transformation, and have won multiple awards because of our innovative products and services in that realm. We want to create ample opportunities for a rising business through that industry-leading expertise. The Rockets are excellent teammates, and we are excited to unveil this new version of our collaborative contest with them."

Following the application process, BBVA and the Rockets will select four finalists before opening the contest up to fans to pick their favorite. The winner will then be announced at a game in early April. The winning company will receive, in addition to the $10,000, consultations with both BBVA and the Rockets executives.

"We are excited to partner with BBVA again for this annual contest," says Rockets Chief Revenue Officer Gretchen Sheirr in the release. "They have been best in class in their industry with their digital strategy, so it's fantastic that they will be providing an opportunity for other businesses to thrive in this space. We look forward to reviewing our fans' contest submissions and seeing the great work being done by startup businesses in our great city."

Continue reading on InnovationMap to learn about last year's Launchpad winner.

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