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Why are the Rockets scared to play basketball without James Harden?

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James Harden can find his shot whenever on the court. He is averaging 38.1 points per game which is first in the league. Harden was criticized for not taking enough shots on Christmas Day. But, is it really Harden's fault why the Rockets lost that game against the Warriors? No, because his teammates should pick up the slack!

Russell Westbrook has looked great for nine straight games but struggled Christmas Day against the Warriors. At times it looks Westbrook is playing in panic mode instead of attack mode. He struggled with or without Harden on the court. Westbrook still needs to work on his confidence even when shots are not falling. Another thing Westbrook still struggles with is forcing shots that are not there. Westbrook must stay courageous, optimistic, aware, and know to pick his moments.

Danuel House must make shots when they matter. House shoots over 40% from the field but struggles when his number is called. Harden would love to see House make those shots when doubled late in games. The only way House can become a great player is when he shows up in big moments. If House wants to be a spot up shooter, he can not shoot 35% from the three-point line.

Austin Rivers can be a tough watch at times because of the talent he is hiding. Rivers has everything in his repertoire to become a great player. He honestly has a good-looking crossover and shooting form in the NBA. It is just sad that he never displays it in game play. Rivers shooting the ball less than 15 times a game is a crime. Sometimes it looks like Rivers is scared to touch the ball. There is no reason for Rivers just to make himself a spot up shooter in games. Rivers is averaging 8 points per game which is an underachievement for his skill set. It is extremely important for Rivers to step up more when Harden gets doubled. He has the talent to compete for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year every season.

Ben McLemore had his bright spots this season but can not stay consistent. By McLemore not staying consistent means he is non-existent in games. There are times earlier this season when he struggled to get minutes or score zero points. This could hurt the Rocket's bench in a dramatic way. He can continue to be the bright spot for the Rockets when confident. McLemore is averaging 10.2 points per game this season. He has not averaged this much since his second season with the Kings. He had a career high against Toronto with 35 points. One thing McLemore must do is make plays when shots are not falling. When McLemore stays active defensively, he becomes a problem for other teams. He has finally found his NBA home with the Rockets.

The Rockets rank dead last in bench play this season. This bench is also shooting right under 40% on the season. If the Rockets want a chance to compete for an NBA Championship, the bench must be better. Daryl Morey could make possible moves for free agents or trades to help the cause.

NOTE: Eric Gordon comes back Tuesday versus the Pelicans.

Jeff Green just cleared waivers with the Utah Jazz. He could be helpful to the bench if Morey decides to pick him up.

Rockets just signed William Howard from the G-League. He is a 6'8 lengthy shooter.

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Framber Valdez was dominant on Thursday. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

The Astros came into this game against the Rangers looking to take the finale of the 3-game series, and they did exactly that.

Framber Valdez had another classic performance, pitching seven innings while allowing zero runs and four hits. Valdez also recorded 8Ks and 1BB.

On offense, it was a big day for Yuli Gurriel who bounced back with 3 hits after going 0-5 the previous night. Alex Bregman and Martin Maldonado both went yard, hitting 2 and 3-run bombs respectively.

Maldonado's came in the bottom of the second inning, giving the Astros a 3-0 lead.

Bregman's put the Astros on top 5-0 in the bottom of the 5th.

The Astros added two more runs in the 7th after Bregman singled to drive in a run, and a sac fly from Aledmys Diaz.

Heading into the 8th inning, Seth Martinez took over for Valdez protecting a 7-0 lead. That lead wouldn't last long after Martinez allowed a couple of base runners and gave up 2 runs off a pair of singles from Nathaniel Lowe and Leody Taveras.

The Astros headed to the bottom of the 8th up 7-2.

After a scoreless bottom of the 8th, Rafael Montero came in to close the game out in the 9th.

Montero gave up a solo homer to Marcus Semien with 2 outs in the 9th before shutting the door.

Final: Astros 7, Rangers 3

Next up: Oakland comes to Minute Maid to play the Astros Friday night at 7:10PM.



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