Weekly Rockets report

Wins over Knicks, Hawks and Jazz highlight a solid week

Eric Gordon seems to have gotten out of his scoring slump. Rockets.com

Well, last week was neat, huh?

The Rockets retired their 22 year old reputation as the only major sports team among the big three in Houston to ever claim a championship last Wednesday, after the Houston Astros won game 7 of one of the most legendary World Series battles in history.

Fitting, it would seem, that the Astros would share a similarly difficult climb as the 1993-1994 Rockets. Both teams faced two game 7 elimination games on their road to glory, with the second of each being the deciding game for the championship. So while that Rockets team may have created Clutch City, the Astros certainly lived up to the name.

With the baseball season having drawn to a close and the Texans season seemingly having taken a sharp turn down skid row, the spotlight now focuses on a Rockets team that has jumped out to a great 8-3 record to start the season. Here’s what you may have missed this past week in case you were off celebrating.

Game Nine: Rockets at New York Knicks (W, 119-97)

Overshadowed by game 7 of the World Series, the Rockets stumbled out of the gate at the beginning of the game. The Knicks held the lead throughout most of the first quarter and it seemed like there was a possibility the team would drop its third straight contest. Ryan Anderson kicked off the 2nd quarter with 7 straight points to seize a lead that would never be relinquished. With the lead as high as 29 points late in the 3rd, the Rockets gave the city of Houston enough of a point cushion to confidently turn away and watch the Astros clinch their first ever World Series Championship. James Harden dropped 31 points, followed by Anderson’s 21.

Game Ten: Rockets at Atlanta Hawks (W, 119-104)

The Atlanta Hawks drained the first shot of the game, which would turn out to be the only lead the one win team would hold all night. The Rockets blurred by the Hawks with a season-high 28 fast break points and added 16 three pointers. Eric Gordon would pour in 20 points to go with 4 steals and 5 assists. Harden would add 29 points and 11 assists. As Hawks shooting guard Kent Bazemore so eloquently put it, “They just shoot the crap out of the ball.”

Game Eleven: Rockets vs Utah Jazz (W, 137-110)

My first game at Toyota Center this season did not disappoint at all. The Jazz started hot on a 10-2 run, and that was about it. By the fourth minute of the first quarter, the Rockets had seized the lead, and it would remain that way for the entire game. Harden was absolutely white-hot on his way to a career high 56 point outing. He would chip in 13 assists as well, and Gordon drained 6 three pointers as part of his 20 point performance. At one point in the beginning of the third, the Rockets had led by as much as 32 points. This game was never a contest.

Takeaways:

  • It certainly looks like both the Rockets and Harden have found their tempo. In the past four games, the Rockets have averaged 120.5 points per game, while Harden alone has averaged 36.3. The past three games have been blowouts, with the average point differential of 21.3. The Rockets’ reserves have seen plenty of floor time, as a result.

  • Gordon’s sluggish 3-point shooting start seems to officially be a thing of the past. In the past four games, he’s fired .450 from beyond the arc, going 18-40.

  • The Rockets have been road warriors to start the season. Seven of their first eleven games have been away from the Toyota center, and of those the Rockets have won six.

Rockets Player of the Week (not named James Harden)

Luc Mbah a Moute. His defense is always great to see, and in the past three games he’s racked up seven steals. He understands his role, and the more I watch him, the more it looks like Daryl Morey may have found a newer model of Shane Battier. Mbah a Moute has been great off the bench to start the season.

Looking Ahead:

The Rockets finally get a little bit of rest before they take on Cleveland on Thursday, followed by yet another contest with Memphis at home Saturday and an away tilt Sunday against the Pacers. The Cavaliers have been one of the most disappointing teams to start the season, but you can never count out Lebron James. Memphis has outscored the Rockets 201-179, resulting in two of the Rockets’ three losses, so it’s tough to assume that this will be an easy contest. Indiana sits at a .500 record on the season behind Victor Oladipo’s 24 point per game average, but are 23rd in the league in points allowed. The Rockets have shown this past week that they’re starting to find their rhythm, and I expect a 2-1 week on the horizon at worst.

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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