Graphic by Max Aguirre
The Houston Rockets currently sit at 28 wins, tied for fifth place in the Western Conference, they are seven and a half games behind first place. The Rockets’ game plan of playing a majority of iso-ball with James Harden and Russell Westbrook at the helm has shown glimpses of success, but the plan is still questionable in terms of achieving an NBA title. Both stars rely on ball dominance to be successful, which can lead to questionable shot attempts and sometimes horrible shot percentages. This week, Harden shot 23.1% from the field against the Minnesota Timberwolves and 31% against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets went 2-2 this week with wins against the Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Timberwolves, and losses against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Nuggets. This put the Rockets at 28-17 for the season and the sixth seed in the West.
The Rockets’ first game this week was against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Toyota Center. The Rockets controlled the game for the first three quarters before a fourth quarter collapse, in which they gave up 41 points. The loss was sealed with a clutch jump shot from Thunder guard Dennis Schroder. Despite Harden’s 29 points and Westbrook’s 32-point triple-double with 12 assists and 11 rebounds, the Rockets’ inability to defend late in the game, along with their 20 percent three-point percentage, ultimately led to their demise. This was the last loss of a four-game losing streak.
Final score 107-112 Thunder
The next game against the Denver Nuggets was an important test for the Rockets as they faced off against Nikola Jokic and young stars Gary Harris and Jamaal Murray. The Rockets were dominant in the first half leading 60-43. Despite a 32-point fourth quarter surge from the Nuggets, the Rockets held on to a 16-point win. The Rockets had three players score more than 25, points including Westbrook with 28, Harden with 27, and Eric Gordon with 25, holding off Jokic’s 19-point triple-double with 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
The next game of the week saw the Rockets traveling to the Target Center, where they faced off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The game was tight in the first half with the Rockets leading 63-60. However, the Rockets pulled away with a 31-point third quarter and kept their foot on the gas through-out the remainder of the game, finishing with 131 points. With Harden scoring only 12 points, Westbrook showed that when the Beard doesn’t show up, he can step up to the plate; he finished with 45 points and 10 rebounds with help from Gordon’s 27-point performance.
Final score 131-124 Rockets
The final game the Rockets played this week was a second match-up against the Denver Nuggets, this time leaving with a loss. Without the aid of Harden, due to a bruised left thigh, the Rockets fell short in a closely contested game, mostly due to Jerami Grant’s 25-point performance and Jokic’s stellar 24-point triple double with 12 rebounds and 11 assists. The Rockets were outscored 21-27 in the fourth quarter during crunch time. Former Laker great, Kobe Bryant, died right before the game which caused not only the entire league, but the whole world to mourn his passing and reflect on how much he brought to the game of basketball. R.I.P. to not only a great player, but a great man.
Final score 110-117 Nuggets