The Houston Rockets have been a revolving door when it comes to having players in uniform all season long. Most of it has been due to constant injury plaguing the team but as Houston gets healthy, it is becoming more clearer that the Rockets remain a legitimate championship contender in the NBA.
Saturday night at the Toyota Center was an odd performance between the Houston Rockets, who found themselves down 18 points at halftime, and the visiting Los Angeles Lakers, who were content with letting anyone else outside of James Harden shoot the ball.
The Lakers were so committed to their strategy that they preferred for the other Rockets to have wide open shots rather than James Harden have the ball in his hands.
While Los Angeles’s strategy was effective in the first half, most of it had to do with the Rockets simply missing their shots as the Rockets shot a dreadful 8-for-32 from three in the first half.
In the second half and in the overtime period, the Rockets turned it around from behind the arc and shot a scorching 17-for-36!
While Houston did catch fire from three, the main reason behind the Rockets comeback was a result of the defense, especially on Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma who torched Houston with 20 first-quarter points, but the Rockets, and specifically P.J. Tucker, were able to lock him down as Kuzma only scored 14 points for the remainder of the game!
James Harden also chipped in on the defensive side of the ball, yes James Harden, as he accepted the challenge of defending in the post, and finished with 4 steals in the game.
Of course the biggest shot of the night came from Eric Gordon, who nailed a three-point basket that forced overtime.
Houston did not have a single lead in regulation, but once overtime began, the Rockets had the momentum and never gave it back to Los Angeles.
Gordon finished with 30 points for the game while James Harden continued his historic scoring tear by putting up 48 points and extending his 30+ point streak to 19 consecutive games as he is now one game away from tying Wilt Chamberlain as the only other player to have 20 or more consecutive games with at least 30 points.
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Gordon’s clutch basket at the end of regulation and performance in overtime was a reminder to why the Rockets have been so patient with him and reportedly were reluctant to include him in any trade offers when the Jimmy Butler saga was happening in Minnesota.
Gordon has the incredible skill set of not only being a lethal three-point shooter when he is at his best, but his ability to slash and create has really been why Houston has had so much success since Gordon joined the team.
Before Chris Paul became a Rocket, Gordon was the only other player that could alleviate the usage that the Rockets put on James Harden.
Since Gordon’s return from his knee injury, he has scored a combined 50 points on 9-for-18 shooting from behind the three-point line.
If Eric Gordon can sustain this level of play, which has been too inconsistent for much of the season, the Rockets become a much more dangerous team because teams cannot just do what the Lakers did tonight and collapse in the paint every time Harden drives and feel confident that the supporting cast around him will not be effective in making shots.
Despite the win, Houston did get crushed in the rebounding category, and with Capela barely being one week into his injury recovery time, it will be very crucial for the Rockets, as a team, to pack the paint and crash the boards.
With the Manimal, Kenneth Faried, expected to join the Rockets once he clears waivers on Monday afternoon, Houston will receive much-needed help to try and patch the hole that has been left by Capela’s injury. But it is delusional to expect Faried will solve the problem, which is why Houston will need to put in a total team effort while Capela recovers.