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Player grades from the Houston Rockets’ 144-133 win over the Heat

By Lachard Binkley
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

After a lackluster performance against the Spurs, the Houston Rockets got back on track in South Beach against the Miami Heat on Friday.

The Houston Rockets went into Friday’s matchup looking to improve in every aspect, especially on defense, after giving up 128 points to the Spurs. There were also individual players who needed better outings. Overall, the defense still struggled for most of the game, consistently getting beat down the court and in the paint. It’s safe to say team defense is still a work in progress, as Houston gave up 133 points.

The offense was humming all night. Pushing the pace all game long and getting to the basket on multiple occasions. James Harden continued to torch everyone this preseason, finishing with 44 points on 12-of-26 shooting. Clint Capela was very aggressive throughout. Russell Westbrook struggled last game vs the Spurs but looked more aggressive and under control during the game before going out with a hand injury in the second half.

For the Miami Heat, Kendrick Nunn had the best game of his young career, pouring in 40 points on 15-27 shooting.

Here is a breakdown of how every Rocket performed on Friday:

Next: The Starters

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Starters

A +. James Harden has been on fire this entire preseason and the final game of the preseason was no different. Harden actually started off slow but heated up in the second quarter and it continued the rest of the game. Harden finished with 44 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Even when the Heat ran double teams at him, he made the right pass and was able to get open looks for Eric Gordon outside and Clint Capela under the basket. Harden finished with a team-high plus-25 on the night.. Guard. Houston Rockets. JAMES HARDEN

A. Clint Capela has had a very productive preseason up until this point. While he had some struggles against LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs in the last game, he bounced back in a big way against the Heat with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Capela looked aggressive on the boards and outran the Heat big men constantly on fast breaks. On defense, he moved his feet and altered several shots inside the paint. This is the Capela we saw a couple of years ago when he was a borderline All-Star.. Center. Houston Rockets. CLINT CAPELA

Houston Rockets. RUSSELL WESTBROOK. B -. Russell Westbrook admitted that he needed to get his wind back, and that could be part of his struggles in the preseason along with learning an entirely new system. On Friday, he was more aggressive yet still under control, often getting to the basket to draw defenders and creating open shots for his teammates. Russ’s four turnovers and minus-1 statistic is the only reason he doesn’t get a higher grade. Westbrook had 16 points, four rebounds and four assists before going out with a hand injury in the second half. All reports say he should be fine for the season-opener.. Guard

B. The steady hand and emotional leader of the Rockets, P.J. Tucker had a normal Tucker game, scrambling on defense, keeping possessions alive and doing all the dirty work. Against the Heat, he had five rebounds and five points on only five shot attempts. Tucker, of course, is not asked to be a statistical All-Star on the team, so these kinds of nights will do just fine.. Forward. Houston Rockets. P.J. TUCKER

Small Forward. Houston Rockets. DANUEL HOUSE. B +. Danuel House continued his strong play as a starter against the Heat, finishing with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range. Coming into the game, House had struggled from the 3-point line, so Friday’s shooting was encouraging.  House seemed comfortable running with the starters and even had a couple of good drives in the first half where he faked the three to get past the defender. If he continues his strong play, he may just stay in the starting lineup.

Next: The Bench

Houston Rockets Chris Clemons (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Chris Clemons (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Bench

A. Eric Gordon came off the bench for the second straight game and continued his hot shooting from the field, finishing with 23 points on 7-for-12 shooting and 4-for-9 from outside. He continued to stretch the floor making shots well beyond the 3-point line. Gordon seems to fit in better with the second unit, as he took over ball-handling duties on several occasions against the Heat. E-Money is already in midseason form, which bodes well for the Rockets going into the season.. Guard. Houston Rockets. ERIC GORDON

C -. Thabo Sefolosha played 16 minutes, but there wasn’t a lot to take from this game. He finished with just two points on 1-of-3 shooting, but also had a plus-10, so even though the numbers don’t show it, Sefolosha had a positive impact on the game. Thabo’s value should start to show more when the regular season starts next week.. Guard/Forward. Houston Rockets. THABO SEFOLOSHA

C +. With the injury early in the game to Austin Rivers, Ben McLemore was given another opportunity to impress and possibly get more playing time when the season starts. McLemore finished the game with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from the 3-point line. Shooting like this is one of the main reasons he made the final roster. He seemed more comfortable in the offense getting in the right position on kick-outs from Harden and Westbrook. His grade would have been higher, but he seemed to be getting confused on defensive assignments a little too often.. Guard. Houston Rockets. BEN MCLEMORE

A. <p style=. Guard. Houston Rockets. CHRIS CLEMONS

D. After being dominated in the paint by the Spurs in their last game, it was good to see Tyson Chandler back on the court, even though he only played 10 minutes. Much like Sefolosha, his value during the regular season will not be measured by his stat-line. Although he had for rebounds and made a pair of free throws, the big man didn’t do much else other than turn the ball over three times. As he gets more into the groove of how D’Antoni’s Rockets play, he’ll have many better nights.. Center. Houston Rockets. TYSON CHANDLER

Notes: Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark only played three minutes each and Austin Rivers left the game with an injury, so they were not graded.

There were many positives on the offensive end, but again the defense struggled to get stops. Harden and Gordon continued to play at a high level and Westbrook looked more like Westbrook. Going into next week’s season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Rockets have a few issues to iron out, but the good thing is they have several days to work through them.

Next. These Houston Rockets have a chance for NBA Awards

Next up for the Rockets, a date with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in Houston for the season-opener on Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. ET.

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