Rockets News

Player grades from the Houston Rockets’ 117-111 loss to Milwaukee

By Lachard Binkley
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Some shined and some didn’t as the Houston Rockets opened their season against the Milwaukee Bucks in a game that featured the league’s last three MVPs.

The Houston Rockets looked to start off the 2019-20 campaign better than last year when they lost to the New Orleans Pelicans. Mike D’Antoni’s crew started the game off quickly, pushing the pace, switching every time on defense and establishing an early 17-5 advantage.

James Harden didn’t have a made field goal in the first quarter but did get to the free-throw line often. Russell Westbrook started off cold from the field but was pushing the pace on fast breaks, getting P.J. Tucker and Danuel House open shots in the corner. The Rockets led at halftime 66-50 and seemed to be in control of the game.

Unfortunately, the second half was another story as the Rockets were outscored 67-45. Houston missed open shot after open shot while Giannis Antetokounmpo got hot in the second half as the Rockets allowed their lead evaporate and end in a 117-111 loss to Milwaukee.

Here is a breakdown of how every Rocket performed in Thursday’s season-opener:

Next: The Starters

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets Starters

Houston Rockets. JAMES HARDEN. C -. James Harden knew going into the game that the Bucks would use the same defensive strategy they used in their two wins last year, where a Bucks defender would stay on Harden’s left hip and force him right or to the basket. This strategy forced Harden into 9-of-26 shooting in the second game against the Bucks last season. This time around Harden did not have a basket until late in the second quarter. He did try and force the action by getting to the free-throw line 14 times, making all of his attempts. The second half wasn’t much better as Harden could not get it going from the field, finishing 2-for-13 from the floor. Length plus the unusual defensive strategy of the Bucks forced Harden into a sub-par night. Harden did have 14 assists, which kept his grade from being worse, but also had 7 turnovers.. Guard

C. Clint Capela came into this year vowing to not have a repeat of last year’s performance where he struggled mightily against the Golden State Warriors. While the Swiss center did have 12 rebounds, he exhibited some of the same troubles that plagued him last year. Capela struggled in the paint only going 5-of-10 from the field and 3-for-6 from the free-throw line. On the positive side, he tallied three blocks, but overall it never seemed like he was in control down low.. Center. Houston Rockets. CLINT CAPELA

Russell Westbrook started off the game slowly, seemingly trying to fit into the offense. In the first half, he didn’t shoot well from the field but constantly pushed the pace and was able to get open shots for his teammates. Westbrook’s shooting picked up in the second half and he finished with 24 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists. At one point in the fourth quarter, Westbrook had every made field goal for Houston while the rest of the team was 0-of-12. While just about everyone else didn’t, Westbrook definitely held up his end of the bargain on opening night.. Guard. Houston Rockets. RUSSELL WESTBROOK. A -

B +. P.J. Tucker is consistent as it gets on the Rockets. He will always give you hard-nosed defense and hustle plays on both ends of the floor. Tucker faced off against Antetokounmpo the entire game, which can take a toll on any player. Antetokounmpo did finish with a triple-double, but Tucker made him work for every basket he made. Despite the tall defensive task, Tucker still managed to finish with 17 points, shooting 6-of-10 from the field and 5-of-8 from deep. He was one of the few players who actually shot well from the field and still gave a strong effort on the defensive end.. Forward. Houston Rockets. P.J. TUCKER

Houston Rockets. DANUEL HOUSE. C -. Danuel House started again at the small forward position, as he had the last two preseason games. House had a non-descript game. He had a few nice plays where he drove to the basket and drew in the defender before dishing to Capela and Chandler for easy dunks, but also had plays where he was out of control under the basket and making desperation passes. House finished with eight points on 2-of-6 shooting and never really seemed to get in the flow of the game.. Small Forward

Next: The Bench

Houston Rockets Tyson Chandler (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Tyson Chandler (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets Bench

Houston Rockets. ERIC GORDON. F. Eric Gordon had a very good preseason where he looked fluid and was making over 50 percent of his 3-pointers. This game was the complete opposite, as Gordon struggled from the start of the game all the way through. He forced drives into multiple defenders, forcing up bad shots. When he did have open shots, he could not buy a basket. Gordon finished 4-for-19 from the field and only 3-of-12 from downtown. Unsurprisingly, Gordon finished with a team-low of minus-22.. Guard

Guard. Houston Rockets. AUSTIN RIVERS. D. Austin Rivers played only 12 minutes in the game and didn’t have a huge impact on either side of the floor. Rivers finished with only three points but did not make a shot from the field, going 0-for-3.

Guard/Forward. Houston Rockets. THABO SEFOLOSHA. D. The difference between the two teams, in the end, was the Bucks’ role players stepped up in crunch time while the Rockets had too many role players with little to no impact on the outcome. Thabo Sefolosha was part of that problem. He did finish with 5 rebounds, but did not have a point and was another Rocket who didn’t do much else in the game.

C -. Ben McLemore was thrust into more playing time once Gerald Green went down with a season-ending injury in the preseason. At the start of this game, he was aggressive and made a couple of shots from deep. Unfortunately, the second half was a different story. McLemore was blown by on a couple of plays and his shot, like many others, was missing in action in the second half.. Guard. Houston Rockets. BEN MCLEMORE

TYSON CHANDLER. A. Coming into the season, Tyson Chandler was expected to be the primary backup for Capela. The 39-year-old was the type of center the Rockets havent had in a long time. His ability to play above the rim and not be a liability on defense was a huge addition. Chandler did not disappoint in his 11 minutes, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds. Chandler finished several tough shots in the paint a couple while being fouled. He had the type of inside game most fans want to see from Capela. Even though he only played 11 minutes, he gave the Rockets exactly what they needed during that time.. Center. Houston Rockets

The Rockets led the entire game up until the fourth quarter. In the first half, the ball was moving around the court and the 3-pointers were falling at a good rate. The defense clogged the lane and ran the Bucks 3-point shooters off the line. The second half slowly went downhill. Antetokounmpo took over in the second half, helping the Bucks erase a 16-point half time deficit before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. The shots that were falling in the first quarter were not falling for anyone except Westbrook in the fourth. Overall, the Rockets had good moments that showed they can compete with anyone, but there is still a lot of work to be done heading into game two and the rest of the year.

Next. 6 Questions for the Rockets as the season begins

Next up for the Rockets, the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. ET

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