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Mission Control: Houston Rockets Recap Dec.23-29

The Houston Rockets play last week was the basketball definition of an average week. Two wins and two losses. The two wins showed what the Rockets could do when they are clicking on all cylinders. The losses were a mixed bag far as what can be learned from them. A loss on Christmas day to the Warriors was a huge disappointment. The loss on Sunday vs the Pelicans was without James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Clint Capela but gave the younger players on the team a chance to shine.

Every week I will bring you into Mission Control for the Houston Rockets. I recap the most recent games for your Rockets.

Houston Rockets defeat the Sacramento Kings 113-104

The Houston Rockets rematch with the Kings on December 23rd was the first game vs the Kings since the game-winner at the buzzer by Nemanja Bjelica. The Rockets came into this game on a three-game winning streak. The Rockets jumped out to a big lead early. Harden and Westbrook paced the squad early as the Rockets took a 37-21 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Kings would cut the lead to nine with a late run in the second quarter.

The third quarter started like the first where the Rockets jumped on the Kings early. Balance scoring and lockdown defense help the Rockets build the lead to 25 at 86-61. Danuel House hit a couple of 3-pointers and Capela controlled the paint. The Rockets took a 97-79 lead into the fourth quarter.

Fourth-quarter the script was flipped as De’Aaron Fox and the Kings cut into the Rockets lead. Fox made a living in the paint as he was able to penetrate the Rocket’s defense on several possessions. The game was close as six points with 4;30 seconds left but Westbrook nailed a shot from downtown and the Rockets would eventually pull away 113-104 for there fourth straight victory.

Leading scorers

James Harden 34 points

De’Aaron Fox 31 points

Rockets lose a tough one on Christmas day to the Warriors

There are some losses that sting more than others and the loss vs the Warriors fits that for sure. The Warriors came into this game with one of the league’s worst records at 7-24. Records go out the window when these teams meet rather there at full strength or not. The Rockets troubled started early as they missed several layups at the rim. The Warriors went to the double team early on Harden which led to open shots for his teammates. Unfortunately for the Rockets not many of the shots went down. The Rockets trailed for most of the third quarter but close the gap to 68-64 at the half.

The lead would seesaw for most of the third quarter as both teams traded runs. The Rocket offense in the third like most of the game was not the biggest issue. The biggest issue was the fact the Rockets could not get a stop. The Warriors were able to get what they wanted for most of the game taking a 92-87 lead into the fourth quarter. The final period is when the Warriors took control. The Rockets did hold a one-point lead with 8:00 minutes left in the game when Harden nailed a 3-pointer but from that point on the Warriors outscored the Rockets 20-7. Damion Lee and Draymond Green hit big shots down the stretch and the Warriors went on to win 116-104.

The main takeaway from this game was the Rocket (outside of Harden) lack of ability to make open shots. Westbrook shot 11-32 from the field and the other Rockets followed suit in this disappointing Christmas day loss.

Leading scorers

Russell Westbrook 30 points

Damion Lee 22 points

Rockets defeat the Nets 108-98 and have the best defensive game in weeks

This game was defined by runs from both teams, Harden doing Harden things, and the Rockets defense. The first two no big deal the last one is a big deal considering the Rockets have been average at best all year on defense. The Rockets jumped out to a 22 point lead at the end of the first quarter. Harden outscored the Nets by himself in the first quarter 20-17. The Nets made a run in the second quarter cutting the lead down to nine at the half.

The second half both teams played to a standstill as the Nets double-teamed Harden in the second half but the Rockets defense held the Nets to 44 points after halftime. Harden would go on to score 44 points as the Rockets won their fifth game out six.

Leading scorers

James Harden 44 points

Spencer Dinwiddie 17 points

Rockets without three starters lose to the Pelicans

This is the type of loss where you feel bad that you lost the game but it was enough positives that the sting is a lot less. The Rockets were without Harden(sprained toe), Westbrook (rest) and Capela. This led to eight players playing 20 minutes or more. Eric Gordon returned after missing most of the season with a knee injury. He played 25 minutes and looked like Gordon from the last two years. Chris Clemons showed why he deserved his new contract scoring 16 points off the bench. Isaiah Hartenstein proved he should be the backup center going forward in his best game of the year finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds.

In the end, it was too much E’Twaun Moore Moore and Lonzo Ball as the Pelicans pulled away in the fourth outscoring the Rockets 42-19 and winning going away 127-112

Leading scorer

Danuel House 22 points

Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball 25 points

Upcoming week

Only two games this week though both are huge games ( as huge as a games before the Allstar break can be) with the Denver Nuggets on New Year’s Eve. Then the Rockets host the Philadelphia 76ers on January 3rd.

The Rockets sit at 22-11 for the season.

Check back next week as I bring you another week in Mission Control for the Houston Rockets.

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