Tagged in: rockets

Rockets rally past Spurs 109-105 in 1st game without Harden

Houston’s first game without James Harden went better than anyone could have expected.

Christian Wood had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and the Rockets rallied to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 109-105 on Thursday night in their first game since trading away the franchise cornerstone.

“It was fun. It was really cool stuff,” Houston’s first-year coach Stephen Silas said.

Sterling Brown, who took Harden’s spot in the starting lineup, had 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes. Jae’Sean Tate added 13 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.

San Antonio forward Keldon Johnson had a career-high 29 points and Lonnie Walker IV added 16 points while tying a career-high with four 3-pointers. Houston sent Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team blockbuster trade on Wednesday. 

Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs, who the Rockets acquired along with numerous draft picks and draft swaps for Harden, are not with the team yet.

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It was Houston’s first match without Harden since 2012, when Oklahoma City traded its young guard to the Rockets primarily due to salary cap constraints.

Harden remained publicly quiet through months of rumors about his unhappiness with the Rockets, but he broke that silence following a second blowout loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. He bluntly said the Rockets were “just not good enough” and that he did not believe the situation could be fixed.

Houston showed otherwise, at least in their first chance to do so.

“We had a team meeting after that last game against the Lakers and we drew the line there,” Tate said. “Everybody has so much to prove.”

The Rockets were also without John Wall and Eric Gordon due to injuries. The upheaval led to more minutes for the remaining roster, and they took advantage of it.

“Spirit is something I believe a lot in and talk a lot about,” Silas said. “We had spirit tonight.”

Seven players scored at least nine points, with Mason Jones scoring a career-high nine points.

The Rockets staged a 15-2 run to lead 105-101 with 1:46 left.

“It’s got nothing to do with defense (or) offense,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the late swoon. “It has to do with between the ears and being ready to play. And we had four or five guys who were out to lunch.”

Brown had a wild, overhead shot land on the top of the backboard for an out-of-bounds call with 9.5 seconds remaining. San Antonio veteran DeMar DeRozan missed a 15-footer with 0.4 seconds left, and the Spurs fouled P.J. Tucker, who made two free throws to seal it.

DeRozan had 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his return from a two-game absence due to personal reasons.

The teams meet again Saturday at the AT&T Center in the finale of a two-game set in San Antonio.

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Harden returns to Rockets, scores 12 in preseason debut

James Harden was back in a Houston uniform.

It’s still uncertain how many more times that’ll happen.

The three-time defending NBA scoring champion made his preseason debut with the Rockets on Tuesday night, after practicing only one time with his team following a late arrival to training camp amid incessant trade speculation. Harden scored 12 points in 21 minutes and the Rockets beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-98.

Harden also had four assists, three rebounds and two steals. He checked out for the final time with 5:02 left in the third quarter, having missed his final four shots.

John Wall and Ben McLemore each had 15 points for the Rockets, who got 11 points apiece from Eric Gordon and Jae’Sean Tate and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins. Lonnie Walker IV scored 17 for the Spurs, who got 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds from Dejounte Murray. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 12, while Rudy Gay and Devin Vassell each added 11 for San Antonio.

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Harden seemed anything but disinterested to start his first live game action of the season.

He stood immediately to the right of new Rockets coach Stephen Silas in the pregame huddle, his eyes staring intently at whatever Silas was sketching up before taking the floor.

His first shot was a made straightaway 3-pointer, his second attempt led to him getting fouled from beyond the arc and making three free throws.

So, his shooting touch was there, at least at the outset — as was his touch on passes. He connected with Danuel House on a three-quarter-court chest pass to set up a dunk late in the opening quarter, timing clearly not much of an issue after a couple months off.

Harden went 3 for 10 from the field, including 2 for 6 from 3-point range. He also went 4 for 5 at the free-throw line.

The Rockets lost guard Chris Clemons with 9:58 left, after he was taken off the court in a wheelchair. Clemons made a 3-pointer for an 87-74 Houston lead, and after retreating to the defensive end for the ensuing possession, appeared to take a bad step and immediately started reaching for his right Achilles area.

There was no immediate diagnosis of Clemons’ injury. There are four matches Wednesday, followed by seven on Thursday, eight on Friday and then three in the preseason finales Saturday. The regular season starts on Dec. 22.

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Ty Lue candidacy for Rockets job gains momentum after monday meeting

Clippers assistant coach Ty Lue’s candidacy for the Rockets’ head-coaching job has gathered significant momentum after a meeting with Houston’s ownership and management Monday, sources told ESPN.

The Rockets are competing with the Clippers for Lue and could try to extend an offer before Los Angeles has completed its search process, but that isn’t likely to happen before Houston meets with former coach Jeff Van Gundy this week, sources said.

Both Lue and Van Gundy are prominent parts of the Rockets’ and Clippers’ coaching searches — and Lue has been the Clippers’ front-runner since Doc Rivers was dismissed on Sept. 28, sources said.

Lue’s candidacy has the support of prominent players on both teams, sources said. Houston had originally wanted to hire Rivers to substitute Mike D’Antoni, sources said, but his talks with the 76ers moved quickly to a resolution.

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Van Gundy, currently an analyst for ESPN, has been a favorite of Rockets ownership and management, and he is known to prefer the idea of coaching in his adopted home city to avoid uprooting his family.

Van Gundy, 58, has been active as a coach with USA Basketball in recent years, but he hasn’t coached in the NBA since the Rockets fired him in 2007.

Van Gundy was 430-318 in the regular season and 44-44 in the postseason in parts of 11 seasons with Rockets and Knicks.

Lue coached the Cavaliers to the only championship in franchise history in 2016 and reached the NBA Finals in three consecutive years. He was fired by Cleveland after an 0-6 start in the 2018-19 campaign. Lue is 128-83 overall and 41-20 in the playoffs.

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Lakers run past Rockets for 3-1 West semifinals lead

Anthony Davis was the biggest player on the floor, and the Houston Rockets had no answers.

Davis had 29 points and 12 rebounds, LeBron James concluded one assist shy of a triple-double and the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Rockets 110-100 on Thursday night to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

James had 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who outrebounded the Rockets 52-26. Alex Caruso scored 16 points and Rajon Rondo had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers, who held on after frittering away most of a big second-half lead.

“Turnovers,” Davis stated. “We had too many turnovers.”

That was one of the few complaints the Lakers could make after Game 4. Russell Westbrook had 25 points and James Harden had 21 for the Rockets, who got 19 from Eric Gordon and 14 from Austin Rivers.

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The Lakers were up by 23 midway through the fourth, well on their way to a blowout victory.

That’s when Houston’s offense woke up.

Westbrook made a corner 3 with 3:01 left, Harden got a steal and a pair of free throws on the next possession, and the Rockets put together a 18-2 run to get within 103-96. The Lakers turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions during that stretch, unable to get anything going.

Smartly, though, on the biggest possession of the night as the clock ticked inside the two-minute mark, they went to Davis. Gordon, who stands about half-a-foot shorter than Davis, had no opportunity as the Laker All-Star scored in the lane to push the lead back out to nine and buy the Lakers a bit of breathing room.

Caruso’s 3-pointer off a pass from James with 34.6 seconds left made it 108-100, and the Lakers escaped.

The Lakers won Game 3 by holding Houston to 38 points in the second half — and set themselves up to win Game 4 by clamping down again, this time in the first half. It was 57-41 Lakers at the break, meaning Houston had scored 79 points in its last 48 minutes of basketball.

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Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni: Russell Westbrook’s quad healing, but still no timetable for return

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni still uncertain of when or if All-Star guard Russell Westbrook will be available during the team’s first-round series versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.

D’Antoni said before Tuesday’s 123-108 Game 1 victory that Westbrook’s strained right quadriceps is healing, but the team does not have a specific timetable for his return.
“Can’t rule anything out, but don’t rule anything in,” D’Antoni said.

“He’s getting a lot better,” D’Antoni said. “The good news: it’s healing. We’ll just have to wait and see. I really don’t know at this point. Can’t rule anything out, but don’t rule anything in.” Westbrook was programmed to undergo an MRI on Tuesday, and the results were not immediately revealed.

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Westbrook, who was a late arrival to the NBA’s Walt Disney World Resort campus because he tested positive for COVID-19, felt soreness in his right quadriceps after the Rockets’ loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Aug. 4.

He sat out the next two games because of a right quad contusion, according to the team.

Russ’s absence will be a tough one for the Rockets to cope with. His ability to use dribble penetration and generate open 3-pointers for others on the team is unparalleled across the NBA. The Rockets rely on heavy doses of 3-point shooting.

Westbrook played 28 minutes in Houston’s Aug. 11 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, recording 20 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. The Rockets revealed the next day that an MRI had revealed that Westbrook had a strained muscle in his quad.

A nine-time All-Star acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Thunder last summer, Westbrook has averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game in his first season with the Rockets.

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