Red Nation Roundup: Newfound Resilience

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Red Nation, this year's Rockets team is different than last year's Rockets team; they never give up. Throughout this past week you saw the Rockets fight through some major opponent runs while showcasing a significantly improved collective effort on both ends of the floor. The Rockets have gone through the same type of rough patches as last year, but how they respond to these rough patches is the major difference. They never settle for struggling, a theme that was oh-so common in their 2015-16 campaign. No matter what, James Harden and the Houston Rockets are now a constant handful. Just ask Gregg Popovich and Scott Brooks!

Monday night's match-up against the Washington Wizards was surely not boring. John Wall gave the Rockets fits (as usual), the defense was sporadic, and there was sloppiness everywhere. James Harden had a very rough start to the game, committing 6 turnovers in just the first quarter. But the more the game played out, the more it looked like they were picking it up. Clint Capela (NOT Nene) led the defense through an amazing stretch in the 2nd quarter, sparking what came to be a 16-0 run and gave the Rockets a sizable nine point lead to end the half.

You'd think the Rockets would pull away completely from this inconsistent Wizards team, but that wasn't the case. The offense went on its usual cold-spell to start the second half, allowing Washington to ultimately take the lead. But short after, James Harden and Ryan Anderson caught fire. The Rockets built up a lead that would never be given back, even with that ridiculous sequence of turnovers in the final minute that gave several fans flashbacks of Tracy McGrady's 13 points in 33 seconds comeback win versus San Antonio, but from the perspective of Spurs fans. It was a signature roller coaster game (25 lead changes) with the Rockets coming out on top, 114-106.

Speaking of the Spurs, the Rockets traveled to the AT&T Center for the front end of their 2 game series against San Antonio. The Rockets pretty much took this one by the horns to start off. James Harden pick and rolls were the story of the first quarter despite the Rockets' inability to stop Kawhi Leonard (10 first quarter points). Surprisingly, the bench did not let up as Sam Dekker went on a little 7 point run of his own. The Spurs' second-unit responded with a 8-0 run, but that lead was soon taken back with a buzzer beating three to end the half by none other than Sam Dekker, giving him 10 points at the half.

The third quarter was an ugly sight as there were imaginary lids on both baskets. The fourth quarter, however, was a different story as James Harden and Kawhi Leonard took over for their respective teams in a well-played back and forth battle. The last play consisted of a Kawhi Leonard missed last second layup attempt followed by a LaMarcus Aldridge missed last millisecond tip-in attempt that would have sent the game into overtime.

How's that for nerve-wrecking?

The Rockets happily came out on top, 101-99. It's worth noting that in the midst of all this, James Harden ended the game with a triple double. He's great, isn't he?

On Saturday, the Rockets finally returned home after going 3-2 on their long, exhausting 5-game road trip. And with that, the Spurs were granted an immediate shot at revenge stemming from their Wednesday night heartbreaking loss. The NBA schedule makers were inadvertently cruel with this one. Considering the fact that the Rockets were coming off of three days of rest, you'd expect them to attack this Spurs team (who were on the back end of a back to back) with fresh legs and a clear mind.

That was not the case here.

The Spurs were the ones looking fresh as they constantly exploited Houston's non-existent rim protection. 15+ point leads were built and things looked bad. Then after a first half cold streak, Eric Gordon caught fire. The man was simply unconscious from downtown, splashing in 7 threes to go along with 27 points. After looking dead, he instilled new life in the Rockets as they cut the lead to just 4 in the final minutes of the game. Unfortunately, the Spurs weren't having it. They shut the amazing comeback campaign all the way down, as they went on to win it, 106-100.

Overall, the Rockets displayed their newfound resilience as they continued to battle until the final buzzer. That in itself is another thing to get excited about with this locked and loaded Rockets team.

Player of the Week: James Harden

How do you not give the Player of the Week title to James Harden?

The man had back-to-back triple doubles against the San Antonio Spurs, a feat that only Hall of Famer Magic Johnson has under his belt. And on the one game he didn't have a triple double, he had 32 points and 15 assists. He has 5 games with 15+ assists this year and there has only been 9 such games league-wide. James has been simply unstoppable. Although he displayed some sloppiness to start off games, he consistently picked up the pieces and got it going. He once again established his comforting reliability, and that alone earned him his second Red Nation Hoops' Player of the Week title.

Now, as we await tonight's matchup against Joel Embiid (a.k.a. The Process, a.k.a. Hakeem Olajuwon Jr.) and the 76ers, here are some great articles that'll expand key thoughts and points from this week.

Houston Rockets line-up change results in success | Space City Scoop

Film study at its finest. Fansided's Space City Scoop offers quality film analysis of the Rockets game in Washington. Lineup changes, defense, and role players were the story of the study.

Rockets' defensive stand, James Harden beat the Spurs |ESPN

James Harden and the Houston Rockets put up a fine showing against the San Antonio Spurs on their home turf, and Calvin Watkins credits their defense for the win. It was a well-fought battle by both teams, and this article summarizes the Rockets' performance.

Three-pointers: Takeaways from Rockets' loss to San Antonio | Houston Chronicle

Jonathan Feigen's "Three-pointers" segment is always fun to read. This one highlights key topics of Saturday night's loss to the Spurs, including James Harden's historic start, 3 pointers, and the Spurs' unstoppable shooting.

Rockets report: Guard Pat Beverley has positive take on his return | Houston Chronicle

Bev! The Rockets' point guard is set to make a return this week, which can open up all sorts of opportunities for the Rockets moving forward. He's such a big piece to the puzzle, and Rockets fans are excited for his return.

How far can James Harden's Rockets go? | ESPN

Zach Lowe is one of the finest writers around, so anything he writes is worth reading. In this article, he provides in-depth analysis that explain how far he thinks the Rockets can go. You're going to want to check this out.

Why James Harden says he's the NBA's best player | Yahoo Sports

Last week, James Harden was asked if he thinks he is the NBA's best player. As he's done before, he said yes. This article explains why.

Diagnosing Houston Rockets' Remaining Roster Flaws | Bleacher Report

All good comes with some bad. Bleacher Report is infamous amongst Rockets fans for constantly criticizing James Harden and the Rockets, but this article is actually eye-opening in the sense that it provides logical reasoning behind the claims. They point out many flaws, and you'd hope the Rockets follow up with some improvements in these areas.

Stay tuned for next week’s edition of the Red Nation Hoops Roundup!

 

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