Rockets 105, Kings 100 - A Win is a Win

Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets sidled into Sacramento to take on the Kings in their season opener, clear favorites despite being without Chris Paul and having played a grueling game against the Golden State Warriors the previous evening. In a game that had "trap game" written all over it, the Rockets were indeed tested by a young Kings team ready to prove a point. In the end, the Rockets hunkered down and pushed through to grab their second win of the season and keep their record perfect so far.

While the score was close during most of the game, it wasn't what one might call "thrilling" or "exciting." The most notable feature of this game from a Houston perspective was the Rockets inability to hit any threes for most of the match. Harden ended with 4 made threes, but he missed 10 of them, and his second make wasn't until the last half of the last quarter. The Rockets shot a gruesome 26.7% from deep, clanging 33 of their 45 attempts. Most likely their slugfest in Golden State the previous night, their lack of a second credible point guard and the fact that threes tend to be variant all account for some of this malaise. Whatever the reason, it turned an easy blowout into a tough out, and the Rockets had to pull out a few stops to see it through.

The biggest one was a fantastic game from Clint Capela, who clearly is better-used against true canters than against the litany of forwards Golden State employs in that role. He absolutely ate Sacramento's lunch, shooting 10-12 for 22 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. He's coming along defensively and he's trying new things on offense. It's going to be iffy on some nights, but outings like this will likely become more and more common. He's diving into his role with full enthusiasm and he's going to be very well-fed for his efforts.

Harden, of course, was the best player on the floor (8-21 shooting, 27 points, 9 assists) but Eric Gordon was perhaps more notable. Eric continued his reign of terror, but this time with some three point makes to go with it. He shot 7-23, including 4-13 from deep, accounting for 25 of Houston's points. He did a bit of everything, especially when Harden sat. Demetrius Jackson may have been the second point guard for the Rockets but Eric Gordon was by far the more reliable creator.

Jackson is required to stand guard over the now chained-up Dark Game Ball to make up for his awful 3 rebound 2 assist 0 point outing. Godspeed, Mr. Jackson.

Nene Hilario, PJ Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute comprised the rest of Houston's bench, and they all looked ready to keep the train rolling. Nene was fresh after having played 0 games so far this season and was a lot more active than his fairly empty box score would imply. He's going to remain a canny veteran presence and he will take advantage of a lot of young, inexperienced players this season. PJ and Luc, the Masters of Locking, continued to provide energy off the bench even though they only ended with 10 points between them. They contributed, as ever, on defense, which was really the way Houston won this brickfest of a game.

The less we say about Trevor Ariza the better. Ryan Anderson had some clutch rebounds but only shot 2-7 from deep.

The game turned on a couple of moments. One was Buddy Hield scoring ten points in a row to bring the Kings back from a double-digit deficit. The other was a very strange moment with about twenty seconds left in the game when a seeming out of bounds call going for the Kings was reviewed into a foul call against them. Allegedly one of the refs had called a foul on George Hill, and the review was them confirming such a call. The original call certainly looked like an out of bounds call, however, and this weird (and probably technically correct) call was important for helping the Rockets clinch this mere 5-point win and will likely be the only lasting discussion regarding an otherwise forgettable game.

Not every game needs to be epic or magnificent, and not every win needs to be convincing. In Sacramento, the Rockets went from plan A to plan C fairly quickly and they managed to win nonetheless. It was absolutely not their finest hour, but it was an hour in which they won. As the Rockets head home to play their first home game of the season on Saturday, they can say they had a better opening back-to-back than expected. It's easy to give up the emotional win with a loss to a team you should beat, and the Rockets did enough to survive a shooting night which could have easily been lethal. It doesn't have to be pretty or overpowering. It just has to be a win.

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