Rockets 115, Bucks 111 - Still a Win

This is what passes for a bad game from the Houston Rockets. On the second night of a back to back, missing Clint Capela and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, dragging through the game and missing an alarming number of threes, the Rockets slunk their way into an outing with the distinctive profile of a loss. The Milwaukee Bucks, for their part, did good work, despite being on the road, on a back to back themselves, and missing players of their own. The Bucks held on for dear life, correctly smelling blood in the water. The only problem with this was that this Rockets team can survive all of that. They can survive coming down off of a statement win. To this date, as long as they have Chris Paul, they have survived everything. The Rockets have won thirteen games in a row.

This game was unwatchable for the vast majority of the game. Both teams looked tired and sloppy, play was slow and grueling, and nobody could put together enough competent plays in a row to take a commanding lead. After hitting only 4 of 20 three-point attempts in the first half, the Rockets were tied at halftime. This had all the hallmarks of a game that's just easier to move past than win out.

Chris Paul, however, was not interested in any such outcome. He came alive in the second half, hitting all his 3 three pointers in that half and ending the night with 25 points. His greatest performance came in the fourth quarter, as the Rockets struggled to hold onto a double digit lead. After the Bucks shaved the lead yet again, Chris Paul took over in the final minutes, burying open mid-range jumpers and relieving a hobbled James Harden. The Bucks hit some desperation three-pointers during the intentional free throw segment of the game, but were unable to overcome the deficit Paul had engineered. He showed, yet again, his value to the Rockets. Even if a team can wear down or gameplan Harden, they then have to contend with another elite playmaker who is hell-bent on torching them. The Bucks were not up to the task.

Harden, for his part, decided to fight through pain to play tonight. After bumping his knee the previous evening and being informed that there was no structural damage to exacerbate, Harden chose to grit through the pain. He ended the night with 31 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, hardly a banner night for him, especially considering he shot 8 for 21. It was, however, enough to put the Bucks away and to prevent yet another loss.

With a peppering of highlights from Eric Gordon and Tarik Black late in the game, the Rockets had enough to win, despite this clearly being a loss. They walked straight into the trap game, relaxing after an emotional victory, and still dragged their way out of this sloppy dust-up. This is not like any Rockets team we've seen in a very long time. This Rockets team is dominant. They are so dominant, in fact, that with Chris Paul in the lineup, this is what happens when they turn in a loss-worthy game. They'll still probably get the win anyway.

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