Rockets 148, Lakers 142 - It's Over

By Forrest Walker on December 31, 2017

Ready to Contribute Eventually

After so long, the nightmare is finally over. The Houston Rockets finally broke their five-game losing streak, crowning the Los Angeles Lakers as the holders of the longest current losing streak with six games. Despite a litany of setbacks, despite bad play, injuries, misses and last-second shocks, the Rockets survived a double-overtime game and went on to get win number 26. As we leave 2017 and whatever novella of miseries may have befallen each of us, so do the Rockets leave their own personal hell and exorcise the losing skid that the Lakers started by defeating the Lakers. May all our final moments of the year include a small victory at the last, as well.

The good news about James Harden is that he had a game-high 40 points in as many minutes and shot 50% from the field. He piled up 11 assists to go with it, and was one of the few bright spots for the Rockets during an ugly, sloppy game. Tonight features bad James Harden news, as well. Harden left the game early with a strained left hamstring. The Rockets managed to hold on for a win, but still take steps back, somehow. The hope has to be that he can recover quickly, as he's integral to the team.

Chris Paul is also integral to the team, and gave us some looks at his version of the Rockets. He ran the show during the crucial crunch-time at the end of regulation and all off both overtimes, piling up 10 assists and 28 points. He cooked the Lakers one on one, when everyone was tired and nothing was working. Hopefully Chris Paul is ready to lead some more, because it looks like he's going to have to.

Apart from their performance, there was little to like for the Rockets. They got the win, but they did it by surrendering 82 points in the paint to the Lakers and shooting only 34% from behind the three point arc. 18-52 may not sound bad, but they were under 30% until the waning moments of the game. If they had been able to guard the rim or hit threes, they wouldn't have played a single moment of overtime. Instead, they played 10.

Julius Randle was their star, with 29 points on 68% shooting and an astonishing 15 rebounds and 6 assists. It was his sixth foul that finally stopped Randle, not anything the Rockets did. The Rockets had an unlikely hero, too, with PJ Tucker coming alive in the waning seconds of the second overtime to gather an offensive rebound and put it back, then disrupt the Lakers' inbound to seal the game for Houston. He only scored two points all night, but they were perhaps the most important two points.

The Rockets are now tired, hurt, and grimy. The only difference at the very end of 2017 is that they also have one more win next to their name. It's been a tough and miserable slog, but they will enter 2018 with some hope for the future, even as they face down an opponent above them in the standings who seems unbeatable. Perhaps they'll have a chance to improve upon 2017 in the coming months. There's nothing more we could ask for in 2018.

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