The Houston Rockets snapped a three-game losing streak tonight against a solid Portland Trail Blazers team by utilizing two areas that have been weaknesses for the squad much of the season: defense and the bench.
After coming out of the gate like turnstiles and letting the Blazers hit 7 of their first 11 shots, the Rockets woke up and started turning up the heat on defense to help turn the game around. They ended up holding Portland to just 43 percent shooting on the night, and they forced 14 total turnovers, turned that solid defensive effort into offense, and rebounded from a slow start to defeat the Blazers 111-103.
The Rockets were led by James Harden in the scoring department, as he went for 29 points and 4 assists while shooting 10-21 from the field. Houston also got a triple double from Chris Paul, who went for 11 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and 3 steals. He was just 2-12 shooting the ball, but he was able to step up in other ways, something we haven’t seen nearly enough from him this season.
But the true heroes of the night were the bench, as Nene, Gerald Green and Danuel House pumped some energy into the team and led the Rockets on a big first-half run to keep them in the game and an even bigger second-half run to give the Rockets a lead they wouldn’t relinquish heading into the fourth quarter.
Nene, in particular, was clutch on both ends, and he played 21 minutes due to Clint Capela fouling out. He went 5-7 from the field for 10 points, and he also blocked 2 shots and was a +15 on the court. He also turned back the clock with plays like this:
Nene has sparked the @HoustonRockets off the bench!#Rockets 102#RipCity 95— NBA (@NBA) December 12, 2018
4:06 left to play on @NBATV pic.twitter.com/3Iz1uzfXst
As for the other bench players, Gerald Green finished with 13 points and 5 boards, and he was a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. He also played some clutch defense, blocking 2 shots and grabbing a steal. Danuel House had 12 points and 5 boards, and his energy was a huge lift to the Rockets and helped the Houston bench outscore the Portland bench 37-13, which was the difference in the game.
The Rockets have struggled with depth all season, so it was good to see the second unit step up and lead the team to victory. It wasn’t all perfect, however, as James Ennis did leave the game with a hamstring injury and didn’t return.
The other double-digit scorers were Eric Gordon with 14, though he continued to struggle with his shot, going 0-5 from deep, and Clint Capela finished with 13 points and 7 boards, but he was also a team-worst -7 on the court tonight, so it was key that Nene was on his best.
Portland was led by Damian Lillard with 34 points, C.J. McCollum had 22, Jusuf Nurkic had 15 points, 10 boards, and 2 blocks, while Al-Farouq Aminu had 10 points and 15 rebounds.
The Rockets now move to 12-14 on the season with the big win, and they’ll return to the court on Thursday, staying at the Toyota Center to battle the Los Angeles Lakers, where they’ll look to establish some consistency and momentum with another win.
And don’t forget, AK owes a mailbag preview now!