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New-look Rockets open post-Harden era with 109-105 victory over Spurs

No Harden, no problem.

Houston Rockets v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

So how about them apples? The Houston Rockets opened up the post-James Harden era also playing without John Wall, Eric Gordon, and Danuel House, but they played hard, perhaps harder than they’ve played all year, and used some clutch fourth-quarter play from Christian Wood and Sterling Brown to edge past the San Antonio Spurs 109-105.

The Rockets were down five points with three minutes left in what was a very good and fun-to-watch game, but both Wood and Brown hit big shots, while P.J. Tucker and Jae’sean Tate made hustle plays to lead this rag-tag bunch to a somewhat surprising victory.

Wood led the way with a huge game, going for 27 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots on 10-18 from the field and 5-7 from deep, while Brown pitched in 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals on 9-17 shooting and 3-7 from three.

Tate was equally impressive, racking up his first career double-double, going for 13 points, 5 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 blocks, and he was all over the court in what could be his coming out party with all of the roster changes. The guy is all hustle and has a future in this league and hopefully with this team.

Houston also got 10 points and 6 boards from Tucker to round out the double-digit scorers, but the trio of DeMarcus Cousins, David Nwaba, and Mason Jones put up 9 points apiece in Stephen Silas’ spread-the-ball-around system.

The Rockets were surprisingly good on defense, holding the Spurs to 45 percent from the field and just 9-31 from beyond the arc. They also scored 22 points off of 10 San Antonio turnovers, and pushed the ball down the floor with every opportunity.

Transition defense needs work, and I’m not sure Brown and Wood can do this every night as far as being closers (well, maybe Wood can), but when Wall, Gordon, and House get back, this group might be able to surprise some teams.

The Spurs were led by Keldon Johnson, who looked for a time like he would become the newest Rocket-killer, as he finished with 29 points on 12-16 shooting, headlining a slew of guys in double figures for San Antonio.

Lonnie Walker finished with 16 points, DeMar DeRozan had 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists, Devin Vassell finished with 12 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 11, while Dejounte Murray finished with 10.

The Rockets move to 4-6 on the year with their first road win of the season, and it was a nice glimmer of hope in an otherwise uncertain time for Houston. They’ll return on Saturday to play these same Spurs once again in San Antonio, and it should once again be exciting viewing.