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Mathews catches fire but Rockets fall 133-113 in Philly

The hot-hand of Mathews was enough to keep things tight in the first half but eventually the 76ers had their way.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

A blazing opening half effort from Garrison Mathews guided the (10-28) Houston Rockets in the first half but they eventually fizzled out, losing 133-113 to the (20-16) Philadelphia 76ers and dropping their eighth consecutive game.

Over the weekend, the Rockets watched as their inactive list piled up, heading into the matchup with Philadelphia they were missing the likes of Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr, Alperen Sengun, Armoni Brooks, and DeJon Jarreau.

In turn, they were able to welcome back Garrison Mathews whose presence was felt early as he poured in 17 points on 4-6 shooting from the field - also knocking down 3 shots from beyond the arc in his first bit of action since Dec. 23 after being played in health and safety protocols.

His downpour helped weather the storm brought by Joel Embiid who scored 13 opening quarter points and finished the half with 19 total.

Although the final score was lopsided, it was very much a game in the early going. The Rockets and 76ers exchanged baskets early before the quarter eventually came to an end with Philly leading 34-30. Houston only shot 7-23 in the first frame but they made their impact at the free-throw line where they went 13 times and made 10 of them.

In the following quarter, the Rockets were able to catch fire from three-point range which helped them jump out to a 63-62 lead at the Wells Fargo Center.

While the numbers won’t reflect it, the Rockets played with a much higher level of intensity on the defensive end which helped them initially keep the game close before they eventually ran out of gas, allowing the 76ers to have their way. A large part in the tides turning was both Embiid and Furkan Korkmaz who each pitched in double-digit scoring contributions in the third period. From that point on, the Rockets were unable to climb out of their hole.

Offensively, Houston had a tough time creating easy opportunities which can be accredited to missing key players. They were led in scoring by Mathews who finished with 23 points and 7 rebounds on the night. Right behind him were both Eric Gordon and Jae-Sean Tate who finished with 14 points apiece while Jalen Green had 12. The only starter to not finish in double-figures was Daniel Theis who had in hands full trying to stop Philly’s All-NBA big man as Emiid finished with 31 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists.

With their losing streak climbing, they’ll have two opportunities to snap it before it reaches double-digits. The first will come against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, Jan. 5 and the other will be against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, Jan. 7. With the league’s pandemic-sized issues with COVID-19, it’s hard to tell which Rockets will be available but what should be known rather quickly is if Porter Jr and Wood will be in action.