Rockets’ juggernaut continues to roll over top NBA teams

Houston Rockets’ James Harden, left, and Chris Paul celebrate after Paul made a three-pointer during the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat at Toyota Center. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 23 January 2018
0

Rockets’ juggernaut continues to roll over top NBA teams

LOS ANGELES: The Houston Rockets aren’t the type of team to rest on their laurels.
Just two days after beating the reigning league champion Golden State Warriors, Houston quickly refocused on Monday night with a 99-90 victory over the Miami Heat in a battle of first-place NBA teams.
James Harden scored a team-high 28 points while Chris Paul had 16, six rebounds and six assists for the Rockets, who are blasting through one of the toughest stretches of their season.
“We got to win games like that,” Harden said. “I think they only had seven threes all night.
“We buckled down and took away the paint. Made them make tough shots over us.”
Eric Gordon came off the bench to score 16 points and Clint Capela delivered 14 for the Rockets, who won for the first time when scoring under 100 points in a game.
Hassan Whiteside led the Southeast Division-leading Heat with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Josh Richardson finished with 12 in the loss in front of a crowd of 18,050 at the Toyota Center arena.
The Rockets, who are first in the Southwest Division, improved to 33-12 on the season by overcoming a sizeable early deficit against the Heat.
Their last three wins have all come over first-place teams, Golden State, Miami and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Houston welcomed both Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green back to their rotation after they served suspensions for trying to get into the Los Angeles Clippers’ locker room following a physical game at Staples Center arena.
Monday’s contest marked the first time in a while that the Rockets were fully healthy and the hope now is they can continue to find the right chemistry with all their injured and suspended players back in the lineup.
“We finally got all our guys healthy,” Harden said. “We got guys that can play a lot of minutes with a lot of energy.”
The short-handed Heat have also ramped up the tenacity in their play of late as they were coming off a 106-105 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Houston’s Harden nailed a three-pointer with about three minutes left in the fourth to bust open a close game.
The Rockets then went on a 7-2 run to make it 95-90 with 38 seconds remaining.
The Heat led by double digits at halftime and kept it close down the stretch.


FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: A classic clash, sublime New Orleans Saints and a bad break for Alex Smith

Updated 44 min 21 sec ago
0

FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: A classic clash, sublime New Orleans Saints and a bad break for Alex Smith

  • Saints once again show why they are serious Super Bowl contenders.
  • Unlucky Alex Smith suffers a horror injury.

LONDON: This is the time of year that can either make or break a team’s regular season. Are they headed for the playoffs or are they set to be on holiday in January? Here is what we learned after week 11 of the NFL.

RAMS AND CHIEFS SERVE UP A CLASSIC

Where to start analyzing Monday night’s epic in Los Angeles? It was certainly one of the best games of gridiron I have ever seen. From the first kick-off to the final seconds, both sides threw caution to the wind, with the Rams winning by three points in a 54-51 nail-biter — on the way to producing a classic clash that will still be talked about for years to come. 
American Football is often criticized for being too “stop-start,” but watching these two Super Bowl favorites go hammer and tongs for four quarters would have been enough to convert any detractor.
To put into context just how explosive both teams were, it was the first time two teams have scored more than 50 points in a match in the history of the NFL.
While many are praising the defensive qualities of a playoffs-bound Chicago, we are just glad the defensive units did not bother showing up for this one and we had the privilege of watching two blistering offenses in full flow. If either of these teams goes on to win the Super Bowl, they can pinpoint this match as one of the key moments of their season.

It was raining touchdowns in the all-time classic between the Chiefs and the Rams.



SAINTS CHANNELLING THE SPIRIT OF 2009

When the league fixtures were announced in the summer, the Saints-Eagles match-up was singled out as a test of the two team’s NFC championship credentials. Unlike the Rams and Chiefs extravaganza, though, this ended up being a damp squib of a game. 
Philadelphia just did not turn up, while the Saints — the hottest team in the league at the moment — were imperiously led by Drew Brees to a blowout 48-7 win, which now sits in the record books as worst defeat in the Eagles’ history. 
Brees threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns, meaning that the 9-1 Saints have now scored 40-plus points in three matches in a row and have become the first team in the Super Bowl era to post at least 40 points six times in the first 10 games of the season. It will take a very good team to stop this Saints side from claiming glory in Atlanta next February.

Drew Brees was once again in imperious form for the ever-improving and dangerous Saints. 



PURE ATHLETICISM TRUMPS TACTICAL PLAY-CALLS

Gridiron is an extremely technical and tactical sport, with coaches and players spending weeks perfecting certain plays. But sometimes a moment of sheer athletic prowess wins out and blows all the spreadsheets and playbook analysis out the window. Week 11 saw its fair share of brilliant moments — from Kenny Golladay’s sublime touchdown catch for the Lions against Carolina, to Juju Smith-Schuster’s unbelievable grab for the Steelers on a late, game-winning drive, not forgetting Odell Beckham’s strength to hold on in the end-zone for a Giants score against Tampa Bay. And those moments are exactly why millions of people tune in to the NFL every week.

Kenny Golladay with his moment of magic during Detriot's 20-19 win over Carolina. 



THOUGHTS WITH ALEX SMITH

Much progress has been made in preventing concussion and serious head injuries in the NFL in recent years. Rule changes and safety measures have been implemented, and we are beginning to see a reduction in the number of head and neck traumas. But in sport, horror injuries can happen — and there is little the league can do to prevent the kind of leg breaks Washington’s Alex Smith suffered during their game against the Texans. Everyone watching immediately knew the severity of the break, and it is clear Smith faces a lengthy recovery. Such injuries can end careers. Here’s hoping he makes it back.

Alex Smith being stretchered off after his horror injury suffered against the Texans.