'We're Getting There' | Rockets Still Playing Their Way Into Shape

Brandon Scott
November 07, 2019 - 8:20 am

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) - The Rockets are still playing their way into shape after Wednesday night’s 129-112 win against a short-handed Golden State Warriors team.

This wasn’t the rematch of Western Conference rivals the league had in mind when they were scheduled to play on ESPN. 

It turned out to be an opportunity for the Rockets, who have struggled early this season, to get in some conditioning against a team they outmatched overwhelmingly.

James Harden scored a game high 36 points, 20 of which came when he found his shot in the second quarter, 13 assists and three blocked shots.

Harden had the highest plus-minus of anyone on the floor at +40.

Danuel House Jr. and P.J. Tucker combined to hit 9 of 14 3-pointers. 

All starters scored in double figures.

Tucker had 22 points and 11 rebounds, including five on the offensive end.

Russell Westbrook had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists. 

Austin Rivers came off the bench and hit all four of his 3-point attempts. 

It was a solid performance by the Rockets.

But the Warriors were without their three best players — Steph Curry, Klay Thompson III and Draymond Green. 

This allowed the Rockets to score seemingly at will after the second quarter, though the Warriors did make a light run in the second half. 

What’s hurting the Rockets at this point is conditioning, according to head coach Mike D’Antoni.

“There’s a certain point where you turn it on and play good defense. If we would have done that the whole game, we could have probably been in control earlier,” D’Antoni said. “We’re working on it. We’re just not in great shape right now. We will get there.”

D’Antoni went on to take some of the blame for the lack of conditioning, since he made a conscious effort to save their legs in the preseason. He said Clint Capela — who had 19 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots — is one of the players who has to get in better shape. 

The Rockets played without Eric Gordon on Wednesday because of hamstring soreness. 

There hasn’t been a ton of practice time, with a short preseason and the trip to Japan.

Harden said it’s up to the team of veterans to play their way into shape.

That's going to help them defensively, where they have the third-worst rating in the league.

“We’re getting there game-by-game,” Harden said. “We don’t really practice a lot. So we’re a vet team. He lets us go out there and compete at a high level and kind of work our way through conditioning that way. Individually, we have to make sure we’re doing that and as a team we have to make sure we’re doing that.”

One Rockets player who never looks tired out there is Houston-native Danuel House Jr., a two-way player signed to what now seems like a team-friendly 3-year, $11 million deal. 

House put up 17 points and six rebounds against the Warriors, shooting 60 percent from the floor and going 5-for-6 from 3.

Next to Harden, House’s +33 was the highest plus-minus clip of the game.

“The season is still young,” House said. “Of course, we have to correct some things. But a game like this, after winning on the road, coming home and defending our home court is always a good feeling.”