(Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle)

Written by Michael Knight (@theknight97)

This Houston Rockets team is certainly different from years past.

Rookie head coach Stephen Silas has the squad playing a completely different style with more ball movement, cuts, and even some mid-range jumpers thrown in there than the Mike D’Antoni-led teams. It resulted in the first win of the season last night for the Rockets, the first game with the whole team pretty much completely available due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

With everyone there, the Rockets were able to put out a balanced attack that didn’t require the James Harden domination that Houston has needed for so many seasons. 

The Beard settled into a new role of closing out halves. He let John Wall (22 points, 9 assists) and up-and-coming star Christian Wood (21 points, 12 rebounds) take some of the scoring load and showed up whenever he needed to do just that. Partway through the second quarter, Harden had just one point. He finished the quarter strong and had 10 points at the half. In the fourth quarter, he put up 16 points, including some clutch buckets that helped the Rockets come back and eventually win. 

Overall, he still had a great game statistically (33 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists) and only was average efficiency-wise, but was able to save some energy for times that mattered. Having multiple teammates that are able to be trusted is huge and something that has been rarely seen on Rockets teams. This squad could legitimately have two players not named Harden average over or close to 20 points per game this season. They also have Eric Gordon, who can light it up off the bench in a hurry on lots of nights. Last night, he contributed an efficient 17 points that helped keep Houston in the game in the second half. 

James Harden had his obvious issues with the Rockets before the season began but he hasn’t let it affect his game so far. He seems fully engaged and is locked in, even when he’s on the bench.

After the game, he celebrated the nice win with Jae’Shaun Tate. Before the season, the media freaked out about Harden throwing a ball at Tate in a passionate practice. As you can see below, these two really seem to despise each other!

Obviously, we can’t really know what this team will be. There are obvious defensive issues that must be sorted out and the team has hardly played or practiced all together. But the talent from top to bottom is hard to ignore. The bench of the Rockets scored 35 points last night, seven more than their 2019-20 average. When Ben McLemore comes back, there will be 11 guys that are worthy of playing time. That’s incredible.

We’ll see if Harden remains engaged and what Silas can do with this team. At the very least, though, they should be really fun to watch.

Happy New Year, Rockets fans!

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