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Recap: Game 1 - Rockets vs. Trail Blazers (L 128-126 OT)

What an exciting game! We finally saw this Rockets team hit the court, after game 1 was postponed due to covid-19, and saw a partial-glimpse of what this team could become. A dominant offense team, with a balanced mix of inside-outside scoring, and a good defensive team, with scrapy players looking to make a name for themselves. I say "partial-glimpse" because the Rockets had 9 active players. The other 6 members of the team, including Eric Gordon and new stars John Wall and Demarcus Cousins, were out as they make their way through covid-19 protocols. But with those guys out, we were able to see James Harden do what James Harden does best, cook (he finished with 44 points and 17 assists), and Christian Wood become a star (he finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds). But as good as Harden and Wood were, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard were better, finishing with 44 points and 8 assists, and 32 points and 9 assists, respectively. CJ seemingly countered every big play by the Rockets with a play of his own, including a go-ahead 3 in OT with 6.3 seconds left that proved to be the winning bucket. It was only game 1, with a partial roster, so I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I'm pretty sure Jae'Sean Tate is my favorite player on this team.

1st quarter - Rockets +4

Early on, Harden got everyone involved, including some dimes to Wood and Daniel House Jr.. The Rockets ended up finishing the game with 6 guys scoring in double-figures compared to only 4 for the Trail Blazers.

Our first look at Wood on the offensive side of the court, left me more than excited. He has a nice-looking shot, can finish in the post against smaller players, and can take bigger players off the dribble. On the defensive side of the court though, he left much to be desired. Portland's Jusuf Nurkic went to work early and at one point grabbed 2 offensive rebounds over Wood, overpowering Wood down low.

Late in the 1st Tate checked in for Wood and played hard, including a nice drive that resulted in him getting fouled. He reminds me a bit of Patrick Beverly.

2nd quarter - Rockets +6

Harden started the 2nd quarter on the bench, and I wanted to see where the offensive might come from. The answer was Christian Wood. In the 5 minutes Harden was on the bench, Wood had 5 points, drew 2 fouls, and had 1 assist. With Harden on the bench, the Rockets went on a 21-7 run, and had a 12-point lead. Alongside Wood, Tate added 7 points and David Nwaba added 4 points.

Once Harden checked back into the game, he scored or assisted on all but 4 scoring plays for the Rockets. I was also reminded of how good Dame Lillard is. Dame and CJ went back and forth with Harden for most of the 2nd quarter.

3rd quarter - Rockets -9

The start of the 3rd quarter was all CJ McCollum. He scored 7 points in the first 5 minutes and by 7:08 left in the 3rd, the Rockets were losing.

Once CJ cooled down, the two teams went back and forth. Harden had a few alley-oops to Wood that were reminiscent of Harden to Clint Capala circa 2018, only better.

Last season PJ Tucker was the only player in NBA history that played over 2500 minutes and attempted less than 60 free throws. With 2:20 left in the 3rd, PJ Tucker was fouled and sent to the line, he missed both.

4th quarter - Rockets -1

Harden started the 4th quarter on the bench, but the result was much different than the start of the 2nd quarter. In the 3 minutes Harden was on the bench, the Trail Blazers went on a 8-2 run. The offense for the Rockets ran through Brodric Thomas, I would've liked to have seen Wood step up.

When Harden checked back in, he put the team on his back. Scoring or assisting on every play for 5 minutes to take back the lead by the middle of the 4th. He and Dame went back and forth for the rest of the game.

Overtime - Rockets -2

Overtime started with 2 big buckets by Nurkic over Wood, Wood had trouble guarding him all game. The next Portland score was a backdoor alley-oop, because the Rockets threw an extra guy at Nurkic to help Wood.

For the Rockets, Harden was the entire offense, he scored or assisted on every play. For the Trail Blazers, it was CJ. CJ finished overtime with 7 points and the game winner.

Notes

  • Harden finished the game tying his career high in assists, with 17.
  • Harden accounted for 80+ points this game, for the 9th time in his career. Lebron James has only done it twice, and he's the closest active player.
  • The Rockets attempted 10 less 3-pointers than the Trail Blazers (35-45). That only happened 3 times all of last season.