Houston we have a problem

Is the season-opening loss something to worry about for the Houston Rockets

Houston guard James Harden (Tim Warner/Smashdown Sports News)

In the inaugural game of the Rockets season, the Milwaukee Bucks came to the Toyota Center in Houston and left Rockets disappointed after the first game. The Bucks were led by 2019 NBA regular season MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo who had a triple double before fouling out in the fourth quarter. 

Coming into the game, there were so many questions circling the Rockets and how they were going to handle minutes for James Harden and their new all-star Russell Westbrook. Coach Mike D’antoni seemed to go for a two-unit approach having both all-stars take turns running the offense. At no point in the game was there a time where either Harden and Westbrook, Harden and Eric Gordon or Westbrook and Gordon were not on the court. 

The two stars did their part in the scoring column, but it was far from an efficient effort. Westbrook went 7-17 from the field. However, he did hit three three-point shots and got 18 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter with James Harden taking a step back and letting the newest star in Houston take control. Harden’s shooting from the field was at a staggering low 15% as he only went 2-13. Harden did make all 14 of his free throw attempts to help put some points on the board.

The team was dominant for most of the game leading through the first three quarters and strong showings from role players like 39-year-old journeyman and former NBA Champion Tyson Chandler and corner three specialist P.J. Tucker. 

Some concerns came when the TNT broadcast of the game showed Westbrook and Harden jawing at each other, but all seemed well with them after that. The video showed up on multiple social media platforms with in minutes.

Westbrook and Harden are long-time friends. The two had played together before in childhood tournaments, Olympic play, and as part of the Oklahoma City Thunder who made an appearance in the 2012 NBA Finals. 

So why did they struggle so much in this game? Could it have just been opening night jitters? Or, maybe there is something more profound? Or, like most other teams when they get a new star? There is almost always a time of adjustment when it comes to that situation.

In 2015 the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the New York Knicks in the season opener. The Cavs went on to go to the finals that year, and the Knicks did not even make the playoffs. 

The offense had a much higher sense of urgency and pace of play when Westbrook was on the floor. When Harden was on the court, the team looked for more shooting opportunities as well as isolation ball. 

It is hard to judge a team after just one game. There were many positives and negatives to take away as players, coaches, fans, and analysts. 

Is D’antoni’s offense the right fit for the two stars? Is there a way Harden and Westbrook can co-exist in Houston? Are there more role players willing to step up?

 Only time will answer those questions. The Houston Rockets have been a regular fixture in the playoffs since James Harden arrival in 2012. Adding another strong-willed and freak of nature talent like Russell Westbrook to the mix, there has to be a tremendous upside to all of it.

As the team gets more games under their belt the pieces should all come together. If they don’t there should definitely be some questions pointed at players and coaching.