Posted on January 1, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The Houston Rockets have been the best team in the NBA for much of the season, but few days before Christmas the Lakers dropped a lump of coal in their stocking. Then the Clipper added another followed by the Thunder. It looked like they were going to break out of the slump against the Boston Celtics, but they dropped their fourth in a row instead.
Prior to the losing streak, they had only lost four the entire season. Surely, they would break out of it before the new year.
But then they dropped their fifth in a row with a 121-103 loss to Washington. That left their New Year’s Eve showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers as their last chance to end the streak before 2018. Could the losing streak against the team that started it?
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After the first period, it looked like they’d have a good shot. James Harden put up 12 of Houston’s 44-points to get the Rockets out to an early 44-37 lead. But then Houston’s shooting got ice cold in the second quarter while the Lakers remained hot. When halftime rolled around it was Los Angeles that held a 72-65 lead.
The Lakers led by 17 about halfway through the third quarter. But when the fourth started Houston had closed the gap down to 11-points, 101-90.
But the Rockets were far from done. A 10-2 to start the quarter pulled the Rockets within three, 103-100, with over eight minutes to play. They were not able to tie it up at 119-119 until James Harden hit a free throw with 1:16 to go.
Kyle Kuzma gave the Lakers a three-point lead a moment later but then Gerald Green pulled the Rockets even with a 24-footer with 17 seconds to play.
So—it was off to overtime, but Houston would have to get it done without their superstar. James Harden strained his left hamstring in the final seconds of the game and didn’t return.
But that’s just one of the reasons why they acquired Chris Paul. He scored 15 of his 28 points in 2OT to lead the Rockets to a 148-142 win over the Lakers.
“He just willed us to win, and great players can do that,” coach Mike D’Antoni said (ESPN). “Certain guys can just say, `We’re not losing,’ and `Whatever it takes,’ and that’s what he said tonight and that’s what he did.”
As nice as it was to finally get back on the right side of the scoreboard, losing Harden will hurt. He’s only missed two regular season games over the previous three seasons. There is no doubt that he will play if he feels he can in Houston’s next game (Wednesday in Orlando). But there is no telling just yet if he’ll need to miss any time.
“I don’t think we’ll know [more] until [Monday],” D’Antoni said (ESPN). “I don’t think they’ll be able to assess it until [Monday] morning.”