Despite trailing by 18 in the second quarter, the Houston Rockets flipped the script on the Milwaukee Bucks to end the game on top by 14. James Harden had yet another scorching game, but the Rockets also got a big game out of ex-Buck Carlos Delfino, who buried three after three to put his old team away in Milwaukee. The Rockets continue to show growth and grit, and are finding new ways to win.
The Rockets look to take their recent strong play on the road as they travel to Milwaukee for the only time this season. The Rockets arrive on the back of a two game win streak that they will be keen to keep going for as long as possible as they take the first trip of their road-heavy January schedule. As recently as a week ago the Bucks were feeling very good about themselves after a comprehensive thrashing of the Heat, but they’ve since been brought down to earth by losses against the Pistons and the Spurs.
This is the first time that the two teams have met since the Bucks made a blockbuster trade at the deadline last year, when they sent former number one pick Andrew Bogut to Golden State in exchange for Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh. In the past Houston has really struggled with the length and defensive presence of Bogut (if you cast your minds back, you may recall that his last game for Milwaukee actually came against Houston, when he went down with a fractured ankle), but without him Milwaukee plays very differently. Of course, the same could be said for Houston given the roster turnover in the intervening time.
In the aftermath of the Yao Ming era, the Rockets have defined themselves by always working hard and gritting out performances. For the next three years, this team has continually surprised expectations, whether led by Brooks or Martin or Lowry or Scola, and battled gamely for the playoffs before collecting the prize of the 14th pick. It was definitely frustrating for those who advocated for this team to rebuild and tank for a theoretical superstar, but I personally always appreciated this team’s refusal to not roll over and give up like the Bobcats and Wizards have done.
However, talent more often than not is what determines victory or defeat. And on a night where Houston notably struggled against an inferior team that played their hardest, it was nice for a change to just simply out-talent the Hornets for the win.