• Brian L. Barefield

Double Entendre

Photo Credit/Big Sarge Media

The number 13 can now be considered a double entendre in the city of Houston. It is the jersey number worn by former Houston Rockets superstar James Harden and in his return to the Toyota Center on Wednesday night, the number also represented the amount of consecutive losses for the Rockets.

Harden recorded his 10th triple double with his new team adding 29 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds as the Brooklyn Nets (24-13) defeated the Rockets (11-23) by a score of 132-114.

“Once I get on that court I'm just trying to win,'' Harden said. ''So that was kind of my feeling. I wasn't trying to show off. I wasn't trying to do anything out of the ordinary that I haven't been doing. Just playing my brand of basketball.''

That brand of basketball was well known by the Rockets fans in attendance and they got a friendly reminder of just how great Harden was on and off the court during his eight-plus years in Houston as the team played a video tribute to him during a timeout in the first quarter. He was very appreciative as he walked from the Nets bench and threw his hands in the air to acknowledge all of the fans, both old and new.

Photo Credit/Big Sarge Media

''A lot of mixed emotions from the fans but I knew that was going to happen,'' Harden said as he addressed some boos he heard from the crowd as well. ''I just wanted to come out here and give them a show.''

Although there were a lot of No. 13 jerseys in the stadium to honor Harden, there were also a fair number of jerseys that belongs to the new leader of the Rockets, John Wall. The former Washington Wizards guard who Houston acquired in the offseason in a trade for Russell Westbrook led all scorers with a season-high 36 points and helped pull the Rockets to within eight points early in the fourth quarter. But the Nets had too much offensive firepower with Kyrie Irving who finished the game with 24 points and sharpshooter Joe Harris’s 19 going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.

“When you surround an MVP [Harden] and one of the best scorers the league has ever seen with a lot of talent, it makes it difficult to guard him,” said Wall whose 36 points was the highest point total for him since the 40 points he scored against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 16, 2018.

Photo Credit/Houston Rockets

Wall was helped by a strong surge from Victor Oladipo who scored 22 of his season-high 33 in the second half.

One of the recurring themes that has plagued the Rockets and is cause for their demise during the first half of this season has been injuries. On Wednesday they were only able to suit up eight players as they were without the services of Christian Wood, Eric Gordon, Danuel House Jr., and David Nwaba. Yet, Houston Rockets first-year head coach Stephen Silas remains optimistic about the outlook for his team in the second half of the season.

“Once we get healthy, we are going to be good,” Silas said. “I believe that.”

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