The NBA: The Rush Hour Rockets

Jeremy Lin + James Harden = Rush Hour 4
(image from

I don’t think anybody will be surprised to see Jacky Chan and Christ Tucker in the NBA Playoffs next April, at least judging by the way the new-look Houston Rockets have been playing.

I can’t remember the last time I was this excited for my “sentimental favorites.”

I’ve been a Rockets fan since the ‘90s, you see. Back when undercuts and baggy jeans were still the rave, I was already rooting for Rudy T’s boys. I had a “Champion” Hakeem Olajuwon jersey back in the day. I loved how the Rockets were winning titles and staying humble at the same time (outside of Sam Cassell, of course). I loved how they were the requisite “good guys” against the roughhousing Knicks in ‘94 and the upstart Magic in ’95.

In many ways, the ’94-’95 Rockets embodied what I loved most about sports – how teams and people can win through sheer hardwork, how stories are played out with satisfying culminations, and how underdogs can sometimes, somehow, beat the favorites and come out on top.

Right now, even if we are just a few days into the new NBA season, that familiar feeling of excitement is resonating inside me. For the past couple of seasons, I’ve not-so-quietly rooted for Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant because they’ve been, at least from my perspective, the antithesis to the “instant winning” cop out formula to which some other franchises have resorted. Rooting for D-Rose and KD was more a matter of principle.

Rooting for the Rockets, rooting for James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Carlos Delfino, Omer Asik and the rest, is a matter of heart. I want to see this rag-tag team of sometime-stars morph into a top-tier squad ready to contend for a title.

Harden was always good, but he was the typical sixth man – always in the shadows, always the first among the second-stringers. He was never the star. Same with Lin. He was maybe the most inspiring NBA story last season, but it’s clear that New York was too crowded even for him. Delfino is playing for his fourth team in 8 seasons. Asik is raring to prove himself worthy of his big contract.

The Rush Hour Rockets all have something to prove, and we’d all be foolish to count them out. They have a chance at creating something special. They have the potential to make the Playoffs again.

I’m excited. I’m emotional. My Rockets are back.

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network):
Charlotte 90, Indiana 89
Former Bobcat D.J. Augustin missed a buzzer- beating 3-pointer for Indiana as time expired, and Charlotte held on to a 90-89 victory over the Pacers in its first game of the season. Charlotte's top draft choice in 2011, Kemba Walker, led all scorers with a career-high 30 points, while Gerald Henderson poured in 18 points to get the Mike Dunlap era headed in the right direction. Dunlap became the fifth coach in Bobcats' history when he was hired in the offseason. He notched his first career NBA coaching win on Friday. Offseason acquisitions Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions each gave solid contributions off the bench for Charlotte. Gordon finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, while Sessions added 11 points and four assists in the victory. Tyler Hansbrough and Lance Stephenson scored 15 points apiece off the bench to lead the Pacers, who defeated the Toronto Raptors in their season opener.

Orlando 102, Denver 89
With the "Dwightmare" in their rear view mirror, the Orlando Magic took their first step in the post Dwight Howard era on Friday. It was a step in the right direction. Glen Davis tallied 29 points and 10 rebounds, while J.J. Redick added 21 points in the Magic's 102-89 thumping of the Denver Nuggets. Davis and Redick are two of just four holdovers -- Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu -- from last year's squad, who fell to the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers on Aug. 11 as part of a four-team, 12-player deal that also included the Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers. The blockbuster deal ended Howard's eight-year tenure with the Magic. Danilo Gallinari had 23 points to lead Denver, which lost its opener to Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Houston 109, Atlanta 102
James Harden is certainly cementing himself as the Houston Rockets' go-to guy. After going for 37 points in his Rockets debut on Wednesday, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year poured in a career-high 45 points to lead Houston past the Atlanta Hawks, 109-102, on Friday. Harden finished 14-for-19 from the field and also converted on 15-of-17 free throws, and had seven rebounds. He scored 18 in the final quarter when he went 12- of-13 from the charity stripe. Jeremy Lin added 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Marcus Morris chipped in 17 points off the bench for Houston, which is 2-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Lou Williams, who was signed by Atlanta in the offseason, led the Hawks with 22 points off the bench. Josh Smith posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Al Horford and Jeff Teague each donated 14 points in the Hawks' regular season opener.

It didn't take long for James Harden to drop a
career-high 45 in the new season.
(image from Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Milwaukee 99, Boston 88
Brandon Jennings tallied 21 points and 13 assists as the Milwaukee Bucks spoiled the Boston Celtics' home opener with an authoritative 99-88 victory at TD Garden. Tobias Harris added 18 points and Monta Ellis scored 14 to help the Bucks halt a five-game losing streak in season lid-lifters as well as end a string a six consecutive defeats to the slow-starting Celtics, who also struggled in a 120-107 setback at defending NBA champion Miami on Tuesday. Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh and Beno Udrih each contributed 10 points off the bench for Milwaukee, which shot 46.5 percent from the field and led by as many as 22 points in an impressive all- around effort. Kevin Garnett paced six Celtics in double figures with 15 points, while Rajon Rondo recorded 14 points and 11 assists in Boston's first loss in a home opener since the 2006-07 season.

Chicago 115, Cleveland 86
Carlos Boozer had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists as Chicago thumped Cleveland, 115-86, at Quicken Loans Arena. Richard Hamilton posted 19 points, Nate Robinson gave 16 points and 12 assists off the bench while Luol Deng added 14 points and five boards for the Bulls, who were coming off a season-opening win at home against Sacramento. They have beaten the Cavaliers nine straight times. Kyrie Irving scored 15 points while Alonzo Gee and Anderson Varejao each added 12 for the Cavaliers, who opened their season on Tuesday with a win over Washington.

Minnesota 92, Sacramento 80
No Kevin Love, no Ricky Rubio, no problem for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. J.J. Barea poured in a game-high 21 points and handed out five assists as the T'Wolves knocked off the Sacramento Kings, 92-80, in their season opener at Target Center. Brandon Roy, who missed the entire 2011-12 season after he announced his retirement in March of 2011, returned to the hardwood and scored 10 points to go with six assists and five rebounds, while Andrei Kirilenko added 10 points, five assists and seven rebounds in the T'Wolves' first home-opening win since 2009-10. Love, the T'Wolves All-Star center, will be out likely until the holidays after he broke his hand in the offseason, while Rubio suffered a torn ACL last March. Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points, while Marcus Thornton contributed 15 points on 6- of-13 shooting for the Kings, who fell to Chicago in their season-opener on Wednesday.

New Orleans 88, Utah 86
Gordon Hayward tripped and Greivis Vasquez took advantage. Vasquez's floater with 1.3 seconds left lifted the New Orleans Hornets to an 88-86 victory over the Utah Jazz. Hornets first overall draft pick, Anthony Davis, left the game in the opening half with a possible concussion. Vasquez finished with 13 points and 10 assists, while Robin Lopez and Ryan Anderson each totaled 19 points for New Orleans, which dropped its season opener to the San Antonio Spurs. Randy Foye led the Jazz with 20 points off the bench.

New York 104, Miami 84
After their scheduled season opener was postponed in Brooklyn due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Carmelo Anthony led a solid, all-around New York Knicks performance, scoring 30 points to help give the hosts a 104-84 blowout victory over the defending champion Miami Heat. Anthony grabbed 10 rebounds and came away with two steals. His scoring output was a game-high, but he got a lot of help from his teammates, as five other Knicks scored in double-figures. After winning their season opener on Tuesday against the Boston Celtics, the Heat found themselves trailing by double-digits most of the night on Friday. LeBron James scored a team-high 23 points while also grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists.

Carmelo Anthony (R) got the better of
LeBron James (L) and the Heat.
(image from Jason DeCrow/AP)

Oklahoma City 106, Portland 92
Russell Westbrook poured in 32 points, and Kevin Durant tallied 23 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists in Oklahoma City's 106-92 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Thunder, who lost their season opener at San Antonio on Thursday thanks to Tony Parker's buzzer beater, also received 19 points from Kevin Martin and 12 from Nick Collison - both off the bench. The Trail Blazers, who were coming off a convincing season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers, were led by LaMarcus Aldridge's 22 points and 15 rebounds. Rookie Damian Lillard chipped in 21 points and seven assists, while J.J. Hickson totaled 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Phoenix 92, Detroit 89
Marcin Gortat posted 16 points and 16 rebounds as the Phoenix Suns held on for a 92-89 win over the Detroit Pistons at US Airways Center. Michael Beasley had 16 points and seven rebounds. Shannon Brown scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Goran Dragic added 15 points and 10 assists for the Suns, who were coming off a two-point loss to Golden State in the season opener on Wednesday. Tayshaun Prince had 18 points, Jason Maxiell added 16 points and six rebounds while Brandon Knight gave 13 points and 10 assists for the Pistons, who dropped their opener to Houston on Wednesday.

Memphis 104, Golden State 94
Marc Gasol and Mike Conley combined for 42 points on Friday as the Memphis Grizzlies knocked off the Golden State Warriors, 104-94, at Oracle Arena. Conley netted 21 points to go with seven assists and five steals, while Gasol put home 21 points to go with six rebounds and five assists for the Grizzlies, who fell to the Los Angeles Clippers in their season opener on Oct. 31. Rudy Gay swished home 18 points and pulled down eight rebounds, while Zach Randolph posted his second straight double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Wayne Ellington donated 10 points in the triumph. Stephen Curry scored a game-high 26 points and dished out seven assists, while Carl Landry had 20 and six rebounds in the setback for Golden State, which edged Phoenix on Wednesday.

LA Clippers 105, LA Lakers 95
This was not the start Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and the rest of the Lakers envisioned. As for the Clippers, they finally got the upperhand as the visiting team at Staples Center. Jamal Crawford led a balanced attack with 21 points off the bench and Chris Paul tallied 18 points and 15 assists in the Clippers' 105-95 triumph to deal the Lakers a third straight loss to begin the season. Bryant scored 40 and Howard ended with 13 points, eight boards and five blocks. Pau Gasol totaled 10 points and 14 boards, but the Lakers fell to 0-3 for only the fourth time in their history and first time since the 1978-79 season. The Lakers played without star point guard Steve Nash, who sat out due to a lower left leg contusion. Paul, who had just one turnover, took advantage of the situation. He was masterful in pick-and-roll situations. The only time the Lakers began 0-4 was in 1957 when Minneapolis dropped its first seven contests. The Lakers host Detroit Sunday night. As for the Clippers, this was their first victory as a road team at Staples Center since April 12, 2007. The Clippers had lost their last nine games as the road team in this series.

Chris Paul dominated the backcourt battle
against the LA Lakers.
(image from Noah Graham/Getty Images)

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