This is not how the Houston Rockets wanted their preseason to end.
As the Rockets played out their preseason schedule with a 144-133 win over the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena, they didn’t escape it without injury. In fact, Russell Westbrook re-aggravated his finger injuries by leaving the game in the fourth quarter due to obvious discomfort on his right hand.
The right hand just so happens to be where Westbrook dislocated his two fingers just days prior in the team’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.
Here’s the play where it happened.
For those that don’t remember, Westbrook underwent surgery on his right knee and his left hand during the offseason.
Despite Westbrook suffering an injury for the second straight game, head coach Mike D’Antoni stressed that his veteran point guard will be fine, according to ESPN.
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Austin Rivers Also Exits Preseason Finale Due to Injury
However, Westbrook wasn’t the only Rockets player to suffer an injury during the preseason finale. That would be because backup shooting guard Austin Rivers also suffered his own injury due to neck soreness.
Rivers exited the game versus the Heat in the second quarter and did not return.
As mentioned in that same article, D’Antoni stated that Rivers will also be fine.
The good news for the Rockets is that they don’t play another game until next Thursday night — which just so happens to be their regular season opener. Houston will host the Milwaukee Bucks at Toyota Center.
James Harden Continues His Scoring Dominance
While Rockets players were dropping like flies in the preseason finale, that was not the case with James Harden. The former NBA MVP ended his superb preseason with a sensational performance, scoring 44 points in just 35 minutes of playing time.
Harden scored 44 points on an efficient 12-of-26 from the field, 8-of-16 from 3-point range and 12-of-13 from the foul line. He also finished the night with seven assists and five rebounds while also ending the preseason with a league-leading 31.5 points per game.
In other words, Harden demonstrated that he’ll still be an absolute scoring machine even with Westbrook in the starting lineup alongside him.
“James was ridiculous,” D’Antoni said.
“That’s the way he’s wired,” D’Antoni said. “He loves to play. I couldn’t take him out in the fourth quarter if I wanted to. He’d play 48 if he could. He’s wired that way. He gets better every time. I don’t know what his ceiling is. But he’s, to me, the most improved player every year. He’s just ridiculous.”
While Harden obviously ended the preseason on a high note, I think we’re all aware that if the Rockets are going to win the NBA championship this season, they’re also going to need Westbrook to get going.
The veteran point guard was a little more structured this time around, committing just four turnovers while converting on 6-of-13 field goal attempts.
Obviously, they’re going to need Westbrook to play like this more often if they’re going to come out of a rugged Western Conference.
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