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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets lose to Philadelphia 76ers, 131-127

POSTED: December 29, 2023 -- 11:25 p.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets lost 131-127 Friday night to the Philadelphia 76ers. Houston lost despite shooting 53.8% from the floor, 46.7% from 3-point range and outrebounding Philly by 12. Houston has lost 3 in a row -- all at home.

As Rockets' point guard Fred VanVleet said after the game, "I thought we scored well enough. We just couldn't get a stop."

With Friday's loss, the Rockets are now 0-10 this season when opponents scored 120 or more points in a game.

"We couldn't really get stops," Ime Udoka, Rockets Head Coach said after the game.

Each team was without key player(s) due to injury: Houston's Dillon Brooks (right oblique strain) and Jabari Smith Jr (left ankle sprain) and Philly's Joel Embiid (right ankle sprain) and Nicholas Batum (right hamstring strain) missed the game.

Houston (15-15) started the game with a 13-4 run. VanVleet made 2 three-point shots and Jalen Green scored 7 points on a fadeaway jumper, reverse layup, and three-point basket. The Sixers (22-9) pulled within 1 point (16-15 to points from 4 different players.

The Rockets led 32-26 after the first period. Philly point guard Tyrese Maxey scored 8 points in the opening quarter. Maxey was in attack mode in the second quarter and scored 19 points on 6 for 10 field goal shooting and 6 for 6 free throws. Houston was outscored 36-31 in the second quarter.

Houston led 63-62 at halftime. Alperen Sengun was unstoppable in the third quarter for Houston. Sengun made 6 of his 7 field goal attempts and scored 13 of Houston's 34 points. The Rockets shot 68.2 fg% (15 for 22) in the third quarter to win the quarter 34-28 for a 97-90 lead after three periods.

The Rockets failed to expand the lead with Maxey on the bench to begin the fourth quarter. In fact the Sixers tied the Rockets at 101 with an 11-4 spurt. Former Rockets Pat Beverley (4 points) and Robert Covington (2 points) plus De'Anthony Melton - former Rockets' 2nd-round draft pick - (2 points) and Tobias Harris (2 points) combined for Philly's 11 points.

"I felt like we lost those non-Maxey minutes early," Coach Udoka remarked after the game.

The game was tied 5 times in the final 7:48. From the 7:48 mark to the 2:06, Philly's largest lead was 3 while Houston's largest lead was 2.

Houston forward Jae'Sean Tate scored a reverse layup for a 120-118 Rockets' lead. However, Pat Bev sank a corner three to put Philly ahead 121-120 with 1:50 on the clock.

Rockets' forward Tari Eason scored a layup to put the Rockets back on top; but, seconds later, Melton's driving layup gave the Sixers a 123-122 lead with 72 seconds remaining. VanVleet missed a three-point attempt before Philly's Marcus Morris Sr sank a three-pointer and a free throw when VanVleet fouled him.

Houston trailed by 5 (127-122) with 31.6 seconds on the game clock. After a Rockets' timeout, Jalen Green made a three-pointer; Melton split 2 free throws; and Jalen scored a driving layup to cut Houston's deficit to just 1 (128-127) with 17.4 seconds left in the game.

Melton was fouled again. This time he made both foul shots setting up Houston's final play with 11.8 seconds on the clock. Jalen received the inbounds pass; Philly double-teamed him; Jalen passed to teammate Jock Landale in the paint. With the clock winding down, Landale didn't pass the ball to a teammate for a three-point attempt. Instead he attempted to score a layup through contact. Landale missed the shot and Morris Sr. rebounded the miss and was fouled.

Morris Sr made 1 of 2 free throws for the final score.

"For me to get the game-winning rebound was pretty cool," Morris Sr. said after the game.


Fred VanVleet had a season-high 33 points while Jalen Green had 31 and Alperen Sengun added 28. The last time three Rockets scored 28+ points in the same game was vs. Golden State on Jan. 4, 2018 (Eric Gordon, Gerald Green, Chris Paul).

VanVleet had 10 assists with his 33 points, marking his 11th double-double as a Rocket. That's already the most double-doubles he has recorded in any season in his career. VanVleet shot 8-of-12 from 3-point range tonight after shooting 5-of-22 the four games prior. The 8 made threes tied for the second-most in his career (11 at Orlando on 2/2/21).

Jalen Green scored 31 points on 12 for 19 field goal shooting. Over his last two games, he is averaging 27.0 ppg on 51.3% shooting, including 52.4% from 3-point range after averaging 11.6 ppg on 30.5% shooting (26.7% 3pt%) the nine games prior.

Alperen Sengun had 28 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds while shooting 12-of-16 from the floor. Sengun has now scored 20+ points in seven of the past eight games, while averaging 24.9 ppg on 57.5% shooting over that span. The last Rocket to have averaged at least 24.0 ppg while shooting 57.0% or better over an 8-game span was Dwight Howard from 1/28-2/19/14.

Tyrese Maxey had 42 points, marking his second 40-point game of the season (career-high 50 vs. Indiana on 11/12). Maxey scored 40+ points once prior in his career. Joel Embiid, who didn't play tonight, has scored 40+ points six times this season. The last time Philly had two players score 40+ multiple times in the same season was in 1967-68 (Wilt Chamberlain 5 times and Hal Greer twice).

Tobias Harris had 22 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks. The last Sixer to have posted those numbers in a single game was Charles Barkley (32/7/15/3/5) at Cleveland on Jan. 23, 1990.


The Rockets' next game is Monday, January 1, at home, against the Detroit Pistons. Tip is set for 7 p.m. Central Time.

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Fred VanVleet: "I thought we scored well enough. We just couldn't get a stop."

Jalen: "I was looking, obviously, to score."

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