Rockets Blow Late Lead, Lose to Spurs in Clint Capela's Return

Michael Shapiro

A 16-point fourth-quarter lead wasn't enough for the Rockets in San Antonio on Tuesday as Lonnie Walker IV and the Spurs stormed back in a 135-133 double-overtime victory. Houston's defeat marked one of its wildest games of the season, featuring a 50-point night for James Harden, a controversial missed call and a furious comeback from what is currently a Western Conference also-ran. 

Here are three takeaways from the Rockets loss as they fall to 13–7 on the season. 

Rockets Blow Late Lead

The Rockets appeared to be cruising to victory on Tuesday with a 107-93 lead with six minutes to play. But the Lonnie Walker Show began just as Houston was putting the finishing touches on the blowout. The second-year wing from Miami erupted for 19 points in the fourth quarter, including eight points in the final 67 seconds to send the game to overtime. Houston allowed 54 points in the fourth quarter and two overtime periods, allowing the Spurs to score at the rim at will. An overmatched San Antonio squad stole the win on Tuesday as Houston loafed through the final minutes of regulation. 

The Rockets had opportunities to win the game late, but Harden missed a shot to end the first overtime, then committed a charging foul at the conclusion of the second overtime.

Harden blew a pair of game-winning opportunities on Tuesday, yet the final shots didn't necessarily swing the game. Houston has its defensive effort to blame for the road loss. 

Harden Inefficient in Loss

James Harden turned in the most efficient 60-point game in NBA history in a win over the Hawks on Saturday. His 50-point night on Tuesday won't be held in such high regard.

Harden tallied 50 points on the back of a 24-24 mark from the free-throw line, but he was abysmal from the field. The Beard finished the night 11-38 shooting, including a 4-20 mark from three. He didn't appear to have his legs behind him on step-backs, and the Spurs formed an effective wall near the basket. Harden is now averaging 39.4 points per game in 2019-20, inching closer to the magical 40 ppg mark after a combined 110 points in his last two games. His current scoring tear is unparalleled in this era, even on nights where he struggles from the field.

Harden should have finished the night with 52 points. He dunked the ball on a breakaway midway through the fourth quarter, but was not awarded the basket as the ball went back up and through the net. Head coach Mike D'Antoni and the Rockets were furious with the missed call, but they were not given a challenge and no review was called by the officials.

Referee James Capers addressed the play postgame.  

"It is a reviewable matter, but you have a window of 30 seconds to challenge the play during that timeout," Capers told the Pool Reporter. "While they were protesting the call, trying to get clarification of it, that window passed so therefore it elapsed and they were not able to [challenge the play]."

The Rockets may take their gripe further than just postgame complaints. The team is "optimistic" that the NBA will either "[award] the win to Houston" or have the teams replay the final 7:50 of regulation, according to ESPN's Tim MacMahon. 

Capela Strong in Return

Lost among Tuesday's chaos was an impressive performance from Clint Capela after being out a week with an illness. Capela was spry early, logging 11 points and nine rebounds in his first 12 minutes. Capela finished the night with 22 points and 21 rebounds, becoming the first player in NBA history with 19-plus rebounds in eight straight games. Dennis Rodman held the previous record with 19 rebounds in seven straight games in 1992 and 1995.

Capela logged 45 minutes on Tuesday, while Harden finished the night with 49. Rockets iron man P.J. Tucker led all players with 52 minutes. The Rockets may battle some tired legs in their upcoming matchup with the Raptors. 

Up Next: at Toronto on Thursday

The Rockets will head north of the border on Thursday for a battle against the defending-champion Raptors. Toronto has remained a contender for the Eastern Conference crown without Kawhi Leonard, sitting at 15–5 following a loss to Miami on Tuesday. Forward Pascal Siakam is powering the Raptors in 2019-20 with 25.1 points per game. 

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