HOUSTON -- The ability to respond after adversity is something this Houston Rockets team is learning each day.
After a difficult loss at Oklahoma City on Wednesday night, the Rockets came home to face the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday. That they won 126-109 was hardly guaranteed given how they played the night before and had talked about letting a game slip from them. But the way they responded was an important development for Mike D'Antoni's group.
"It's the chemistry," D'Antoni said. "Everybody is feeling good about themselves. We're going to make mistakes and we still have some improving to do. As long as they come with that attitude every day and work at it and fix their mistakes, then good things will happen."
Attitude, and another triple-double from James Harden, his third of the season and 11th of his career.
Harden tallied 26 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds, and made 7 of 17 shots in what D'Antoni called an "easy" triple-double.
For Portland, slowing Harden would be key to earning a victory. The Blazers failed, utilizing a defensive strategy that was slightly different than the smothering D Harden dealt with in OKC. Portland played him straight up and sent some pressure, but ultimately, as Harden said the other night, it's all about making shots.
Harden failed to reach double figures Wednesday night until late in the third quarter. He reached that in the opening 12 minutes Thursday, scoring 16 points and grabbing 6 boards with 6 assists.
And, unlike Wednesday, he got plenty of help from his friends.
Eric Gordon came off the bench and scored 16 points, Clint Capela, playing better and better, had 15 points and seven rebounds. Ryan Anderson forgot about his 5-for-13 effort from Wednesday night and scored 13 points on only eight shots.
Then there was the return of Patrick Beverley to the starting lineup. Harden's favorite wingman made his debut Thursday night after missing the start of the season while recovering from knee surgery. Beverley, displaying fresh legs, scored 11 points and was a defensive force at times against Damian Lillard.
"You get thrown into the fire guarding Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum," Beverley said. "They are really, really talented basketball players. They are young, fast, quick and they can shoot it and they can get to the hole a lot. It was fun getting back out there."
Houston's defense fueled this latest comeback from adversity, holding the Blazers to 37.5 percent shooting from the field in the second half. As a team, the Rockets had three blocked shots in the second half, six overall, including a career-high-tying three by Beverley.
"When we get stops we score easily," Corey Brewer said. "We had trouble getting stops the night before, but tonight we got a lot of stops. We got a lot of stops and we were able to run, get easy shots. When we're running in a break, we're tough to stop."
We've seen four times this season the Rockets lament a game that slipped away. The first was opening night, when the young and talented Lakers beat them. The next game, the Rockets beat the Mavericks. At the start of a five-game trip, the Rockets couldn't get a stop late against the defending champion Cavaliers. The next game in New York, the Rockets beat the Knicks. That weekend in Atlanta, the Rockets lost to Dwight Howard and the Hawks. Two days later, in D.C., the Rockets beat the Wizards. And then there was what happened Wednesday and Thursday this week.
"We want to improve. Everything isn't going to be perfect, we still had an opportunity to win [Wednesday night's game]," Harden said. "In this league you got 82 regular-season games and you got to be able to bounce back, and tonight we did that."