Another game, another reason to celebrate Daryl Morey’s decision to draft Sam Dekker in the first round last year.
The Rockets came out of the gates listless in Detroit, understandable after a hard-fought game in Houston just two days earlier, and needed a spark. James Harden was turning the ball over left and right in the first quarter, and the Pistons’ starters were giving Houston the business.
The Rockets were down 8 after 8 minutes of game time when the Badger entered. He quickly set himself apart with his length and athleticism, scoring two layups, one in transition, one in half-court, in which he simply blew by multiple defenders to get to the rim.
In the second quarter, he hit two three-pointers, the second of which closed the gap to one point. By the time he checked out, he had played just about 16 straight minutes and the Rockets led by five points. Harden playing better helped, as did Patrick Beverley’s activity, but Dekker was the catalyst. He had 12 points, 3 rebounds and an assist in the half.
Sam didn’t have an imprint on the second half, but he didn’t have to. By that time, Harden and Capela had rebuilt their mojo, and the Rockets were able to hold off the Pistons in a tight game down the stretch.
The Beard finished with 28 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds, as he does, while giving away 6 turnovers, as he does. Capela finished the night with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks and another matchup against a top center — Andre Drummond on this night — in which he held his own. He also played 35 minutes, a welcome sign for a guy who’s been having conditioning issues. Drummond went 6-18 from the floor against him. The Most Improved Player award is in Capela’s sights if he keeps this play up.
The Rockets narrowly lost to the Thunder on the road on Wednesday, and won three straight games against possible playoffs since then, rattling off wins against the Blazers, Jazz and now the Pistons. They sit at 9-5, tied with Memphis for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. They’re on pace for 52 wins this season. Patrick Beverley just got back. Donatas Motiejunas is still a possibility. Dekker and Capela improve by the minute it seems. Ryan Anderson is starting to look more comfortable, and Eric Gordon is now in his long-term role as sixth man.