The Houston Rockets debuted their new faces in their first preseason game against the Memphis Grizzles in Birmingham, Alabama.
In typical preseason fashion, the first half of the game was mostly difficult to watch. There was some miscommunication, sluggishness, and mostly just trying to get everyone involved. The biggest lead of the half for the Rockets was only five points as they closed out the half up 64-59 over the Grizz.
Not to be outdone, the referees showed that they were in preseason form as well. There were a combined 41 personal fouls called in the first half to go along with three technical fouls on the Rockets.
Despite the slow start, the Rockets really looked like themselves in the second half of the game as they rolled to a 131-115 victory.
Carmelo Anthony welcomed himself to the team in the most Melo way possible. Anthony took the very first shot of the Rockets’ season- a contested three that clanged off the rim. Luckily for him, it wouldn’t be a sign of things to come.
His first points as a Rocket came off a signature Chris Paul drive to the basket and a flashy nutmeg to find him in the corner for the three.
Melo, starting in place of P.J. Tucker, had a productive debut for the Rockets. In 23 minutes, Anthony scored 13 points on 50% shooting, going 4-8 from the field and 3-6 from 3-point range. Mostly importantly, all his field goals came off of catch-and-shoot jumpers and one-dribble pull-ups off of passes.
The other prominent addition, James Ennis III quickly filled the void that Trevor Ariza left for the Rockets. His first points with the team came off of a steal and a coast-to-coast slam.
His very next field goal would come off of a James Harden lob after running the floor in transition, and he would knock down a three as well. Ennis ended the game with eight points on an efficient 3-of-5 shooting to go along with four rebounds and two steals. As expected, he showed true value to the Rockets in transition and on the defensive end. Ennis brought exactly what the team was looking for in game one.
Marquese Chriss and Michael Carter-Williams went the way most would expect in the first half. Both players could never get themselves rolling, but they did have some flashes, including this thunderous lob finish by Chriss.
Marquese Chriss with the thunderous alleyoop slam off the Chris Paul feed from just past midcourt. pic.twitter.com/waJQMrwUbF— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) October 3, 2018
The second half went much better for the both of them, as they looked more settled in the offense and were able to get rolling. Chriss (11 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block) was effective in the paint, but he will have to get better control of passes if he wants to really contribute.
It’s easy to say that Carter-Williams was the biggest surprise of the night. He was the Rockets’ third leading scorer with 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and going 9-for-11 from the free-throw line. MCW, who spent most of his time playing on the wing, showed the intangibles that a box score couldn’t, including using his length to be effective on defense. He had a lot of success being aggressive and driving into the lane and pushing the ball in transition. Carter-Williams could prove useful being a primary ball handler and energy guy off the bench.
James Harden and Chris Paul were in prime regular season form. Paul was an outstanding +21, and the leading scorer of the game with 22 points to go along with 9 assists and 5 steals- all in just 26 minutes.
Harden proved he wasn’t all talk after complaining about not playing in an actual game.
James Harden says he’s tired of going up against the same faces everyday, looking forward to the preseason. Says the best way to get in game shape is by actually playing. pic.twitter.com/Uf1AYSEifb— Kelly Iko (@KellyIkoNBA) October 1, 2018
Harden’s 30 minutes led all players in the game. He scored 20 points, dished out 6 assists, and baited some defenders into fouling on the three-pointer.
James Harden welcomes the rookie to the league! pic.twitter.com/YZjxnhuEUb— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 3, 2018
The Rockets look to build on their successful outing against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday in their first game back in Houston.
Eric Gordon: 13 points, 3-5 from three. Clint Capela: 5 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block.