The Houston Rockets are set to begin their 2019-20 season on Thursday, as they welcome in 2019 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks to the Toyota Center in Houston. The Bucks won the regular-season series against the Rockets last year in a sweep, as Milwaukee’s defense created an immense problem for Houston. Head coach Mike D’Antoni said:
“They [Milwaukee] are really good defensively, and it comes down to their defensive personnel. They have long guys that make it hard for any team to score with whatever scheme they play. It’s a different defensive look, and sometimes it takes a while to get adjusted to.”
Last season, Milwaukee’s defense held the Rockets to an average of 101.5 points per game—their lowest against any opponent. In their attempt to create more scoring opportunities against the Bucks, D’Antoni says the goal on Thursday is to get the ball out in transition and play at a faster pace.
“Before they can get set up defensively, we have to create some turnovers and get out on the break. We will not come out and play any different, just hoping to play a little bit better.”
Headlined by Russell Westbrook, the Rockets will open the new season with a few players banged up. Westbrook (hand) and Austin Rivers (neck) sustained minor injuries during the preseason finale, but D’Antoni confirmed that both players are good to go for opening night without any minute restrictions.
Mike D'Antoni just announced that Austin Rivers (neck) and Russell Westbrook (hand) will be good to go for opening night against the Bucks on Thursday. Will do so without any minute restrictions. #Rockets— Coty Davis (@CotyDavis_24) October 22, 2019
As for the injured Gerald Green (foot), D’Antoni says Ben McLemore will be the guy to fill the void left by the wounded Houstonian.
“Ben McLemore was a good find with his athleticism, and he can shoot the ball well. Most of all, the stuff we ask of him [catch-and-shoot and defend] is right in his wheelhouse.”
After allowing an average of 120.4 points against NBA competition in the preseason, there are still some concerns regarding the Rockets on the defensive end as they head into the new season. Despite what the numbers may say, Danuel House remains confident in his team’s ability to fix their defensive issues, behind Lead Assistant Coach Elston Tuner. House said:
“I think we are doing well. We are still trying to get our chemistry together—but that is the growing pain of this process. But as long as we continue communicating and opening up to one another, it will make the process a lot easier.”