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Takeaways from Rockets’ Summer League victory over Kings

The Houston Rockets won a nail-biting victory to capture their first win of Summer League play against the Sacramento Kings. 

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Sacramento Kings v Houston Rockets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Like the old saying goes, “the third time’s a charm,” and for the Houston Rockets, no quote could have rung any truer. After dropping their last outing against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Rockets ended their two-game losing streak in a 94-92 victory over the Sacramento Kings, Tuesday night at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas.

While recording their first win of the NBA Summer League, the Rockets did so by defeating one of the hottest teams of the tournament, handing the Kings their first loss of the summer.

A redeemed performance by Gary Clark:

Not sure if it was the presence of head coach Mike D’Antoni in hopes of auditioning for more minutes, but Gary Clark had his best game of the summer in the win against the Kings. He recorded a game-high 24 points and shot 41.0 percent from the field, but it was his all-round performance that made it a special night for Clark.

He stepped up huge on the defensive end, pulling down 8 rebounds and recorded 2 steals and a block in the win. Down the stretch, Clark played a prominent part in several defensive stops late in the fourth quarter.

After averaging 8.0 points on 30 percent shooting through the first two games, Clark’s performance against the Kings erased what was a miserable Summer League outing. Following the game, Clark said shaking off the rust from the first two games gave him the confidence to go out and be aggressive.

Second unit production:

For the first time throughout the tournament, the Rockets received much-needed help from their bench. They recorded 36 total points and outscored the Kings second unit by 5. Chris Chiozza and Johnathan Williams led all reserves in scoring with 10 points separately, but it was the play by Zach Thomas that gave the Rockets an extra boost.

He came off the bench midway through the second half and knocked down nine points on 3-for-5 shooting from deep in 14 minutes. Despite not playing in the first two games, Thomas said he had to make sure he stayed ready in case coach called his name and wanted to make the most of his opportunity.

Perseverance in tough times:

What made this a remarkable performance for the Rockets was their perseverance throughout the game. Sacramento once led by as many as 10 points, and despite Houston’s turnaround, the Kings never withered. They made several runs down the search and nearly pulled off a 10-point comeback of their own late in the fourth quarter.

Thankfully, the Rockets weathered the storm and made all the defensive stops and key rebounds needed to seal their first win of the summer. Clark said he had to remind the team they had too much character to take another loss.

“I kept telling my guys we had too much character to take another loss,” Clark said. “We were in the same situation two nights ago where we were down by 10, then 15, then 20. I kept telling my guys we did not want this [game] to slip and lose again.”

Isaiah Hartenstein injured:

Despite coming away with the victory, everything was not celebrated Tuesday night. Midway through the third quarter, Isaiah Hartenstein sustained an ankle injury and needed some assistance walking off the court. After leaving the game in a wheelchair, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported that Hartenstein sprained his right ankle and will be out for the remainder of the Summer League.

Despite a subpar performance prior to the injury (6 points and 7 rebounds), it is safe to say that Hartenstein has likely reserved a place in the Rockets’ rotation next season. Hartenstein was by far the Rockets best player of the summer averaging 16.0 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Following the win, the Houston Rockets will return back to action Thursday evening, as they face off against the Utah Jazz in the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 PM CST.